No one could ever make claim that Eugenie Huang, from New York based jewelry line Deka Ray, is a slacker. In addition to being a partner at an architecture firm, she spends her free time crafting delicate geometric necklaces in elaborately beaded ropes. The pieces from her most recent collection, Outland, use organic, earthy materials with modern embellishments. Read our interview with Huang after the jump.
You’re an architect, so how did you get in jewelry design?
I’ve been doing jewelry as a hobby since I was in junior high. After college I was working at an architecture firm in Germany, and I figured it would be great to apprentice there because they have such amazing jewelsmiths. I walked around and showed some stuff that I had done and got an internship with Tri Metall. They taught me all sorts of metalsmithing. I ended up going to grad school for architecture the year after but continued dabbling in jewelry design. I basically always wanted to do jewelry but felt this need to be the professional and study architecture. I didn’t start Deka Ray until a year ago, after graduate school and after working for many years at architecture firms. Now I share a firm with two others, and my partnership has allowed me some flexibility. I had been dabbling in rapid prototype methods to do jewelry, and I finally got the whole system down and was able to produce more. I started to really make it something legitimate last year, and my partner encouraged that and gave me the extra bit of time I needed.
Where does the name Deka Ray come from?
Initially I wanted some sort of muse, and I was reading something about William Gibson and how Sci-Fi writers come up with all these funny names for characters. In my mind I was kind of coming up with this Sci-Fi muse. At the time I was playing with Polyhedra shapes and I liked the whole Dodecahedron idea. Also, I wanted to find a genderless name that worked for men and women. Deka is unisex, and I thought it sounded similar to Dodecahedron. Ray, since I work in vectors, kind of relates to that.
How did you choose materials for the Outland collection?
In architecture school we made a lot of models using whatever we could get our hands on and I was always kind of amazed at all these sculptures that people made, so I thought there was a lot of potential in everyday materials. A lot of jewelry is so metal oriented and precious gem oriented, I didn’t want it to be all about that. I wanted to use something that is accessible. I was in a bead store down in North Carolina when I first saw the beaded rope. It reminded me of an apprenticeship I did after grad school with this woman named Jessica Rose, who is now deceased. She was a really good friend of designer Ted Mullings, and she used this technique where she took sequins and strung them together. The pieces had this collar surface, with a thick, round, rope feel to them. Basically, she used the roundness of the material as a form, which I thought was really interesting. I hadn’t seen that since her and it made me sort of nostalgic for her stuff again. For the Outland collection all the pieces are a little different because I used these organic materials, they’re unique.
It says your inspiration for Outland was Syd Mead meets Ken Russell films meets Art Nouveau?
They are pretty consistent themes in my life. I haven’t necessarily developed a system for where I get inspiration but it’s always in the back of my mind. With Art Nouveau, I always liked the proportions. I thought to make it relevant nowadays with plastic would be kind of fun. A lot of my architecture colleagues and I, and even in furniture design, are using triangles to build forms. So part of the Outland aesthetic was to cut things in triangles so that you could build them up in many variations, like a puzzle.
So architecture plays a big part in your designs?
Yes, but not as much as I’d like. Partly because there are more restraints and clients aren’t necessarily as adventurous or willing to experiment. That’s part of the reason why I’m doing jewelry, because there’s that freedom to go a little crazy.