Objects of interest: Seungji Mun
‘I want to inspire people to continue the conversation around sustainability.’ Seungji Mun talks future-proof furniture, making space for himself and designing chairs for the Danish royal family.
‘Growing up on a small island has pushed me to explore more and more. I get so much inspiration from new surroundings.’
As a furniture designer, objects are a way of life for Seungji Mun. But an object can mean many things, from the refined simplicity of his Economical Chair – designed to minimise waste (and save space) – to his imaginative and visual approach to record keeping (‘I have no rules’). Even light can be a source of inspiration, says Seungji: ‘It has the power to bring warmth from the emptiness.’
It’s this interplay between the natural and the manmade that gives Seungji’s designs their unique quality. Born and raised in Jeju Island, South Korea, his career has taken him from Seoul to Copenhagen, Denmark, where he first founded his design atelier, mun studios. The different characters of these two creative cities continue to influence his work – a mix of Seoul’s fast-paced energy, and the Danish capital’s considered charm and relaxed approach. ‘I’m a person who is definitely influenced by place and environment,’ explains Seungji. ‘My experience in Copenhagen helped me understand how to have time and space to reflect on myself. I spend a lot of time thinking, creating a concept and story, before I start the design.’
Here, Seungji shares the things that shape his creative process – from the tools he uses to create, to the innovative designs that have earnt him his reputation as one of the industry’s ones to watch.
‘Developing ideas around the environment is the most joyful work. It’s about creating a better outcome for all of us.’
‘I am now based between Jeju Island and Seoul. My design studio in Jeju is a renovated barn in my grandmother’s house, made with Jeju basalt and built by my grandfather when he was still alive. From the house, you can hear the sound of the ocean wind through the big windows. It’s a very meaningful space, which still has traces – memories of my grandfather. Sometimes, my grandmother and her friends have tea sitting on chairs I have designed. This gives me such joy.’
‘Growing up on a small island has pushed me to explore more and more. I get so much inspiration from new surroundings. I love being in nature, so enjoy visiting calm places such as the forest or seaside. Simplicity helps me to create. One place I like to go to is a temple called Woljeong-sa, away from the hustle and bustle of Seoul. It’s great to be in this beautiful shrine to nature and spend time with the monks. When I hear the birdsong in the forest, all my worries are washed away.’
‘Records are also an important tool for inspiration. I have no rules: I just write and save moments and visual resources in my own archive. Then I draw a mind map, extract keywords and visualise archived memories.’
THE CREATIVE PROCESS
‘From fashion to music, creativity is all around us. It starts when you stand in front of your closet and think about what shirt you are going to wear. I always work with music… When I need to concentrate, I turn the volume all the way up and put my headphones on. Walking around the atelier listening to music helps me to focus on design.’
‘After brainstorming, I go to sketch mode to simplify my raw ideas. 3D simulation is the next step. It’s where I add in scale, texture and background. Planning and sampling come later. Finally, I produce or build the design. The whole process is a journey, which continues long after the final product has been created.’
‘If I could only work with one material for the rest of my career, I would choose light… It may have no shape, but it has a strong presence, and really sets the mood and atmosphere, depending on how it is applied to various materials and objects. A light always comes with a shadow, and I love the interplay between the glow and the darkness.’
‘I put a lot of time into thinking and communicating while a project is underway. I love working with clients and sharing ideas. You always get the best result through collaboration…’
Four Brothers: ‘This project is about industrial waste and environmental issues from my point of view as a furniture designer. It consists of four different chairs that are created from a single piece of wooden plate. The pieces utilise the entire sheet of plywood with no loss or waste to the material. They featured in COS windows back in 2012.’
Economical Chair: ‘An extension of Four Brothers: four simple chairs can be produced from just one international standard plywood board with a bending technique. To minimise the loss of space during the distribution process, the chairs are designed to be taken apart. Recently, the executive office of the President of South Korea, the Blue House, asked me to share the Economical Chair as an official gift to the Crown Prince and Princess of Denmark during their visit to South Korea. Now the chairs have found a new home at the Yellow Palace in Copenhagen!’
In’s Mill: ‘I turned an abandoned old mill house in Jeju Island into a Tea House, while maintaining its original elements as a mill. In Jeju, we’re losing our beautiful land and legacy to new real-estate developments, so we wanted to create a place where we can showcase the genuine, indigenous Jeju, by planting the island’s unique flora, using granite on the ground, and serving local Jeju barley tea.’
‘Developing ideas around the environment is the most joyful work for me. It goes beyond furniture. It’s about sharing thoughts with people from different industries and creating a better outcome for the environment – for all of us. I’m not an environmentalist, but I want to use my specialities as a designer to inspire people to continue the conversation.’
‘I’ve always been interested in environmental issues, but my 2020 exhibition, ‘Plastic Dinner’, part of the RIGHT!OCEAN campaign, was my first time working with marine plastics. The work shows a curated scene of a dinner, using furniture made from plastic flakes supplied by WWF Korea. Marine plastic and sea pollution are some of the most important matters we face. I believe that if “Plastic Dinner” can bring these issues to the table, it will be a meaningful starting point to save our planet.’
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