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25th February 2017

The Z List: Kia Utzon-Frank Q&A

Kia Utzon-Frank was a true champion of 2016. In a year that offered up its fair share of misery and gloom, Kia relentlessly maintained her position as the optimistic, innovative and always smiling creative talent the design industry fell in love with. Coinciding with the launch of KUFstudios, Kia stole the hearts of visitors to the first instalment of Clerkenwell London’s Design Undefined exhibition as part of last year’s Clerkenwell Design Week. As well as showcasing her now patented blind system, KUFtwist, the multidisciplinary designer produced mind-bendingly beautiful KUFcakes (architectural forms draped in “marble’” icing) and was later commissioned to create a bespoke version for Sir Terence Conran’s birthday.
For us, a personal highlight of 2016 was launching The Z List. Naturally (being an online shop driven by our never-ending search for joyful people and the things they make), Kia is one of the makers who helped us launch. Her 1970s-inspired plant hangers are available in three colour-ways from The Z List. We caught up with Kia at the end of 2016 to find out what inspires here and how she got to where she is today.
Utzon-Frank in front of one of her KUfTwist designs.
What do you do?

I design stuff. All sorts of stuff. Whatever catches my interest. Based on my designs I have founded my company KUFstudios where all my projects are divided into different KUF categories. My newest line of work is doing geometric, sculptural KUFcakes covered in marble printed marzipan. For Christmas I started making “Flødeboller” which are these Danish little fluffy cakes that are amazing. And also Kirigami greeting cards sponsored by G . F Smith. I’m really bad at sticking to one thing.
One of the marble cakes in cross-section.
How did you end up doing it?

I am originally trained as a goldsmith but I have always had my fingers in multiple pies. During my time studying jewellery at RCA I took out three months to make a model a day of whatever I felt drawn to. By doing this I happened to invent a cordless window blinds system (now KUFtwist) and some big collapsible string structures (KUFstring) and that took me in many new directions. This method - or an altered version of it - has now become my way of coming up with ideas. I started KUFstudios as I never really fitted into a specific “box” so I decided to make my own instead.
Kia's “Curved Twist” collaboration with textile designer Fay McCaul.
Where do you work?

I work from my studio in Dalston, which I share with three others. It’s all very glamorous…
What do you like about the medium you work in?

I don’t work with one specific medium. I constantly explore new materials and methods. Constantly learning new things and always being a beginner makes me tick. As I don’t know the rules I am not afraid of breaking them and it’s easier to ask for advice when you know little about your medium. You talk up to people with the expertise, which makes them open up to you in a quite incredible way.
A marble rubics cube from the 'Ideas' page of Utzon-Frank's website. Photography by Michael Bodiam

What's your favourite material to work with?

Whatever material catches my interest that week.
Where do you look for inspiration/ideas?

Right now I’m actually trying not to be inspired and get more ideas. I’m trying to get 7 different projects off the ground at once - 2 of them are less than a month old. It’s not easy to stop getting ideas because my brain is working on it’s own and I usually get the best ideas when I’m on my bike or talking to people - when I’m not actively seeking them. And I can’t very well stop doing that.
Who’s your favourite artist/designer/maker at the moment?

As you might have already guessed I don’t have one favourite. I’m a lifelong fan of Thomas Heatherwick. I think he will always be a favourite. But as newer players go I love Seetal Solanki of Ma-tt-er, Raw Material and John Booth, who makes the most amazing ceramics. And then my dad Aksel Kaalund, who makes these absolutely mesmerising abstract water colour paintings. I can get lost in the details for hours.
Ceramics by John Booth
How did you first become connected to Zetteler?

Sabine Zetteler has been a dear friend of mine for some years now and she took me under her extremely skilled PR wing. I am not even exaggerating a little bit when I say that I would not be anywhere near where I am today without her and her amazing Zetteler team.
Utzon-Frank's plant-hangers come in three colour-ways.
Find Kia’s plant hangers on The Z list.

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