After graduating from the University of Texas, Kao went to Paris for a six month apprenticeship under designers Diane Pernet and Alan Faye. After some more time studying in New York City and soaking up the Japanese sensibility of Wabi Sabi in Tokyo, Kao opened MinnaK, a bridal and evening wear company in 2006. In 2013, she fell in love with 3D design and launched Dream of Songs two years later.
DT: Are you still designing bridal pieces or are you a full-time jewelry designer now?
MK: I’m not designing bridal pieces anymore, I’m a full-time jewelry designer now.
DT: Do you work with a partner or alone?
MK: I work alone.
DT: Can you tell us a little bit about the inspiration behind your two collections, Celestial and Bowie?
MK: For Bowie, I began designing the collection shortly after he died. He was, and still is a game changer, and moved millions of people. His music and spirit lives on, and so I designed this collection to thank him for inspiring me.
For the Celestial collection, the shapes and spirals in the jewelry pieces were inspired from meditation. There are many ways and tools to assist in meditation, including singing bowls and cymbals. I inherited 2 pairs of Tingsha, which are Tibetan chimes. They accompany chants and meditations to bring the mind to center. The sounds vibrate so strongly and clearly; the sound envelopes you and then slowly fades away. That feeling reminded me of the circles of life and the constant eternal returning of all things.
DT: How long does it take you to make a typically sized piece?
MK: If I am starting from scratch, about five weeks. I send my designs to the printing service and request it to be made in silver or brass. Once I receive my prototype (that takes about three weeks), I would then send it to a traditional casting service to have them make a silicone mold, and cast the pieces the traditional way. Once that silicone mold is made, it takes about one week to re-make the piece. I find this the most efficient way time-wise and cost.
DT: How do you 3D print in metal? What does the raw material look like?
MK: Since I use semi-precious metals, the liquid of it is poured into the plaster mold to make the piece. The mold is 3D-printed and the “lost wax” technique is used. Technically, the metal isn’t printed but poured onto the 3D-printed wax mold. However, if I use steel, then it is 3D-printed using a different technique. I have one piece, which is the Zeroes pendant that uses stainless steel.
DT: Do you take custom orders?
MK: Yes, I take custom orders based on my designs. If someone needs a different size, metal, or any slight changes, I’m happy to make the changes.
DT: Any advice for jewelry designers looking to experiment with 3D printing?
MK: I recommend 3D printing, especially when making prototypes. I have a 3D printer at home, and though it’s not the top of the market printer, it helps me to be able to print the piece in plastic and to gauge whether or not I want it in that size, or silhouette. I only bought a 3D printer a couple of months ago, so before I would use Shapeways to make my prototypes. It’s great to send them the CAD file and they send back your prototype in plastic. It saves you money because you are making the prototype in plastic instead of metal. From there, you can decide if you want to proceed with metal.
For more info on Dream of Songs, click here.
All images courtesy Dream of Songs.