2nd Place - Hollowware/Art Objects
Sungyeoul Lee's winning piece is a celebration of having twins born into his life. His extraordinary candleholder reflects and honors the similarities as well as the differences between fraternal twins. Sungyeoul has an MFA from the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign. He has been a visiting assistant professor at the University of Oklahoma and an assistant professor at Earlham College. He currently lives in Seoul, South Korea, where he teaches metals at Kookmin University. This is his second Saul Bell Design Award.
MARLENE RICHEY: TELL US ABOUT YOUR WINNING PIECE, "SYMBIOTIC RELATIONSHIP."
Sungyeoul Lee: I was struggling to make something for a show when I had twins. By watching and nurturing them, I wanted to make something to help remember these unforgettable moments. It is made of sterling silver, titanium and steel.
MR: WHAT PROCESSES DID YOU USE TO MAKE IT?
SL: Fabrication, welding.
MR: WHAT DID YOU LEARN FROM THE PIECE?
SL: This piece is one of a body of works. There was an exhibition of my work called "Same Same but Different." It took me some time to figure out how to make two identical forms. Especially when I raised a piece, I had to form the shape exactly the same for the welded piece. First I learned accurate raising skills and second I learned patience, which all fathers need to nurture their babies.
MR: WHAT DO YOU LIKE MOST ABOUT THE PIECE?
SL: I like the story and inspiration behind my piece because it is about my children. My fraternal twins bring me joy, frustration, happiness and suffering, and they arouse my curiosity and aesthetic inspiration.
MR: DO ANY OF YOUR OTHER PASSIONS INFLUENCE YOUR WORK?
SL: I like to travel a lot. Making jewelry refreshes me when I am exhausted by the things I have to do. I try not get stuck in the studio all the time and go out to get some fresh air and to see new things!
MR: WHO IS YOUR DESIGN/JEWELRY MENTOR?
SL: Professor Billie Jean Theide, who was my formal professor and teaches at the University of Illinois.
MR: WHAT OTHER WORK HAVE YOU DONE IN YOUR LIFE?
SL: I mostly make jewelry. I have been working and experimenting with lots of mixed media such as plastic, resin, paper, and even pig intestine.
MR: WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE MATERIAL TO WORK WITH?
SL: Recently I fell in love with steel and titanium. They are very lightweight and have attractive colors.
MR: WHAT IS YOUR ARTIST STATEMENT/DESIGN PHILOSOPHY?
SL: My fraternal twins bring me joy, frustration, happiness, and suffering and arouse my curiosity and aesthetic inspiration. My interests and affection for them has become a source of creativity. The considerable changes in my daily routine led to changes in my work. My previous jewelry forms were derived from cogitation and exploration in regards to emotional relationships and social connections between jewelry objects and the wearer. In my current body of works, I'd like to communicate with the audience by conveying the emotions and narrative I have been going through every day with these visual forms. I hope the forms of functional tableware and candle holders promote the intimate connection between close relations like twins and broaden the perspective beyond our life together. Therefore, they may strengthen symbiotic relationships and expand communication toward the world.
Two identical but dissimilar forms, which repeatedly appear through the work, remind me of fraternal twins who have different characters. The process of building identical forms, one fabricated by a silversmithing technique and the other one formed with welded wire on a mold achieved from the fabricated one, required more time, labor and endurance. I hope my experience with the mystery of fraternal twins, through their intimate relationship and beautiful rapport, may be conveyed to the audience through my art objects.
MR: DESCRIBE THE VERY FIRST PIECE OF JEWELRY THAT YOU MADE? WHEN WAS IT?
SL: My very first piece of jewelry was a brooch that was made in 1997 when I was a sophomore. It was shaped like a flower, and I made it for a pin mechanism sample project. I remember what my teacher said about my piece. "Sungyeoul, the back side of your piece where your pin mechanism is located looks a lot prettier than the flower form in the front."
MR: ARE YOU INFLUENCED BY TRENDS?
SL: These days, many metalsmiths and jewelers work with high technology such as machines, hand tools and even materials. I am also interested in working with laser-cutting machines and micro-welders, which are on the cutting-edge of metal working.
MR: DO YOU LISTEN TO MUSIC, BOOK ON TAPE OR WATCH TV WHEN YOU WORK?
SL: When I start welding, I usually spend more than six or seven hours straight in front of the machine and I rarely move except to go to the bathroom. So I listen to podcasts because I need some distraction in order not to go crazy.
MR: WHAT ONE WORD OF ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE BEGINNING DESIGNERS?
Interview by Marlene Richey