Hi Saerom, it’s a pleasure to have an opportunity to chat with you about your creative path! There are many articles about you but, please, introduce yourself for those who don’t know you yet?
Hi, I’m Saerom Yoon and I was born in South Korea in 1985. I’m an artist based in Seoul. My work is inspired by the effortless beauty of nature, particularly the colors of both sunset and sunrise. I want my sculptural furniture to have a similar appearance and feel as a watercolor painting. Furthermore, I hope to express natural textures in my work, such as the interplay of clouds, quiet water, rippling waves, frozen ice and wood bark.
Do you remember when you felt a crush on creativity for the very first time?
It may not be the very first time, but when I was a freshman in college I had seen the solo exhibition of Tokugamine Yoshioka in Seoul. He set up the installation work for the museum as well as the objects. I had a big shock at that time.
Was this the reason you chose wood processing and furniture design studios?
My first major was to study chemistry at the College of Engineering. When I finished my first year, I wasn’t interested in engineering at all. In the meantime, I started military service, which is the duty of all Korean men. There was a chance to make furniture by chance, and I was very interested in furniture. So after the military service was over, I decided to study furniture design at the art college.
That’s interesting! What was first piece of furniture that you made by yourself?
The first furniture was made during my military service. It was a small table.
How did you choose what to do after studying? Have you had your career plan? Maybe you have encountered student scouts?
Scouting for students in Korea is not common. Students usually find out what they want to do and then submit an application to the company. In my case I wanted to be an artist. I also wanted to study more, so I went to graduate school.
Did you start exhibiting as a student or as an independent artist? What objects did you show?
I participated in my first exhibition with my graduation work – Segment Chair.
That’s slightly different to what you create recently, isn’t it?
Yes, I had a lot of interest in woodworking and I was more obsessed with techniques than artistic parts at that time. Now I am trying to show my sensitivity and thoughts more than technique.
Your name is well known in design world. How you think, what % of skills, knowledge, hard work, marketing and luck brought you to this?
I really appreciate if you think so. I can not divide them by percentage. I try to do all I can and leave the results to God.
How much, do you think, society, culture and education affect work?
I think that society, culture and education all have a lot of influence on us. It is something I could not choose, but yes, it affects my work.
“Crystal Series” has been widely featured across design media since 2016. How did this affect your career?
I have a little chance to show my work as an artist based at the end of East Asia. With the recent development of SNS (social networking service) and media, I have gained more opportunities to show my work to people on the other side of the globe.
I think this project inspires a lot of people, including us! There is a lot of information about how it was made and etc., but where did you get that idea from?
I used wood for about five years. As I was only using wood, I had the desire to use color at that time. So I envisioned a work that was made only in color. When I started the Crystal series, I wanted to express the beautiful natural colors of my childhood memories. So I selected transparent material and used a simple structure so that color could be seen before shape.
Is this project your favorite?
Yes. I really love what I am doing.
That’s probably why you have recently received the Wallpaper* Design Award. How did that happen and how do awards affect your career and customers/orders?
They unexpectedly contacted me and said that I had won the Design Award. I really appreciate that. This award is a great help to my career. I think this will have a big impact on my customers/orders.
Let’s speak about your work. How would you describe your profession in five words?
What I love and love.
Really glad to hear that! Can you tell us how do projects actually start, change and finish? What is your work process and etc.?
When I work for clients, I focus on their needs. When I work on my own projects, I concentrate on myself. I concentrate on what I think and feel, and I think a lot about how it will make the audience feel.
When did you enjoy the process more – at university, or now, when you work independently?
Your works are very aesthetic and made in high precision. How many hours per week do you spend at work?
It’s because I got education in craft and I like crafts. I am thinking of my work since I woke up in the morning until I fell asleep. Sometimes I feel that I can not get away from work.
Yes, I assume, you cannot create the masterpiece in just a few minutes. By the way, what inspire your work most?
The greatest inspiration for my work is nature.
How about your parents? How big of a role did they play in your career?
My parents are pastors. When I was very young, my family lived in the Philippines for my parents’ study and mission for four years. The memory of that time has a great influence on my work now, and their religious part has the biggest impact on me. They are my biggest supporters and fans, and they give me a lot of strength when I face an obstacle in my life.
How do you combine creative work with business handling, such as accounting, marketing etc.?
This is the biggest and hardest part for me at present. I do all these things next to my work. There is not enough time and energy, but I am trying to learn and enjoy.
Yes, this isn’t easy. May I ask how do you decide what to charge for your work if you work such a long hours everyday?
I am working on materials that are quite expensive. At present, the cost of my project is almost the cost of materials. It is also important to get rewarded for the time and my creative activities, but now it is more important to me to have the opportunity to show my work.
Did the exhibitions helped you to get your first customers/projects?
I submitted my work to the design media such as Dezeen, Design Boom, Design Milk and so on. There was a lot of contact with people who found my work there. There were opportunities to exhibit my work and opportunities to do projects after several exhibitions.
Did you have unpaid projects/collaborations that helped you to grow as an artist?
No, I didn’t. However, I had to pay to participate in the exhibition.
How you think, is it possible to financially survive from being an independent artist/furniture designer?
Of course. I had a hard times, but I don’t think that it is impossible if you try and enjoy your work. I think it is the same as in other professions.
True. What is your top traction channel that work for you the best?
This spring I won the 2018 Next Generation Designer Award from Wallpaper Magazine. That award really helped my career. I was able to reach people who did not saw my work in person and did not know me well, and I was able to verify my work.
Lessons & continuous improvement
What are your top resources that helped you with your career?
What are the best lessons you had learnt from your experience so far?
Health is the most important.
Have you already found your creative style in this profession?
I keep studying and studying. I do not know when it will end. I am still looking for my identity.
I think we will never stop improving. What encourage you to keep creating and grow professionally?
Everyone who loves what I am doing.
That is so nice! What do you think is the best path to your profession?
I do not know about that yet. I am just trying to find out about how I can enjoy and work hard at the same time. If I go back to university, I would like to learn more about foreign languages such as French and Spanish.
How far do you allow yourself to plan things ahead as an independent artist? Do you raise deadlines to your new ideas?
I do not have a specific plan for the distant future. I have a goal that I want, and I take steps to make it happen.
Where do you want to go with your career? Is there something you really dream of creating?
I hope that there is something more interesting than I can imagine. I like to create small objects like furniture, but I really want to make a very large installation. I’m getting excited when I start to think how big it is and where it can be held.
I think you’re on your way. But let’s imagine if you weren’t in your profession, what would you do & where would you live?
I imagined that once when I will be tired of working, I would like to be the resort’s manager in a resort like the Maldives or so. I imagined living surrounded by beautiful nature :).
Thank you, Saerom, it was an honor to chat with you and get to know your story!
I am more grateful. Thanks for asking me more details about my work as well as about me!