Haejin Lee is a ceramic artist from Seoul, South Korea now based in Vancouver, B.C. Her sculptural work seems to defy gravity and has won many international awards. Haejin’s elegant cups and tableware are available at both KOBO locations.
1. Your manipulation of clay into ‘ribbons’ is impressive! How did you begin to use this technique?
I have been always interested in the concept of Mobius strips. I find it fascinating that a two dimensional element–a line–can also be expressed in three dimensions and loop infinitely. ‘Continuity’ and ‘Infinity’ are the main themes behind all my ceramic work. Execution of the technique was not easy at first. It not only required me to calculate the drying rate of each strip, which has various lengths and thicknesses, but I also had to balance the weight of the strips so they wouldn’t collapse when fired. It gives me a sense of achievement when I successfully execute the design with strips that are almost impossible to balance.
2. How did you get interested in ceramics?
When I was little, I liked to buy little ceramic goods for my friends’ birthdays. I liked the attachment of ceramic wares to our everyday life; drinking tea, having a warm bowl of soup, etc. I always thought it would be a more special and heartfelt present to my dear friends than giving them a pretty fashion accessory.
I was accepted to Sunhwa Art middle school and high school in South Korea. By the time I was 17, I tried most of the media the Art schools offered. I definitely had the most fun in ceramics classes; making three dimensional pieces out of wet clay fired my imagination. I was obsessed with making each piece ‘perfect’ in my standard. I remember spending hours and hours perfecting the coiling technique when I was first learning. Also, my interest in food and table settings of different cultures fueled my passion towards ceramic art. Being able to use my work to hold nicely prepared food on a dinner table is one of the most enjoyable parts of working with ceramics.
3. You write that your tableware should be used as everyday dishes instead of being admired in a closed cabinet. Any words of encouragement for those of us who are afraid of breaking such precious pieces?
Every element of my tableware is carefully thought out to make them comfortable and practical: the placement of each handle, the width and volume of cups so they fit in your hand more comfortably, the weight and thickness of each piece is also calculated to be as light as possible, but durable when washed. I think all these little considerations are also a privilege for clients to enjoy when my dishes are utilized rather than being admired in a closed cabinet.
4. Do you use your own ceramics at home?
Yes, I do use my own ceramics. In fact, more than 80% of all ceramic ware we use at home was made by me. I think it’s essential to use one’s own designs at home; all of my tableware is tested by me at my own home. I make minor adjustments based on the different experiences I have with each design. It also helps me to come up with new designs.
5. If you could only use 3 words to describe your work, what would they be?
Infinite, controlled, extempore (spontaneous, done without preparation).