From the first moment that I met Karen Fung of Meiku Designs , I knew I would like her as upon seeing each other, she burst out with a huge smile and welcoming laugh. Whether she’s just a practiced interview, or she really is just that charismatic, Karen was a joy to talk to and such an interesting study of contrasts. I first spotted Meiku Designs at the Festive Collective pop-up shop on Main St. and was instantly captivated by the beautiful colors that so perfectly evoked my beloved West Coast. Made primarily of natural stones, beads, and charms, Karen’s line of necklaces, earrings and bracelets look like something you’d see being sold on Wreck Beach – but much much better. I had the lucky opportunity to meet up with the very busy Karen a week ago to talk fashion, art, nature, and meditation.
All about Karen
Karen Fung grew up in Ontario and had always been interested in aesthetics and design. She worked her way up through the retail ladder from the sales floor to merchandising and then buying, but also achieved an education in web design. Working in these creative roles allowed Karen to express her artistic energy, but towards a purpose as it was important to her that her creations had a use, rather than just existing for art’s sake. After a few years working though, Karen knew something was missing; she wasn’t feeling inspired, instead she was feeling drained. Karen knew she enjoyed design and working with her hands, but how to turn that into a career?
It all came down to one ring. No, not the ring, but a unique silver ring that Karen crafted herself. I immediately noticed it shining on her middle finger; a solid cubic slab of silver etched with wavering lines. It was in the making of this ring that Karen discovered herself. “I cast it… and just had this realization that this was what I wanted to do. Art needs a purpose [and] I love the idea of jewelry – how it’s worn everyday… its history.”
And so it was that a couple years ago Karen took that monumental leap – both job-wise and physically. She quit her job, packed her bags, and shipped out way way west to Vancouver, a faraway city she’d fallen in love with during past family trips where she fell in “awe of the mountains.”
“I just felt this push.. that it was time to do this,” Karen explains. Perhaps it’s her roots as the child of restaurant owner parents. Like me, we grew up with parents who worked all hours and with twice the commitment of regular people, but unlike me, Karen saw this as inspiration instead of cautionary tale. The hard work ethic and passion that her parents gave her served Karen well and ultimately gave her the guts to move into this fresh direction. I had to know how she could be so brave. “Always move forward,” Karen says confidently. “Forgive yourself [the mistakes]. Don’t beat yourself up, and just try your best.”
What is Meiku?
Besides inspiring her to her true calling, the silver ring Karen always wears also serves as a reminder of self. “The ring represents the evolution of my style, my expression,” Karen muses while toying subconsciously with it. It’s also a perfect representation of what Meiku is.
Karen is a huge believer in wabi-sabi, the Japanese philosophy of finding beauty in imperfections. Frequently throughout our conversation Karen made references to wabi-sabi and I got the feeling that this outlook of finding beauty in imperfection and putting faith in life’s “happy accidents” truly encapsulates who she, and Meiku, are. When I asked Karen to describe what distinguished Meiku from others, she paused for a few minutes, carefully considering the question in a rare moment of quiet contemplation before stating, “striving for balance.” It was the perfect answer.
Every piece of Meiku reflects this striving for balance. By using natural materials like pure metals, stones and wooden beads and crafting them into artificially intricate forms, Meiku seeks to transcend both to reach the perfect balance. Using dichotomous pieces like rough unfinished stones against delicate silver chains, Karen melds these two opposites together to create a more beautiful whole.
Citing her new surroundings as her greatest inspiration, Karen’s creative process begins with a mood board of inspiring things. Turns out both Karen and I share a love for random things, like craggy skylines, the rough textures of tree bark and even interesting angles created by neighboring downtown buildings. From these images, she begins to conceptualize and play with materials in her home workshop until a new piece is formed.
Besides nature, Meiku is also heavily inspired by Karen’s spirituality. An avid follower of yoga and meditation, she often incorporates charms and symbols from yoga. Meiku’s first collection was even called Karma and Karen plans on expanding this theme with her second collection by exploring the healing properties of gems. While thoroughly emphasizing that she is no hippie, Karen still admits a “connection with certain stones” and jokingly describes her future collections as being ” the middle between hippy and spiritual.”
The future shines for Meiku
Over the next few years Karen plans to expand her line both in brick & mortar stores, as well as online with her eventual goal to open her own studio where she can return to her metal smithing roots. Perhaps more silver rings are in the future for this bright young designer? My money is betting on yes. With her mix of business skills, determination and creative soul, Karen is set to show the world that West Coast style is more than just Birkenstocks and friendship beads. Although I was interviewing her, by the end of our time together I was left pondering my own aspirations rather than hers. In the end Karen left me with these wise words alongside an urging to follow my true path: “The mind is a powerful tool. If you can channel it, you can do very powerful things. Put your intentions out there and things will happen.”