DAMOON: Experimental Beauty
Words by: Tanya Singh and Chaehoon Moon
Photo Credit: DAMOON
Experimenting with age-old techniques and local materials, Chaehoon Moon aims to create timeless beauty.
Based in South Korea, DAMOON creates high-quality tableware utilizing local, unique materials and the exquisite craftsmanship of homegrown artisans. Each piece by DAMOON is elegantly handmade and has a story to tell. "We are eager to make the most beautiful, healthy, and durable tableware inspired by the Korean cultural heritage," says founder, Chaehoon Moon.
Tell us a little bit about your background and what motivated you to start DAMOON.
Surprisingly, I studied industrial design, not craft. It was only after graduating that I came face to face with craft, my true passion. I pursued it as a hobby for a while learning traditional techniques from a lacquer craftsman. However, as I continued to practice, I started realizing how much I loved making things by hand. I immersed myself into the lacquer material followed by other traditional crafts. Eventually, I left my full-time job and decided to take the leap with my own studio.
I think my passion for creating unique and timelessly beautiful things comes from my grandmother. My mother was working, and I spent a lot of time with my grandma when I was a child. Her house, scattered with several traditional Korean furniture pieces and objects, takes up a large part of my childhood memories. I remember a ja-gae-jang (a cabinet inlaid with mother of pearl), a mun-gab (a stationery chest), and a moon-jar. My grandmother loved beautiful things and I vividly remember how she cherished and cared for all her treasures. DAMOON and the objects I create are derived from my memories of her and her beautiful home.
What is the vision behind DAMOON?
There are three things that I consider important in my work – experimentation, timelessness, and beauty. I try to find new ways to use materials and develop unique combinations. I strive to create works that can be used for a long time and do not lose their charm over the years. I am trying to create beauty that is reflected in the process of making an object.
The DAMOON lacquering process.
Could you talk a little bit about the traditional techniques used for making DAMOON products?
The biggest characteristic of my work is the process of creating an inimitable texture for lacquer. A blend of lacquer and specific soils creates a unique result and offers greater durability. This process is inspired by the Korean traditional lacquering process where a mixture of lacquer and ochre were used. This paste can be hardened firmly with an intended pattern. The lacquer and soil are mixed to achieve the appropriate viscosity, and the texture is created using a brush. This gives all objects individual identities, a characteristic that most handmade objects share.
Additionally, in order to fix the lacquer firmly on the metal, it must be baked at a high temperature. After some trial and error, I have found the perfect temperature and frequency at which lacquer can be most firmly fixed to Yuhgee (Korean brassware, an alloy of copper and tin). Each product undergoes five lacquering and four high-temperature hardening processes.
Could you talk us through your process of creating a piece from conceptualizing it to the final piece and the creative process?
I usually record memorable experiences I feel while touching or using something. The notes I make throughout the day are very abstract but also very specific – the feeling of touching a certain surface, the temperature when holding it in your hand, the warmth it provides. When a sufficient number of ideas are gathered through this process, I organize my thoughts in the form of sketches. Sometimes, these sketches takes a lot of time, or sometimes the desired shape comes to me at once. A piece of tableware is often used in combination with several objects and that is something I always consider. I'm always working to create harmony.
Once the form is finalized, I create a life-size model with an easy-to-handle material, such as paper or plastic. This process allows me to test the shape and fix any issues. The model also makes it easier for me to discuss production with the Yuhgee maker. When we are both happy, the production begins. The Yuhgee maker creates the base form and I do the lacquering.
Could you talk about the juxtaposition of the old and new in your works?
I try to create stories about my culture and heritage hidden within the forms and materials of the products. Each one is an attempt from me to create something unique yet reflective of our past. In addition to the contrast between traditional and modern, my work also juxtaposes elegance with rawness in the combination of the materials used and luster with depth in the color contrast presented.
What's next for DAMOON?
Currently, I am a part of the Balvenie's Makers Campaign as an artist. I'm working on a limited-edition series of works for Balvenie. I am also working on a collaborative project with a ceramic studio in Sydney. We are creating a unique tumbler together.