Artist Interview ‘Look out for K-crafts’
From K-pop to K-dramas, Korean cultural products are gaining popularity worldwide-- but little is yet known about Korean craft arts outside of the country.Kim Eun-bi, 35, founder and CEO of Middle Studio, believes that traditional crafts have the potential to gain as much spotlight as other popular korean culture exports.
Kim founded Middle Studio in 2017, and launched the Chi brand of everyday items and fashionwear inspired by traditional Korean crafts and culture. Working with craft artisans, Kim has been playing the role of a bridge between traditional crafts and modern designs.
This year, Kim set up Kohip, an e-commerce platform service for promoting and selling traditional craft products with modern designs. An online test launch site opened this last April.
“In the past few years in business, I realized that there were many small items and stores who had fascinating products inspired by traditional designs and crafts but were having difficulties due to a lack of distribution channels. Through Kohip, I thought traditional crafts artisans and designers could come together for a sustainable business.” Kim sought and found other artists to bring together their creative visions and create collaborative pieces.
Their first collaboration was a bamboo forest scent diffuser. “When we think of Korean bamboo crafts, we typically picture trays and baskets, but we don’t use them often today. I thought of ways to bring bamboo crafts back into our daily lives and found an answer while visiting Han’s hometown in Damyang, famous for its bamboo forest. Our final product harmonizes the artistry of Han’s work and also the unforgettable scent of his hometown.”
A do-it-yourself traditional knotting kit was made in collaboration with Korean knot – called “maedeup” in Korean -- craft artisan Park Hyeong-min. Since knot crafts are relatively easy for people to try making, Kim wanted to make a kit that would get people familiarized with and eventually enjoy traditional knot making.
“We try out each item before making the final selection. My two current favorites that I have on daily are a pair of shoes and a phone case. The shoes are inspired by ‘danghye,’ women’s shoes worn during the Joseon era, and the phone case is designed with images of ‘yakgwa,’ a traditional Korean dessert.
Although they are based on traditional designs, the modern touches and usage of the items make them cool and chic for the MZ generation to use,” she said. This mixing of old and new continues to inspire and paves the way for new appreciation of timeless art traditions.
Source: Kim Hae-yeon, Korea Herald (June 2022)