November 30, 2023


A Home Grown Success

Kwangho Lee collaborates with Swedish brand name Hem

Kwangho Lee turned a household furniture designer by prospect. Originally properly trained in steel art and style and design at Seoul’s Hongik University, he designed a handful of furniture pieces for his 2007 graduation demonstrate, which caught the attention of a range of structure galleries, together with Montreal’s Commissaires and New York’s Johnson Investing Gallery. Above the past 15 decades, the Korean designer’s overall body of do the job has expanded to consist of home furniture, installations and interiors, and he is now launching his initial collection outside the house the collectible layout circuit, in collaboration with Swedish furniture brand name Hem.

Kwangho Lee photographed in his Hanam studio, on the outskirts of Seoul in July 2022 with his enamelled copper pieces for Salon 94

The outcome of fabrication experiments with wood, stone, straw, sculpted styrofoam, knotted nylon cord and enamelled copper, Lee’s closely method-dependent get the job done conveys an enjoyment for elements and craft that has deep roots in his childhood.

‘My grandparents have been a fantastic affect. They have been farmers and so the natural way that experienced an effect on the way I imagine and create with my arms,’ he clarifies. Observing his grandparents employing natural resources to make tools and objects fostered an interest in producing items with his arms. Lee would whittle wooden to make slingshots and enjoy with handmade water wheels by a stream. ‘The pleasure of producing is central to explaining my operate,’ he suggests. 

His types are a organic development of his upbringing. Operating from two studio spaces (a smaller studio in Seoul’s Seongsudong neighbourhood, as properly as a bigger workshop in close by Hanam), Lee knots, cuts, bakes and welds products to generate refined home furniture that bears traces of its manufacturing approach.

The chilbo kiln, utilized to fireplace coloured glass onto copper or brass

Among his finest identified operates are items featuring enamelled copper surfaces, which he commenced making in 2013 utilizing a common Korean approach named chilbo that he replicates in a big kiln in his Hanam studio. It includes crushing colored glass that is then fired onto copper or brass sheets, with unpredicted, usually raw final results. The procedure is typically applied to jewelry or smaller objects, but Lee applies it to larger surfaces on around welded copper home furnishings, or panels inlaid in delicately crafted cherry wood, to make chairs, cabinets, tables and lighting.

Knotted nylon wire has been a recurring product in the designer’s function from the outset. He very first encountered it in 2007 when operating on lighting structure – or a lot more exactly, when he made outsized knotted compositions of vivid blue and red wires, woven all over large bulbs and partly dangled from the ceiling. ‘At the time, I believed that the three most critical factors of developing lighting have been energy, electrical wire, and bulbs,’ he explains. ‘To generate a lights component using only individuals factors, I started out knotting and knitting the wire alone. Following two or 3 several years of creating lights features making use of wire, I gained the self esteem to weave one thing collectively to make furniture, and PVC tubing was the materials I arrived to decide on.’

Armchair from the ‘Obsession’ series

At the time once more experimenting with the product alternatives of weaving (he tried out it in nylon as properly as leather), he produced home furniture with additional rigid and contained designs than the strategy would usually allow for. ‘To develop a variety for woven household furniture employing only this process, and devoid of a supplied frame, it had to become uncomplicated, or else it cannot sustain by itself and collapses,’ he says of the collection’s simple kinds, which translate into chairs, sofas and tables. ‘As I continued to make these items, I arrived to acquire a preference for particular geometric sorts and proportions, and this preference carried above to my chilbo operates, leading them to suppose a identical type and proportion.’

The knotted operates are element of an ongoing sequence termed ‘Obsession’, commenced in 2008, which embody a reflection of his feelings on craft at the time. ‘It was my question of where I could consider this weaving, how long I could continue this way of working. That question continues today. I commenced weaving in 2006 for my grad demonstrate and I still have so many materials and forms I have however to work on.’

‘Hunk’ lounge chair, from €2,299, for Hem, along with 3D-printed pieces, from a series started off in 2019 referencing Lee’s knotted will work

The ‘Obsession’ collection caught the interest of Petrus Palmér, founder of Hem: ‘I observed Kwangho’s woven ropework fascinating for its obsessive nature, the pop society references and the bright colours,’ he says. He commissioned Lee to generate new pieces for the manufacturer, and the ensuing collection marks the initial time the designer’s visual language is translated for big-scale manufacturing and available to a wider viewers.

For Hem, Lee produced a lounge chair whose style stems from 1 of the ‘Obsession’ parts: angular and cumbersome, the ‘Hunk’ chair is defined by four blocks in an archetypal armchair kind, a normal development of the easy knotted models that impressed the piece. Readily available with or with no armrests, the chair is accompanied by a series of tables, designed of folded and bent metallic and designed from ‘New Armor’, a 2013 selection of lacquered bronze furnishings motivated by the system armour used in Korea’s Joseon dynasty (1392-1910).

Element of ‘Glyph’ facet table, from €467, for Hem

‘The starting issue is a shape dedicated to protecting the human entire body,’ claims Lee. ‘The curves and straight strains of the shoulders, the torso and the again were rearranged into a new form, a new armour.’ The ‘Glyph’ tables for Hem simplify the language of the original works, ‘transforming the styles into hieroglyphics, each individual table with its possess special silhouette as if developing a new word’.

Lee perfectly embodies Hem’s spirit, joining a roster of creatives that blur the boundaries in between confined edition and industrial design, these as Max Lamb, Sabine Marcelis, Formafantasma and Faye Toogood.

Copper enamelled pieces in Lee’s Hanam studio

‘We like to imagine that we move rather freely among the two disciplines,’ says Palmér, describing that the brand’s parts frequently originate from 1-off productions or experiments. The company’s motto, ‘Imaginative patterns of obsessive quality’, reflects Hem’s mission to be what Palmér calls ‘the defining structure manufacturer of our generation’. 

‘The essential energy has been to translate the handmade quality of my perform into a much larger scale of creation,’ suggests Lee. ‘And I believe that it’s been a unique obstacle for me, trying to find this new way of working. This total process has been just making an attempt out new methods and observing in which every single iteration takes us. I’m quite energized to see how this goes and exactly where the collaborations choose us.’ §

‘Tide’ tiles for Tajimi Custom made Tiles on lacquered bronze furniture from the ‘New Armor’ collection