...exploring the symbolic potential of nipple decorations

Rings are romantic, but can a pair of gold pasties reveal more about intimacy? Thanks to Jules Kim of Bijules, I am exploring the symbolic potential of nipple decorations for a group show that I am curating at Berlin's artist-run Grimmuseum. Jules will lend a pair of her intricately designed gold pasties to magnificent burlesque model Eden Berlin for her performance at the exhibition's opening. For the remaining two week-run of the show, the Bijules treasures, which resemble gold buttons on classic military coats worn by Russian Army officers, will be displayed alongside work by Aurel Schmidt, Terence Koh, Amie Dicke, Sue de Beer, Bruce la Bruce, David Nicholson, Maxime Ballesteros and other Berlin-based and international artists.

Saccharine's theme is the exploration of various forms of intimacy – genuine and induced. The brilliantly innovative New York-based designer's pasties provide an alluring mediation on exposure, mystery and intimacy. Pasties cover parts of a woman which are usually kept private. In many contexts, they serve as the dividing line between legal and illegal public displays of sexuality. Yet they are inherently arousing, since they have no other context than erotic entertainment.

Yet, if anyone can challenge that association, it would be Kim. As a designer, whose work has adorned the bodies of artists ranging from Rihanna, Eve Beyonce, and Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs to Mariah Carey, Paula Abdul and Kim Kardashian, Kim has pushed the boundaries of conventional jewellery. She has created collections inspired by false teeth, Barbie hair and elves. She has decorated the tips of ears, shoulders and other neglected body parts for the pages of Pop magazine, Italian Vogue, Russian Vogue, Numero, Numero Tokyo, Elle and beyond. Here we discuss sexiness, creative daring and the intimacy of touching someone's body with your art.

Ana Finel Honigman: Why do you think most designers just stick to adorning the obvious body parts?
Jules Kim: I think they stick to the obvious because taking risks is scary as shit. If they want to be be comfortable as a designer, then they don’t necessarily have to be an artist.

AFH: How are you defining the distinction between designer and artist?
JK: Artists take risks. The body has so many different hugs, curves, clips, and turns, so it would be a sin not to find a way to pay attention to it all.

AFH: Speaking of, how do pasties fit with the tougher and more unisex appeal of your past collections?
JK: I do think that unisex is badass! It doesn’t matter if you are a girl or a boy! I think androgyny is marvelous. But I also think that female sexuality is hot. So, I chose to titillate the tit with gold.

AFH: Why not just stick to nipple rings.
JK: Normal nipple rings are painful, pas de classe and old news.

AFH: Most of your work has a personal narrative behind its creation. What is the story for the pasties?
JK: I think that female sexuality is hot. It is an undeniable turn-on to see a woman confident when she is hard. If guys can do it, why can't we? I commit so much of my own thoughts into my work that this haute couture collection is almost a replica of my state of mind. I like to breathe life into my work with stories. Each new piece has as much history as a piece of estate jewellery. Louis the XIV never had it so good.

AFH: On the topic of personal history, you’re contributing to my exhibition in Berlin. How do you define ''intimacy' in your life or public persona?
JK: I waiver on the fine line between private and professional life. It is a blurry place. But I find as "intimate" anything ranging from tension to release or lingering to longing. I think that intimacy is just as special as euphoria. I create things that explore that experience. My jewels are tools for discovering how intimate people really can be with themselves and others.

AFH: Do you consider making jewelry as an intimate act? Or do you feel divorced from your work once its finished?
JK: I do consider it an intimate act. I am dedicated to the work that I do. I am addicted to the high that I produce from manifesting a concept. That shit is such an amazing feeling that I can only selfishly describe it as “orgasmic.” I get off on defying norms and redefining standards. It's my little "fuck you", "don’t take yourself too seriously" statement to the world.

AFH: Who are artists whose work interests or inspires you?
JK: I die for cinema and its directors. "Persona," by Bergman was a huge inspiration for this season's video. Fellini's "Rome" score was highlighted in it. I am also in love with "Le Mepris" by Godard. And Jean Pierre Melville is sick too. I heart Alain Delon.

AFH: What do you think is causing fashion's sudden interest in classic bodacious, lush and soft femininity?
JK: I think fashion needs to be naughtier and to learn to thrive on the edge. Fashion is an industry. It needs to make money. I make money from fashion. I have chosen a tricky medium by working in fine metals and pushing crazy concepts to fashion. I live in the business of fashion. And let's be clear, there has to be some softness in such a hard industry. I think fashion is going back to what defines it. Women define fashion. A woman should be beautiful and elegant with sophistication and class but still feminine enough to be sexy and vulnerable. And that is what I find sexy too.