Joo Hyung Park
Joo Hyung Park is an applied artist and contemporary jewellery maker living and working in South Korea. She integrates pieces of cutlery in wooden or metal surfaces as if they were soft and bendable. The tableware sculptures are intended as snapshots of the actual moment of eating. By transforming and combining chopsticks, spoons, forks and bowls, she does not only harmoniously unite European and Asian culture, but also transforms culinary utensils into a visual experience.
What have you rebelled against in the past, and what are you rebelling against now?
If I had to choose one, it would be practicality. I was originally trained as a jeweller and since jewellery needs to be on the human body, there were things that I had to consider such as wearability. However, from my point of view, when an object is beautiful and gives us joyful excitement just by looking at it, it fulfilled its duty as a creation. Nowadays, I make cutlery and tableware more than jewellery, so it moved on from wearability to practicality. When people see my cutlery, the first question is “what is it” and the second question is “are they comfortable to use”. I then explain that some of my cutlery are unexpectedly easy to use despite how they look, and some are usable but not as comfortable as other ordinary cutlery. Practicality is very important when something has expected functions, but I decided not to let it be potential drags to my idea. My pieces show the moment when we use cutlery with our hands. When they are laid on a table, they still have the forms of being in use. We use that very moment to deliver food to our mouth which, in my mind, is completing the duty of cutlery. With the cutlery pieces, I wish to tell the story of how my hands seized the moment, and made that moment into new cutlery. There are more than thousands of comfortably usable cutlery out there. Why do I have to make one of those? It is also the reason why I love the Steinbeisser project, it encouraged me to be more experimental and not to think practical.
Do you need to be a rebel to enjoy your cutlery?
You don’t need to be a rebel, you can enjoy by looking at them. You can also enjoy yourself by eating with them, at first you might experience an uncomfortable feeling, the more you use them the more exciting it will become.
Do you use your own cutlery?
Yes, sometimes! When I first made the “Merging 1” pieces, which were made from merging chopsticks and spoons, I used them every day. It was unexpectedly comfortable to use them despite their curvy form. Whenever I finish making cutlery, I test them with my family, friends, and myself. My brother has been the most critical and helpful tester.
What was the inspiration for your Steinbeisser series?
It has always been the moment of pleasure to use our hands. I desire to capture the moment that gives us pleasure by using our hands, and make that moment into something else.
Describe your work in 3 words!
Hands. Moment. Pleasure.
What are you working on right now?
At the moment, I am preparing for a jewellery exhibition called “Contemplastic” with my colleagues who mainly create jewellery. With these new works I will focus on creating malleable shapes from wood. While preparing for the exhibition, I got some good ideas for my next cutlery pieces, so hopefully, you will see them in May.
What excites you about tomorrow?
The working process for my wooden pieces has three steps. Carving wood to get the form, applying color lacquers as many times as needed, and peeling them off to create an organic pattern on the wood. The last step is the most fun part and tomorrow, the lacquer layers on the pieces will be dried and I get to peeled them off. Sometimes the patterns are not as beautiful as I wanted them to be, so I have to go back to the second step. But most of them have unique qualities that cannot be reproduced. In a different context, there is another thing that excites me about ‘tomorrow’. In South Korea, we are having unprecedented political disorder due to our president’s corruption. There will be a huge protest in the biggest plaza in Seoul, demanding the president’s resignation. I will take part at the protest and hopefully, she will listen to us this time.
What has been your favourite dinner experience?
It was in Florence in the summer of 2008. I was taking architecture class in Rome and had a field trip to Florence for a week. I was having the worst experience in Rome, due to its extremely hot weather, expensive food, and too strong coffee. At the end of our field trip, our professor took us to his favourite restaurant in Florence. It was a small but cozy place and he already ordered everything so we didn’t even get to see their menu. Everything, even the olives (I do not like olives) were so delicious and the pasta was one of the best I ate in my life.
What further ambitions do you have?
I would like to create objects on a much bigger scale. I like making jewellery or cutlery because everything can be done by myself. Many trials have been made to create something much bigger, such as a table, but hasn’t been successful. It simply cannot be done by myself, and I need more time and support from others. I think now it is not the right time yet, but someday and somewhere, I would like to build a giant spoon.