I wonder what aspect of lacquering appealed to you.
All the properties of lacquering were attractive. Firstly, when you lacquer, the plating on the surface starts to glow to enhance the beauty of the object. Lacquering also makes it water-proof and rust-proof, thus improving its durability and the functionality of the container. Additionally, it can be repaired when the vessel is chipped or partially peeled. Along with these traditional charms, you can also mix it with colorants to apply color or add dirt to create texture for 2D or 3D drawings.
Then, is your work different from traditional lacquering?
Not really. Broadly, the process is not much different from that of traditional method, but I get different outcomes by applying various materials and colors. For example, I can mix the lacquer with various colorants to test the colors, and I also mix it with dirt, paint powder, mother-of-pearl powder, and other materials to create different textures. Unlike the olden times, there are many types of fabric with different textures. My work is the outcome of my contemplation to display the various textures of fabric for the consumers. Lacquering allows many new attempts to come up with various finishes.
I heard that materials are particularly important for lacquering
That’s right. Lacquer is a natural material extracted from wood with various strengths. But it is rather expensive and hard to handle. Korean lacquer has not been widely used since cheaper materials had been emerged during the time of Japanese Imperial Rule. They used alternative plating, instead of the lacquer which was hard to find and was expensive. Alternative plating can be dried under the room temperature, so it is easier to use to mass-produce low-priced products. Traditional lacquer, on the other hand, requires a meticulous process, as it needs to be dried in a chamber set at 7% humidity and 27°C. You need experience and careful attention as the drying conditions may vary by climate and season. The materials are important, but it is more crucial to keep the workspace free from dust for the top coat as you plate the object. You also use various kinds of brushes, including very expensive brushes made with human hair.
You said lacquering is creative work. Where do you get your
inspirations? Also, please explain the piece on the cover.
In case of paintings or accessories, I sketch based on folk paintings. I also work mostly with natural materials such as broken branches of the woods. The piece on the cover was inspired by a flower, and it is made with hemp cloth. When you make accessories, you should consider the season. Brooches for thin summer clothing should be also made with lighter materials. So I work with hemp cloth, instead of metal. I cover the frame with hemp cloth, and lacquer it several times. Then, I finish up by coating the pistils with gold.
You said you utilize wood, hemp cloth, and various other materials.
Do you use different techniques according to the materials?
It is not the matter of methods, but the lacquer creates different surfaces based on the properties of the materials. If you lacquer wood, the surface is coated. If you work with fabric, the lacquer fills the weaving of the fabric, producing diverse and three-dimensional form. It may be unfamiliar to the general public, but lacquering on the hemp cloth is a traditional method.
Lacquer craft is difficult to consume due to its high price. Is
there a way to make it more common?
Basically, the high cost of materials and the long process are problems but the distribution process is also problematic. Personally, I try to shape the wooden vessels and work with metal materials in addition to the lacquering process by myself. Each piece is unique since the vessels are not factorymanufactured, though some people prefer that aspect. It is tiresome, but I try to be closer to the public by exhibiting at a gallery with a café. It is a very pleasing experience to interact more with consumers.
What is your ultimate goal as an artist?
As I said, it is very important to meet with consumers face-to-face. Consumers’ feedback gives me an important clue to the next step I will take. It’s not constructive to follow your own instinct, and be disappointed when you are not accepted by the market. Synergies from communication with consumers provide a big boost of energy to artists. Nowadays, I am concentrating on personal work, but I enjoyed interacting with other people through different courses for that reason. I don’t have an ultimate goal, but I am still enjoying the creative process.
What are your future plans?
I am planning to participate in a fair, and publish a book by the end of the year as always. I am interested in interior design nowadays, so I created a collaborative work to come up with an artistic piece of furniture. It was very popular. I was also asked to create art works for kitchens or walls, so I think I am going to spare more time for that for a while.