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Kaya Is Experimenting With The Boundaries Of Design
Meet Korea’s coolest designer!
Fempire 01 Dec 2020

KAYA is an artist and designer based in Korea. Having first dipped her toe into the art world while studying textile design in London, she now plays with multiple materials and colours to create out-of-this world objects that you will soon become obsessed with! We spoke to KAYA about her inspirations, her design aesthetic and the art scene in Korea. 

When did you first become interested in art and design?

As far as I can remember, I was about six when I thought to myself that I want to be a fashion designer. Me and my sister used to draw girls together and what outfits they were wearing. There is a funny story I remember, one day I asked mum what university is the most famous for Fashion design, after that, I always drank this university milk for a while. (In the past, big Universities in Korea used to have their own milk Brand). Fashion was my first love. I have always admired the fashion, art, and the design world. I wanted to be part of this world. In my late teen years and early twenties, things got more specific through researching and studying art and design.

Where does your inspiration come from?

My inspiration comes from everywhere like any other artist. It can be public construction, music that I listen to, interviews on youtube, books, conversations, drawings it can be literally anything. I think the thing called “inspiration” is a sense of sparkle or enlightenment when I find the answer to my question. I always have questions in my head and live my life or sometimes I do unusual things to get that sparkle and when I find the answer I feel great.

What is the art scene like in Seoul?

My studio is located in Euljiro, and if you look at the characters of Euljiro, then it will be easier to understand how the majority of art scenes in Seoul are made. Eulji-ro was created in the 1970s under the government’s leadership to boost the manufacturing industry, which brought manufacturing plants together in one neighborhood. As the manufacturing industry grew larger, factories moved to China, and relatively small factories remained in Euljiro. Today, Euljiro factories are not responsible for manufacturing big companies’ orders, but rather for relatively small manufacturing orders. It’s efficient and affordable because it’s crowded in one place. It’s a great environment for designers and artists to create and manufacture prototypes or works. But it’s a very rough, working-class vibe place. They have a lot of their own slang and artists need to learn their language to work with them. I remember going to the factory and working with them was very challenging for a few years.

How would you describe your design aesthetic?

I studied textile and did graphic video making as well, hence I like to use contrasting media at the same time, the juxtaposition of tactile, material centred, real media and dematerialised, virtual media for example lights, screens, digital graphics. I love to see the synergy created by those contrasting media. Like our lives of modern days, real and virtual worlds are blurred, you don’t really divide where you get things from.  

You also run Thing Workshop, can you tell us about that?

thingworkshop” means a lot to me. The workshop is basically a material or medium experiment rooted workshop and it is open to all. We try to experiment with as many materials as we can. The main theme of 2020 of the workshop is finding interesting approaches of mixture of soft medium and hard medium, some were successful some were not. In the next year, probably the main theme will be making 2D to 3D and back to 3D to 2D. In the near future, I am hoping to experiment with a mixture of real and virtual medium in the workshop. The workshop really is about blurring the edges. It may sound too big but through the workshop, I am trying to blur the boundaries of produce and consume, makers and users, appreciation and function, after all, art and design.

What tips would you give to people wanting to make a career as a designer?

Runaway from it while you can!

Who are your design sheroes?

There are too many cool people. I have a lot of sheroes, mostly who are trying to break or extend boundaries of the field, age, female and male, elite and mass. I always get impressed by people who are trying to do and be better. The most affected female artists are Hito Steyerl, Pipilotti Rist, Ellen Allien, Marianne Brandt, Es Devlin, Cha Hong, there are too many.

What are your hopes and plans for the future?

I want to be an artist or a designer who can break and extend boundaries like the sheroes that I mentioned above. 

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