“The function to naturally flow timelessly within daily life is precisely the charm of an antique,” as the BBC ‘Antiques Road Show’ panel and an antique expert Mark Hill put it. The objects, which are recognized for their value are frozen in time, age slowly and become a history. Even a brilliant sparkle that seemed to last forever fades at some point, anyone’s breath and warmth encountered receive numerous internal injuries, but ‘temporality’, carried only within those long-lasting handicrafts over considerable time and being extremely close to their user, is embedded like an unseen medal.
Among the ceramists who show their own ‘formative language’ using methods to create glaze types and a variety of forms, Hye-Mi Lee focuses on ‘temporality’. One cannot believe these are ceramic dishes owing to their airy and light texture, which remind me of the antiques I have seen in European markets. Dishes naturally undergoing yellowing using silver glaze, resemble age-old silverware. Even though these are made of clay, the trays, incense holders, small moon jars, vases, and other items have the texture of metals. They are diversely variegated and become like everyday still-life paintings. The atypical white porcelain work, which adds a ‘hand-made flavor’ by painting the top in gold color or twisting the shape slightly, is popular among young people who are obsessed with handmade items which are unique in the world.
Ceramist Hye-Mi Lee talks about the ‘temporality’ thorough the abnormal colors such as gold, silver and pear. The most recent work, the series of silverware ‘Silver Line’ is the work that focuses on natural color changes that show the sense of use as time goes by and is loved by people of various ages.
The way you make dinnerware is different to traditional crafts, and I think that ‘this artist is founded on some type of design or field of fashion’.
I am an authentic ceramist who studied ceramics from undergraduate to graduate school. (Laugh) I thought that showing my alma mater or background seemed old-fashioned, so I intentionally did not show it. But surprisingly many people wanted to know. While I was doing my undergraduate and graduate study, artist Hun Chung Lee’s class was very helpful in building ‘the attitude of ceramics’ and the form of ceramic I wanted to make. Like the idea of making atypical works that are different to existing ceramic languages.
The irregular-shape of the ‘atypical’ dishes catches my eye. It is impressive that every single detail is slightly different to others, such as the cup with an opening risen slightly diagonally or a dented oval shaped dish.
I use various methods for each tableware rather than sticking to one form and production method. Even a part like the mug’s handle is given variety to feel the taste of my hand. I make a form by pressing every single thing myself.
Her studio in Hannam-dong which is used as a showroom every Saturday. This is the place where she explains, sells her works in person and communicates with the public.
The opening time of her atelier is announced through her Instagram account.
I think we can order your ceramic works away into three big types.
I showed the series ‘Blue Stitch’ which densely painted blue glaze, like a trace of stitching on the white porcelain, in my early work. I put a stitch decoration through blue pinching work like making a stitch with the ceramic. I liked the work to engrave and build ‘time’ through sewing. The reason I chose the color ‘blue’ is because the blue stitch punching pattern on the white ceramics looks best. Compared with other blue pigments, the trickling down and melting are slightly different to other general pigments when the ‘cobalt blue pigment’ enters a kiln. This is a very meaningful work to me that as there are still people who are looking for that style.
‘Gold Rim’ series, which adds a classy and luxurious finish by painting the pure gold coloring on the top of them.
Thereafter, your works turned to the series ‘Gold Rim’ that encircled gilt to the top of porcelain dishes.
It is in this work that I started talk about the story of ‘Antique’ in earnest. Whenever I traveled abroad, I always visited antique markets, and the ‘Gold Rim’ caught my eyes. There is a luxury in ceramics sold only at antique markets and it is like you can only see the gold line of France’s Limoges or Japan’s famous ceramics company, Noritake, there. I wanted to bring the classic feel of the gold line that everyone choses when they talk about the beauty of ceramics. It is a series that I started with my hope to question, ‘how about putting gold in ceramic dishes which retains the taste of the artist, unlike dishes made in the factory?’ I paint a gold line directly on the top of the dishes with the brush I have been using since college.
The most recent series ‘Silver Line’ dishes are also interesting in terms of material. If the previous works are a language made in an obviously ceramic world, the Silver Line which paints pure silver on the ceramics feels like sudden flash of metal.
The ‘Silver Line’ is the natural result of a process in which I erase my mind’s list. While I was thinking about how I could introduce my work to people who are uncomfortable with silverware due to etiolation, I accidentally met a person who was demonstrating a tea ceremony on a trip to Kyoto. The person served me a tea in the silver cup that had changed jet-black – a color only seen when we use the cup fully for 10 years. So, I asked, “until this happened, how is it while you use it?”. And he answered, “Isn’t it a high and noble color in itself? Isn’t it beautiful that silver can change into such a black like this?” At a time when I was not clear on the material and management as an artist, I became assured of the Silver Line after I heard such a wise answer. It was utterly groundless that I worried about what to do if there were a person who worried about silver peeling off or being scratched during the cleaning process. There are many people who use ceramics in a variety of ways these days, so many people say that, “It is natural to change because it’s silver.”
