Rethinking jewellery for Korea: a practice-led approach to creating high-visibility wearables

Choi, Won Jeong (2021) Rethinking jewellery for Korea: a practice-led approach to creating high-visibility wearables. Doctoral thesis, London Metropolitan University.


This thesis introduces the idea of high-visibility wearables as a new way of thinking about craft (jewellery in particular) in Korea. This new idea is challenging for many people in Korea, because jewellery is still narrowly understood there either as that which has financial value or as an instrument of personal expression (social status, individual character, etc.). Jewellery in this sense clashes directly against the idea of high-visibility wearables, which are still strongly associated in Korea as a vocational uniform, something road-related workers wear, for instance, thus vitiating the personal meaning of wearing jewellery. The challenge for the designer-researcher, therefore, is to find a way to neutralize that tension between the two, so that high-visibility wearables can be accepted as socially desirable.

The thesis argues that this tension is not a design problem per se, but a conceptual problem which requires a socially-conscious approach.
Firstly, by taking jewellery into the field of road safety, it seeks to expand the idea of jewellery; by wearing a piece of high-visibility jewellery, the wearer declares not only what they want to be seen as, but also what their public right is as a pedestrian, so that jewellery becomes a visible sign of collective action rather than just an individual form of self-expression. In this sense, the jeweller who designs such an item, as well as the wearer, exercises her social responsibility.

This is identified as an area where the jeweller and the wearer can come together to break the current deadlock, pitting the former against the latter over the future of contemporary jewellery.

Secondly, the thesis proposes that by focusing on new ways of developing high-visibility materials, jewellers can – indeed will inevitably –break into interdisciplinary areas where collaboration is the norm rather than the exception.

This is an area for further development, where investigation of materials can lead to cultural transformations, including environmentally-conscious changes.

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