Hannah Lim’s mythological designs feature in Dolce & Gabbana show

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London-based sculptor Hannah Lim tells H&IS what it took to be one of Dolce & Gabbana’s 11 Designers Under 40

 words Mairi Mulhern 

We first spoke to Hannah Lim in 2022, two years after she graduated from Edinburgh College of Art – she was just about to showcase her Ornamental Mythologies collection in her first Scottish solo exhibition.

It has been wonderful to see Hannah flourish in the years since. The young talent’s practice has come to focus largely on the 18th-century design trend of chinoiserie, where elements of Chinese design were recreated and imitated to conform with European aesthetics and tastes.

Image features Hannah Lim standing in her first solo exhibition in Edinburgh and the Edinburgh Printmakers
IMAGE | Neil Hanna. Hannah Lim stands amongst her first solo exhibition in Edinburgh at the Edinburgh Printmakers

In the H&IS ‘Art Words’ feature, Hannah says that she uses her art to explore parts of her cultural identity. “As a woman of mixed Singaporean and British heritage, my work investigates the relationship between the two cultures, looking at how this has been reflected historically through furniture design, objects and architecture.”

Hannah Lim's Four Eyed Xixi-fish Snuff Bottle, inspired by Chinese mythology, designed in 2022
IMAGE | Hannah Lim, ‘Four Eyed Xixi-fish Snuff Bottle’, inspired by Chinese mythology and bestiaries, and designed in 2022

“My work attempts to reclaim and reimagine this practice with a more conscientious approach. My sculptures often draw inspiration from specific cultural styles or processes. Both ornamental and functional designs are blended together in my larger and smaller-scale works.”

Some of Hannah’s past art includes Box of Beasts, which was part of a series of snuff bottles and boxes the sculptor handmade in March 2022. “I initially became interested in snuff bottles because of their prevalence in the East Asian sections of many British museums,” she explains. “These objects performed a simple and functional task, yet they were extremely intricate and detailed, and that balance between ornateness and function embodied by these tiny objects intrigued me so much that I wanted to create my own.”

Hannah Lim's snuff box, created in 2022 as commission - inspired by Classics of Mountains and Seas
IMAGE | Hannah Lim. Intricate snuff box, inspired by the Classics of Mountains and Seas

In April 2024, Hannah presented The Chest of Flames at Milan Design Week as part of Dolce & Gabbana’s second edition of ‘Gen D: 11 designers under 40’.

Created by Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana, the aim was to support young designers and put them in contact with the beauties of Italy. Selected by Federica Sala, the show at Milan Design Week boasted cultural diversity through the universal language of design, creating a vibrant mosaic of styles and perspectives that cross continents and traditions.

IMAGE | Ella Bulley. Hannah Lim stands next to ‘The Chest of Flames’, her incredible piece for Milan Design Week with Dolce & Gabbana in their ‘Gen D: 11 Artists Under 40’ showcase

Hannah explains on her Instagram that The Chest of Flames design was based on the designs of traditional Cassone and Cassapanca, which were often carved or painted with stories, symbols and mythologies that were personal to their owners. “I’ve used the chest as a vessel to reflect and capture some of the distinctive symbols within my own work that I feel are connected to Dolce & Gabbana,” she writes. “Inspired by the bold style and flare of the Dolce & Gabbana designs I saw in Milan, I wanted the chest design to centre around a specific symbol of defiance and strength – fire!”

IMAGE | Ella Bulley. ‘The Chest of Flames’, Hannah Lim’s work for Milan Design Week with Dolce & Gabbana in their ‘Gen D: 11 Artists Under 40’ showcase

Almost cartoonlike in its design, The Chest of Flames is characterised by three key elements: a back panel with a sharp flame-like silhouette, the main storage cabinet, and paw feet. Strategic use of the primary colours – fiery red, leafy green, sunshine yellow and deep navy blue – make this piece as endearing as it is impactful. The smooth, intricately painted wood is offset beautifully by clear glass chains, hand-blown glass fruit and those interesting colour combinations.

IMAGE | Ella Bulley. ‘The Chest of Flames’, Hannah Lim’s work for Milan Design Week with Dolce & Gabbana in their ‘Gen D: 11 Artists Under 40’ showcase

Hannah further writes, “The chest references the mythologising of fire in different cultures but it has a specific connection to the mythology of Mount Etna, an active volcano in Sicily.

“Structurally, there are also references to my small snuff bottle works, reflected through the ‘enchanted box’ design of the chest. Details such as the feet and chains, features used often in my snuff bottles, are referenced in the design as well as creatures adapted from Chinese and medieval mythology such as dragons, which add to the fiery nature of the work.”

IMAGE | Ella Bulley. ‘The Chest of Flames’, Hannah Lim’s work for Milan Design Week with Dolce & Gabbana in their ‘Gen D: 11 Artists Under 40’ showcase

Visit Hannah Lim’s website | Follow Hannah Lim on Instagram

Read more about Hannah’s work in our feature about Milan Design week 2024.

Milan Design Week 2024: The trends and designers to have on your radar

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