Cameo: Juliana Sohn
Welcome to 'Cameos' a series featuring a lovely cast of characters from around the globe and across creative disciplines. We’ll try to keep it curious, with questions that range from cheeky to inspiring.
Since it's a Cameo, we’ll always ask our subjects to share something that is precious to them. As a jewelry designer, I think of all things as vessels for meaning. But true to life, precious does not always mean fancy. It's all in the energy and the story.
Meet Juliana Sohn!
It all started when I spied one impossibly chic neighbor in the foyer of the beautiful prewar apt bldg we’d moved into on 2nd Ave. Juliana was magnetic from that first sighting– a classic NYC beauty, creator, and mother of two of the coolest young boys. I took every chance to hold the elevator door for her and make small talk, thinking how cool it would be to become friends with her. When she offered to have me over for breakfast, I jumped at the chance-–and as it turns out, we made fast friends. This magic maker has a world of inspiration to share, through her lens (both literal and figurative). And I’m so excited to bring that to you today with her Cameo. – Anna
WHAT’S YOUR CURRENT USE OF COLOR?
I am definitely not a girlie girl, I’m petit so I gravitated towards a more urban style, perhaps because I felt I needed a little help to project the strength that my physical form lacked. My wardrobe is filled with neutral colors like black, white, or navy. So it was a real surprise in recent years when I found pink catching my eye over and over again.
Pink is such a loaded color and I’d always dismissed it as a color favored by families intent on gender-specific girl-ware. But a soft, blush, pink emerged on the color scene recently and it’s such a fantastic, feel-good color so when I’m out shopping I can’t help but take home muted, soft pink yarns and fabrics, my imagination exploding with possible pink projects. Then I went one step further and painted my bedroom pink, which I highly recommend; It’s such a soothing color for sleeping.
FIRST FAVORITE MAGAZINE (AS IN FROM THE TEEN OR TWEEN YEARS)?
I grew up bored stiff in suburban New Jersey and couldn’t wait to leave my hometown and daydreamed of being an artist living in New York City. I hungrily read British magazines soaking up culture, art, and irreverence. There was one magazine stand in downtown Newark, NJ, where my parents ran a cosmetic supply store, where my sisters and I could sometimes find imported British magazines: Smash Hits for music and i-D and The Face for trends and fashion.
I set up fashion photoshoots using my high school friends as models in my bedroom, dreaming of being a photographer one day. After college and several years assisting fashion photographers in NYC, I was so excited to get my first real assignment as a photographer for The Face.
IN YOUR OWN PERSONAL APPROACH TO MOTHERHOOD, IS THERE ANYTHING THAT YOU DO DIFFERENTLY THAN YOUR MOTHER?
My mother and I are so close and yet so different, we approach life and mothering in vastly different ways. This isn’t a surprise because as a first-generation immigrant, it’s her sacrifices and hard work which have enabled me the luxury to raise my children and live my life differently.
My mother is a devout Catholic and I attended Catholic school till I entered high school. She has always tried to impress the importance of religion and prayer in my life but I’m turned out an agnostic. I baptized my children because I knew how much it meant to her but I tell my children that belief is a personal decision and there are so many religions and systems to explore; I leave the choice to them.
My mom? She attends church every day and believes in the power of prayer. She’s constantly praying for the recovery of lost objects, for my son to get into the college of his choice, for me to get the project I just bid on and she’s not shy about taking credit whenever something she’s prayed for goes her way! She has a gold rosary ring she wears on her pointer finger; it has ten round bumps (one for each Hail Mary in a decade) on a band that spins so she can easily keep track of her prayers. Over the years, those bumps have been worn down to flat nubs, a testament to her devotion.
IF YOU WERE A GEMSTONE, WHICH WOULD YOU BE AND WHY?
I don’t know that much about gemstones or their meaning but my mother’s name is Moon and she had this fantastic, black, moonstone ring I coveted when I was little. She promised me that she’d give me the ring when I got older but it, unfortunately, went missing years ago. Since then, I’ve always wanted to gift her a moonstone ring, to replace the one she lost and also in reference to her name.
For me, I love pearls because they reflect the natural process of taking an unfortunate irritant and turning into something beautiful. A strand of plump, perfectly, round pearls have long been associated with conservative wealth so I love it when independent designers incorporate pearls into modern designs that move away from those traditional associations. (I just realized from your website that pearl is my birthstone as my birthday is in June.)
WHAT FLAVOR BRINGS YOU JOY?
Is burnt a flavor? I love caramelized, burnt, or browned anything. Think browned butter, caramelized onions, or burnt sugar! Yum! There is a Korean street candy called ppokki (뽑기), which is just melted and browned sugar with a pinch of baking soda (which turns it into a brittle, airy, honeycomb) that I love because it reminds me of being a kid in Korea. Candy vendors would wait outside of schools and sell ppokki to children after school. Anyone who could eat around the design stamped into the candy keeping the design whole received a free ppokki.
IS THERE AN IG YOU’RE FOLLOWING THAT CONSISTENTLY MAKES YOU LAUGH OR SMILE?
I follow a biodiversity conservation account called @bio-sapians to remind me what an awesome planet inhabited by wild and fabulous creatures we are lucky to live on. The nature photography they curate is so striking I often wonder if the images and stories are real.
“As a first-generation immigrant, it’s her sacrifices and hard work which have enabled me the luxury to raise my children and live my life differently.”
WHAT ARE YOU READING RIGHT NOW?
It’s a sad truth that I have been trying to carve out time to finish reading Jenny Odell’s book, How To Do Nothing, for close to a year now. I somehow need to get the info in the book to learn how to make time to read the book! I was so excited for this book I bought a physical copy when my usual habit is to read ebooks or listen to audiobooks. It’s made me realize how drastically my reading habits have changed and how little time I allot on focused self-care like sitting down and enjoying a book.
WHAT’S KEEPING YOUR EYEBALLS FULL OF INSPIRATION?
Artist Xavi Bou films birds in flight, then distills the birds’ flight pattern into a single photograph in post-production, revealing the invisible flight path of birds. He’s found the perfect balance between science and nature in his work; the technology reveals patterns in nature that we can’t make out with the eye. I can be a purist when it comes to digital manipulation but what Bou does is extraordinary and I find myself staring at his work, wishing I had a large-scale print in my home.
I ASK ALL MY FRIENDS TO SHARE SOMETHING THAT IS PRECIOUS TO THEM. WHAT’S THE OBJECT? HOW DID THIS COME TO BE PRECIOUS TO YOU?
I have a pear-shaped, amethyst, pendant necklace my uncle bought for me at the Incheon airport when I was in my twenties. I tagged along on a trip he took to China searching for black market, Chinese medicine, believing that it would restore nerve damage he suffered after a stroke. He was a priest and much revered in my very religious family. All my life I had resented and even feared him because he could be imperious.
That trip to China was a fluke, I was actually in Korea for my grandfather’s 80th birthday celebration but bribes were paid and last-minute visas produced and I was off on an adventure to the Golden Triangle with my uncle, Father Son. That trip completely changed our relationship and by the time he dropped me off at the airport to send me back home a week later, I was an emotional mess after finally connecting to this person who was so important to my family.
As a childless priest, he was especially invested in his nieces and nephews but since he lived in Korea, we didn’t have opportunities to see him except for stiff family visits every decade or so and his concern had come off as criticism. He bought me that necklace from the airport shop in a desperate attempt to try and give me something as a reminder of how much he cared, so that I’d have something from him since he lived so far away, and I have cherished it ever since.