Today we’d like to introduce you to Ai Kennedy.
Ai, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
I started making and selling jewelry when I was in high school and it was always a part of who I was. Mediums changed over the time from carved wood to wires to beads, before I took silversmith 101 in college. I eventually learned 3D modeling which allowed me to design complex shapes. It was in 2015 when I decided to quit my job and launched (in)Somnia, a collection of silver jewelry with focus on sculptural forms. Since then, I’ve been selling my pieces at local retail stores, at craft shows and at gallery shows besides online. I’ve done a solo show and also had one of my pieces exhibited at the National Gallery of Denmark. I now have a studio and a showroom in Pasadena, where I design and make each piece.
I initially started my job as a chef to make ends meet; to cover the rent of said studio. I was looking for a part-time job where I could learn some new skills – just for fun – and I was lucky enough to find a prep position at a sushi restaurant with no requirement of past experience. Before I knew, I was serving sushi to guests, and I enjoyed the nightly interactions more than I thought I would. So I decided to take this job seriously as well, and I worked my way up to become a head chef. Then I moved on to working for a Michelin starred restaurant to further improve my skills and knowledge.
It hasn’t been always easy to manage workloads of both, but switching between rather isolating process of jewelry designing and more social environment of food service helps me with keeping the balance of my mental health, and I’m happy about and proud of calling myself both a designer and a chef.
Has it been a smooth road?
I didn’t expect any of what I do now, ten years ago.
Since my childhood, I always wanted to be an architect. I went to schools and earned degrees in architecture, and everything seemed to be going as planned. But then I started suffering from depression and anxiety disorder. I still went to work for an architect I admired, but 400 monthly work hours didn’t help. Eventually, I had to stop pursuing my career in the field, and it was a very difficult decision to make. I felt like I lost my identity. For next several years, I struggled to regain the sense of control over my life.
It was when I re-visited jewelry design that I found peace with myself again. And it was when I became a chef that I found a purpose in life again. I can’t say I’m glad I had to go through depression, but it is true that those years made me stronger and made me who I am today. Knowing that I could pivot my life gives me a confidence to keep moving forward. And I have to say, I’m fortunate to have understanding family and friends.
We’d love to hear more about your business.
At (in)Somnia, I design limited edition silver jewelry. The collection is inspired by living things in nature, but instead of replicating their forms, I reduce them to their defining elements and reconstruct them as wearable sculpture. Purposefully ambiguous lines convey an expression of self-exploration to celebrate wearer’s uniqueness. Most of my pieces are digitally designed then printed and casted, before hand-finished with extra elements. I’m proud of making jewelry that is not about fashion trends but more about personal experience. It’s an amulet for one to remember that everything they go through will become beautiful part of who they are.
As a chef, since the Covid-19 pandemic changed everything, I’m currently offering private sushi caterings and weekend Japanese lunch boxes, and also doing occasional popup events in collaboration with other chefs. With so many great sushi and Japanese options already in LA, my goal is to create something comforting and fun with a little surprise in each bite. The use of local seasonal ingredients is important to me, and my passion is to create traditional but unique dishes that highlight fresh seafood from Japan and seasonal produce from California.
In addition, I’m working on a new project where design and culinary meet; I’m developing a series of tableware which I’m hoping to launch at the beginning of next year.
Is our city a good place to do what you do?
Although ever rising rent is making it difficult for any independent creatives to make living, it is still a great city to meet like-minded artists and chefs as well as clients who are open to your ideas. Even during this difficult time, I can say I’m expanding my social circle and have a better sense of the community I belong to.
- (in)Somnia Silver Jewelry Priced between $135 – $1275 With the most pieces priced between $250 – $350
- Sushi catering starts from $120 per person
- Address: 30 S Wilson Ave. Pasadena, CA 91106
- Website: https://insomniajewelry.com/
- Email: email@example.com
- Instagram: @insomniajewelry / @chefai.la
- Other: https://www.adnohia.com/