It is a long process until a single work emerges – the biscuit completed by firing around 900℃, painting the silver, coloring and then glost firing at high temperature again in order to build up its unique color.
I paint the silver on 4 or 5 times with a brush. I paint the first silver coat on the work that has gone through the biscuit firing and the glost firing, and then I bake it in a kiln. After that I see the thickness of the color and repeat the process of coloring and baking again. The clear color comes up only when it is baked in high temperature 850~900℃, so I repeat this process 3 or 4 times until I can get the feeling I want.
What other things are there besides dishes? I think you are likely to have many concerns in object work.
I expressed my candid mind showing my morphological worries at the two-person exhibition <Shapes Accidentally Meet> in November. Actually, I have had a thirst for morphological aspects since college. I barely had any friends who made dishes at that time, so it was lonely for me making the dishes and drawing pictures onto the modeling shape of ceramics. It’s like I was always an ‘outsider’ when making the dishes. Since then and at this exhibition, I have continuously displayed those ceramics, dishes and forms I collected. Dishes that are out of equilibrium, dishes that don’t know what to have put in, dishes that have a charming tilted angle, and dishes that are wanted even though they are cracked… I put in a story about the dreaming works.
I think ‘how do you make such a light dish as this?’ As a ceramist, does this reflect your concern about the weight?
I am glad that you recognize that. (Laugh) I am influenced by my mom a lot, and most of the dishes my mom used were heavy. I don’t prefer heavy dishes, so I had to make them thin and light, and many works were unavoidably lost during the work process. About 4 out of 10 pieces were damaged. I made them as thin as I could, so many cracks appeared, but I have lots of know-how about it now.
How is it when you inform those who use your dishes the know-how of using them?
They apprehend that the ‘Gold Line’ painted with pure gold peels off because it is over glazed. So, I don’t recommend using a dishwasher, but some people stick to using it because even the scratches show a vintage use. (Laugh)
You run the Instagram account @heami_ and actively communicate with the public. I think the current issue your gold & silver dishes are well matched with the trend ‘instagramable’ table setting.
At first, it was just a small conversation with my friends, but I had to care about the public at some point. I really put a lot of effort to communicate with the public. The most impressive part of the feedback was that most people, contrary to their expectations, thought it was interesting that dishes have different firing temperatures. Let me give you an example. The ‘texture wide bowl’ puts fruits and vegetables which have a clear high and low like grapes. A line of grapes makes a natural line, but there is no well match bowl when you want to put them like the still-life painting of Paul Cezanne. In that case, when you put fruit on my texture wide bowl and propose a new plating, then you get an immediate reaction.
The artist clearly engraves her name with a pencil on the dish that endured hours in the kiln.
You are approaching an interesting exhibition at the end of the year.
I am going to hold an exhibition showing side tables and small stools in the Chapter 1 showroom at the Gallery Document in December. I think a lot about the object line, as I am going to show various furniture besides the smaller sized moon jars. It is going to be a small ‘petit’ size, but you can think of it as an attempt to continue to expand my works with furniture, objects and other objects.
이혜미 | HYEMI LEE
Hye-Mi Lee is famous for the beautiful and elegant gloss porcelain on top of which is painted pure gold, and silverwares which spread pure silver across the whole dish and baked several times in kiln. After she majored in ceramics at Hongik Unversity and graduate school at the same university, she has been on ceramist’s path for 10 years. She was in the ceramic group BADA design/atelier that ‘emphasizes practicality and beauty’, and now runs ‘Hyemi Atelier’ which is as her studio and a showroom that opens only on Saturdays in Hannam-dong in Seoul. Her ceramics, which naturally add her taste by making and pressing the works directly by hand while maintaining the concise and minimalistic quality of white porcelain, are simple so they can be used for long time. She is working on various projects and fun collaborations which introduce interesting contemporary crafts such as the group exhibition at the YOUNHYUN TRADING and the private workshop in a showroom at KUHO.
매거진 <아트마인>에 게재된 기사의 모든 사진과 텍스트는 저작권법에 의해 보호되는 아트마이닝㈜의 저작물입니다.
사전 동의 및 출처 표기 없는 무단 복제 및 전재를 금합니다.
작품 이미지 © 이주연, 이혜미 – ARTMINING, SEOUL, 2019
PHOTO © ARTMINING – magazine ARTMINE / Juyeon Lee, Heymi Lee