Among Kia Utzon-Frank’s standout pieces, the Egg Ring covers nearly the entire hand, yet, for the Danish jewelry designer, symbolizes somewhat of an elegant middle finger to standards and setbacks. She designed the piece—a stone of amber enclosed in a retractable silver shell—to present with a friend’s collection in the graduation fashion show of a design school that refused to admit her. The frustration of seeing friends accepted each of the three years Utzon-Frank was not could serve as easy discouragement, but she found her path through it. “Realizing I wanted to pursue goldsmithing was like finding home,” she says.
Utzon-Frank was born into a social-experiment community of mixed classes outside of Copenhagen in 1983. Her parents, both architects, divorced when she was three and moved, separately, closer to the city. Growing up, Utzon-Frank wore cheap, pink polyester, hated drawing and having her hair combed, fought with boys, and climbed every tree she could. She performed in youth theater, worked briefly in a street circus, and began making lizard hairpin accessories from glass pearls and wire when she was fifteen.
When Utzon-Frank was rejected from the design school she dreamed of attending, she used her good grades to get into the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts to study architecture—fully intending to transfer to design school—but soon realized the jewelry potential of her building projects. As her interest for jewelry design grew, she decided to quit architecture school to study goldsmithing.
Utzon-Frank eventually found a teacher and mentor who taught her everything, though this did not come easily either. She approached contemporary Danish goldsmith Kasia Gasparski, who told the aspiring jewelry designer that she didn’t take apprentices, but also advised, “When you find a place you want to be in, stubbornly cling to that place until they take you.” She did—and they did.
“She didn’t only teach me the craftsmanship, but she mentored me both personally and creatively, and encouraged and supported me to throw myself into deep water and learn as much as I could from it,” Utzon-Frank says of Gasparski. She would use that guidance to go on to create her amber collection, including the Egg Ring above.
Utzon-Frank designed the Egg Ring, her first big project, to fit with her friend Nicholas Nybro Jensen’s collection theme, the Danish open sandwich, or smørrebrød. While they had to work with amber and silver, she sought to take on the “granny-like” tradition typical of these materials and create something fresh. Playing off Jensen’s eccentric designs, she knew the piece had to oversized, but with a clean finish. “It was important to me that even though it was big, it should be wearable, comfortable, and fitted to the measurements and physiology of the body,” she says. The final design took an estimated one hundred and fifty hours to develop and complete.
Other recent collections include the Megarings—a two-finger calamari-like tube and a one-finger cigar cover, each with a clean silver finish—and a mechanical silver-hinged eye patch. None of the pieces are available in stores yet, but until they are, Utzon-Frank is continuing her studies at the Royal College of Art in London, always devoting her energy to creating new things.
For more information, please visit Krop.com/KiaUtzonFrank.