From digital art to jewelry-making to video production and beyond, Vivienne Leow takes on many artistic forms. Leow is a multidisciplinary designer and creative currently based in Brooklyn, New York. Growing up and living in different countries has brought on elaborate feelings of belonging, erasure, and home for Leow. These come to play in her work, as she creates products that are ingrained in her culture. 

Wearing her brand’s Clover Landscape Dangles and personalized Nameplate Necklace, Vivienne Leow exuded a colorful aura as she sat down to chat with EnVi in a little coffee shop in Chinatown, Manhattan.

Third Culture Kid

Deeply embedded into Leow’s identity is her unique cultural background. Vivienne Leow was born and raised in Malaysia for the first eight years of her life. She was immersed in her native language and culture until her family moved to Jakarta, Indonesia where they lived for the next six years. She integrated into an American international school until her family moved back to Malaysia. It was a different experience for her as she was not familiar with the local language and the schooling system. Leow talked about being put into an international school in her home country as an “unconventional” experience for her.

“That’s why I sound American even though I haven’t lived here [in the United States] comparatively that long,” Leow said. “That is something I always think about — the impact of international school on my life, on my work, and how the feeling of displacement and not belonging anywhere really affects how I’ve grown up as a person. How I feel kind of unrooted in a lot of places I’ve lived and why I feel so drawn to moving around.”

Though her experiences go beyond a simple explanation, Leow describes herself as a “third culture kid,” someone who grew up in a different cultural environment than their parents. 

Leow’s family settled down in Texas when she was 16 years old. This was a “weird, in-between” experience for her — she already felt culturally American even though she never grew up there. As a way to process and honor her experiences, she turns to her creative outlets. 

A Jack of All Trades’ Toolbox

As a multidisciplinary designer, Vivienne Leow is passionate about many things. Ever since she was young, she has always been interested in arts and expression, with writing being her first love. She eventually shifted her focus towards visual mediums after discovering digital art, but didn’t stop there. She has also picked up embroidery, crochet, and jewelry-making. Leow considers herself “a jack of all trades” due to her innate love of learning new hobbies and skills. 

Though it has not been easy for her to balance all of her interests and newfound hobbies, she uses her skills to her advantage. “I’ve really focused on that idea that these are all tools for me — like a pencil, a paint brush, and an eraser — it’s all tools in a little toolbox,” Leow illustrated. “I use the right one for the drawing or the project I want to do.” 

“Storytelling Is My Craft”

At the end of the day, whether she’s crocheting a new top, creating a new jewelry design, or making a video talking about something dear to her, storytelling is her end goal. All of her designs and projects have deeply woven ties to parts of her culture. Each and every one has a story for her to tell. 

Leow’s different skills and interests may seem unrelated, but she holds them all together. They interact with each other when she creates social media content about her art, other multimedia work, and videos of her own self-reflections. Pulling it all together is what she does to achieve her storytelling vision. 

“How do I craft [the story] with all these different tools?” Leow pondered. “When I see it that way, I’m like ‘okay it’s not a bad thing — it just means I have more options to tell the story.’”

The impact a story has on people is something Leow values when creating her work. Instead of following trends, she gravitates towards content that is genuine and reflective. She draws inspiration from content creators who focus more on creating content that is cinematography paired with storytelling.

“I don’t make content solely to promote my art, I also do it for fun because I like expressing myself.” Leow conveyed. “Some days, I have a story I want to tell and I think it would be fun as a standalone. It doesn’t have to be related to my jewelry.”

As long as her work is honest to herself, she feels she can continue to connect to people and their hearts, which is ultimately her goal with every video or project she creates.

Fitting In

One of the projects she holds close to her heart is her zine called Fitting In. This follows a small piece of her story — how moving from one place to another had eroded her language. She created Fitting In as a submission for Wing On Wo & Co’s open call for zines in 2023. 

Leow opened up about her feelings and post-graduation challenges she had gone through around the time of creating her zine. “It was actually a really hard time for me in my life because I graduated the previous May, 2022,” Leow admitted. “I had an internship all that summer, but I did not have a job after. I was applying to jobs but not hearing back. I was really down in the dumps.” She also recalled this period being a time where she wasn’t able to produce work.

The inspiration of the zine came from an old school notebook with Chinese character writing practice she had found. The idea had been on her mind for a while, so she took this as an opportunity to finally bring it to life. Only creating this in three days during a low point in her life, she was able to find a sense of purpose and renewal. Once she had submitted it, she heard the good news that her zine was chosen to be stocked at the New York City store. “That really helped me and boosted my self esteem,” Leow expressed. “It made me feel like I’m doing something good. I have a story here that people like and care about.”

KINDRED Jewelry Line

Another project born from a need to create and contribute back to her parents is her jewelry line KINDRED. This idea came to mind when she noticed how limited custom name items, such as jewelry, are. She felt that there was a gap in the market for people who wanted name jewelry that wasn’t created by regular jewelers.

“They make necklaces in the English Latin alphabet. I even had one, and it was my Chinese name but written in the English transliteration because they didn’t have Chinese characters available,” Leow said. She wanted a necklace with her Chinese name “Su-Wen” with Chinese characters. That’s when she thought other people might want the same.

Leow took the leap and invested in this path — buying the machine to create the acrylic pieces, learning how to use it, prototyping designs, as well as doing countless hours of research. She wanted to make sure her products were affordable alongside good quality. Leow took the time to build this sector of her store from the bottom up and her efforts have paid off with beautiful creations being bought by customers who feel seen. 

Leow prides herself in making sure anyone, no matter the characters of their respective languages, can buy name jewelry from her. She has done research and found accessible websites with different fonts for characterized languages, such as Google Fonts, to incorporate into her name jewelry. KINDRED, a project she’s most proud of, is a testament to her tenacity for contribution, another avenue of self expression, and something to take a chance on.

Name Necklace
Name Earrings

Pushing Forward and New Ventures 

Leow’s journey on the business side of her passions has only just begun. While continuing to work on her jewelry business and other art projects, she is also working towards relaunching her digital magazine called No Strangers. With an inherent love of culture, people, and connection, No Strangers was made to connect with other people who are also part of the “in-between” — immigrant kids, international students, mixed race people, etc.  

“I still love the project’s core idea and want to develop it into something more tangible, so I’m hoping to launch some events in the coming months to bring people together.” Leow said in a follow-up email with EnVi

While much of the future is left unknown for Vivienne Leow, she remains hopeful as her dreams continue to carry her passions wherever she goes. You can support her by viewing her content on Instagram and checking out her shop via her website!

Interested in reading about another artist like Vivienne Leow who fuses asian culture with design? Read about our interview with illustrator and designer Sheila Wong here!