Kim Juu-juu is a contemporary artist who works with ceramics to create her own version of Barbie dolls, expressing her definition of beauty. The common Barbie dolls that most people would think of are those with big eyes, blonde hair, and a perfect body. However, Kim took a different approach and created dolls with all types of body features and appearances.
Kim met with Ewha Voice to explain her story behind her dolls and her heartwarming message she wishes to spread through her pieces.
According to Kim, she started creating her dolls during her junior year when she was studying at Hongik University Department of Ceramics & Glass. While thinking about the type of artwork that she could do tirelessly through her career, she looked back upon herself.
“I always cared a lot about my appearance,” Kim said. “I was so concerned about the way I look that I could not even go to the convenience store without makeup. Not only that, I was also paranoid about gaining weight, being cautious with whatever I ate. When I reflected on myself, I came to realize that my underlying obsession with aesthetics was something I wanted to share through my ceramics.”
Kim then found out that the best representation of beauty and desire in women was Venus - the goddess of love, beauty, desire, sex, fertility, prosperity and victory - which inspired her first ceramic piece. She started making ceramic pieces of Venus but while doing that, she realized that Venus’ appearances were not the modern definition of beauty.
“Venus’ appearance was very different from the current society’s definition of ‘beautiful,’” Kim commented. “I wanted to find what people today define as the “goddess of beauty.” With research, I found out that Barbie dolls were the perfect example.”
Kim remarked that the unrealistically perfect physique of Barbie dolls was exactly what most people agreed to be beautiful. However, while working on these dolls, she noticed that the faces were a little different to the classic Barbie dolls.
“Without myself knowing, I started to make my dolls look a lot like me,” Kim said with a laugh. “Noticing the change in looks, I realized that I was using these dolls to express my true feelings. Then I thought, having my face planted on these dolls would be great because it will make the story behind them more personal and realistic.”
When asked about the process of making these dolls, she replied with a sigh.
“It is not easy making these dolls. It is very time consuming because in ceramic art it goes through a long process starting from frying, drying, and carving. The small details like joints in the dolls are the hardest, which is why, my hands are a mess,” she said.
Kim also pointed out that while working with Venus and Barbie dolls, she noticed that the standards of beauty are always changing. For instance, she gave an example of while Venus’ looks were considered beautiful back then, the physical appearance of Barbie dolls is considered more pretty nowdays.
“There are no concrete standards of beauty in my opinion,” Kim remarked. “The desire to be beautiful is continuously changing depending on the time and place. This was exactly what I wanted to show through my dolls. I wanted to show the changing opinions of beauty in people.”
Kim also commented on her future prospects with her dolls. She wishes to broaden the spectrum and show a variety of beauty by dressing the dolls because fashion is also a way to express oneself.
To conclude the interview, Kim emphasized on finding one’s inner beauty.
“I believe that everyone is beautiful in their own way,” Kim stated. “People should not live up to the unrealistic standards shown in society.”