Kim A Ram & Kim Na Yeon

A cooperative form of business is not an easy decision. What is your purpose and how is the process that you have been working together until today?
(Na Yeon) I finished graduate school one semester earlier, and I was in desperate need of a partner’s advice and support while developing products. Therefore, I asked Aram to work with me. (Aram) I did not hesitate to work with her because we have a lot in common in school regarding our interests, including design. It has already been three years since we shared a space. It was our common belief that anyone should be able to purchase and use lacquer craft items for reasonable prices. It has become the identity of our brand, Ott Ott.

It seemed difficult to operate the brand. Are you also working on an individual work?
(Na Yeon) Even though we have different looks, we have a lot in common regarding our personalities. As a result, we really do not have conflicting ideas. We easily come to an agreement under any circumstances. As we spend more time in the same space, we tend to have a broader understanding of each other. We have difficulties as we are barely starting our business; however, they are not obstacles, but things to ponder together. (Aram) That is correct. We do not have much time for our individual work. Our brand is our priority, so we cannot spare much time for ourselves. If I could, I would like to create furniture, tableware, and chests with a lot of detail.

Could you tell us about the ‘Tray’ on the cover?
(Aram) In general, lacquering is confined in the perception that it is an ‘expensive furniture’ using traditional techniques. We wanted to break that fixed idea and prove that lacquered products can be purchased for a more affordable price, and they can be used in everyday life. Tray was the result of our contemplation to make every day tableware bright and warm. When we saw that consumers preferred the tray to cups or dishes at a flea market, we immediately decided to make a tray.

There are many other products that can be lacquered. Why did you choose a tray?
(Na Yeon) We were encouraged by the consumer’s reactions at the flea market, and we were selected for the 2017 Craft Design Product Development Project to turn it into a product. You can use it to carry cups and dishes as it is made of environmentally friendly lacquering, and it can even serve food as it is functionally versatile. It is lacquered, so it is protected from deterioration and moisture. (Aram) Our tray does not cover the grains of wood with the lacquer, and we mixed colorants suitable for tableware with refined lacquer in order to create bright pastel colors.

Could you tell us about your effort to make lacquering popular?
(Na Yeon) We will take the tray as an example. We had to think of product quality and its cost-effectiveness in order to appeal to the consumers. First, we chose patterned wood, which is more affordable and easy to handle, instead of the unsawn timber that is more expensive and hard to handle. Also, we chose CNC machining in order to shape and cut the wood faster; although, we still need to sandpaper each item, of course.

Pricing seems to be the most challenging part of it all.
(Na Yeon) If it is possible to anticipate the demand, we can lower the unit prices by purchasing wood or lacquer in bulk. However, that is not possible. Furthermore, it requires repeated lacquering process, so the work time will be relatively long. For this reason, we tried to shorten the process as long as there is no quality issue. This is actually the hardest part that we should continue to challenge. (Aram) We work on multiple items at once, but it takes about 10 days to complete a tray. This is definitely not an easy process.

Please tell us what is special about Ott Ott.
(Aram) Many people are interested in tableware these days. When they see Ott Ott’s products and discover something special about them, they would probably say, “There are actually products with these colors of lacquer!” Our brand name is inspired by the ‘ottchil’, which is a traditional lacquering technique in Korea. (Na Yeon) I think what makes our products special is that they are easy to use in everyday life, and they complement other products as much as the friendly name of our brand.

Please tell us about your future plans.
(Aram) The most important thing for us is to manufacture better products that represent Ott Ott’s unique identity. Our nearest plan is to participate in the craft fair that will be held in November with the tray and the tableware that goes with it. (Na Yeon) We will do our best to make Ott Ott become a household name when people think of lacquerware. In order to do so, we would have to create products that boast of flawless designs and modern sentiments of lacquering technique.