It’s not that hard to see artist Kelly Lim reflected in her own crochet artworks, done in that very niche genre known as kimo kawaii (Japanese for cute and freaky – think Tim Burton – yes, it’s a thing). She’s got a flock of braided hair that’s not unlike the thread she works with, medium she liked after tagging along with her mum to a crochet workshop.
Since then, she’s been creating cute and freaky art pieces (including monsters), and has had her works exhibited alongside those of other artists in Singapore and Japan.
(1/3) Commissioned piece for @facebook HQ in Singapore for @fbairprogram It’s the biggest piece I’ve ever completed on my own, for a wall 7mLX 3.5mH, and with it came a realisation that I really need to learn more about working with bigger pieces. This took a total of about 4 months, excluding 2-3 months before this for a creation that ended up not being used. So, to all the friends I cancelled on, all the events I missed- this is what I was working on, and I hope you guys like it. It’s inspired by the illustrations of Radiolaria by Ernst Haeckel, whose illustrations I love so much and hope I did some justice to. I’m not going to lie; I didn’t think I’d complete it and at so many points I completely hated the work and wanted to burn it all. I’ve always been bad at marathons, but I think I learnt a lot here, especially technically and with regards to installation. I really dislike posting WIPs (and throwbacks for that matter), and so many people have asked what I’ve been up to and why I ‘haven’t been doing any new work in so long’. It’s like asking a newly-wed couple when they’re going to have babies. But I truly experienced the stress to complete things quickly in this modern society, so much so that even Art can be rushed. Never thought I’d fall in that trap, but it’s getting so hard to escape. Anw be assured that I’ll be posting the shit out of this; more pictures (and explanations of the inspiration) to come Thank you for the opportunity and challenge @pppfft ! And special thanks to my yarn sponsor @shawcontractasia and @ace85le #kllylmrck
Her first notable piece, though, was a crochet hat she made and wore to the office when she was working in a Japanese company. “My boss’s wife worked for a Japanese fashion magazine. She thought the hat looked like an anime character and told me about this kimo kawaii style that was quite popular in Japan. Then I did more research: It felt very in line with my style, so I started using it to describe my work to people,” the 28-year-old artist explains.
Kelly says that she doesn’t consider herself as a fine artist or even a crochet expert (we reckon she’s too modest), even though she has collaborated with renowned brands like New Balance and H&M. Her distinctive style – bright colours and boho chic – has already won her a legion of fans on social media who conflate her image with her art. She’s inspired by Japanese artist Hokusai Katsushika’s work ethic, and feels that an artist always has to be learning.
Kelly adds that unlike other artists who already know what they want to do with the paintbrushes in their hands, she draws inspiration during her crocheting. “I don’t always know how I want the end product to look, and I am inspired by what happens during the process,” she says.
Right now, she hopes to make the transition to fine art and wishes to create more than kawaii monsters. To Kelly, great artwork has to be transient; it has to change with time and cannot remain in the same state it first came in.
“My dream is to make something biodegradable. Like a huge sculpture that will disappear into the ground and not harm the environment over time,” she says.
That could be kimo kawaii in its own way.
This story was first published in the May 2018 issue of Her World.