Eum Yoonna

Textile craft is rather unfamiliar, compared to other kinds of craft. What is it specifically?
I am often asked that question. People ask how it is different from fashion design. When I make a bag, for example, I think of it as craft, but most people considered me and my work in relation to fashion. That got me thinking. The difference between textile craft and fashion is actually vague. Personally, I classify textile craftsmen and fashion designers this way: a textile craftsman is all about their deliberation and studies on the materials, whereas, a fashion designer is all about the output rather than the process. Artists apply their original materials and techniques to various objects as contents, while designers focus on the objects themselves, instead of ceaseless studies of certain materials.

You mean that the attitude toward the materials defines who is an artist and who is a designer. Then why have you chosen mountain-climbing ropes?
Maybe, I should first explain how I was introduced to knitting. I was a design major, and not a craft major, but I created a hand-knit piece as my graduation piece. But then, I learned that yarns are only suitable in the winter, so I looked for a material that is similar to yarns, yet free from such seasonal restrictions. That’s when I discovered ropes. The drawback of yarns is that they cannot be restored once stretched, but mountain-climbing ropes are rarely deformed. Also, I can even order the colors I want.

So that’s how you have decided on your technique and material. Now, I am very curious how you actually create the artworks.
Considering my objects, there were bags, hats, lamp shades, and candleholders. They do not reflect a certain plan or decision, but I have experimented with various techniques that are suitable for the ropes, and matched them with various everyday objects. At first, I had a basket in mind instead of lamp shades, but I thought of something that is warm to the touch and as hard as plastic. I lacquered the inside of the basket to hold the shape, and converted it into a lamp shade as it permeates light. The outcome was very interesting.

Since knitting has a long history, it must have been hard to apply new techniques to it. Did you face any technical difficulties?
This is what I have in mind these days: A potter has a mill, while I have a sewing machine. I backstitch the ropes to create a plane with lines. I once participated in a workshop, and I was surprised to hear that an artist named Anton Alvarez built his own machine for his work. Personally, I found it difficult to create the slope of planes while using the sewing machine that I have. It would be great if I could build my own machine like him. If I could create a brand and the necessary tools at the same time, it would also be a very interesting process.

I feel that classical ‘knitting’ doesn’t quite match the image of a young artist.
Like I said, I was first introduced to knitting in college, and I believe that the slowness of familiarity creates something new. It was quite funny to see how surprised people were when I told them I knit with ropes, not the obvious yarns. I want to write a book about everything that you can make with ropes soon.

But I heard that textile is a difficult material to approach artistically, unlike other materials of handicraft.
That’s true. Because textile craft and fashion share a gray area, like I said, there is the issue of setting up your category and competing with mass-produced goods in terms of price. In Korea, people tend not to recognize the value of artworks created by textile artists. I have thought about it a lot, but I think it’s because the supply market at Dongdaemun is impressive. Metal or porcelain is not as accessible and is somewhat mysterious in a way, but textile can be easily found in any market. Consumers already know much about the production process and the cost of materials, so they do not want to evaluate the value of textile craft as artworks. Just a few decades ago, almost every family owned a sewing machine, and mothers would knit gloves and sweaters every winter.

Is there any material or object you wish to challenge in the future?
I am still into ropes, so I am going to focus on the variations of this material. However, I participated in a contest where I had to create products with Korean paper for the first time last year, and I really enjoyed it. I am still interested in Korean paper. Also, I want to continue exploring how textile could be connected to metal, which is on the opposite side of the spectrum. The Candleholder series are a part of this exploration, but I think it’s still rough. I seem to prefer 3D textile bodies, so I believe I am leaning toward that persuasion.

What are your other plans?
I am planning to wrap up this year with ‘Cabinet Art Fair’, where I can communicate with the public without a gallery, and ‘Eulji-ro, Light Way’ at DDP. I want to become an artist who will never get tired of his own work. My dream is to have an image that naturally comes to your mind when you think of Eum Yoonna, the artist.