Pushing the boundaries of digital textile design, award-winning Korean artist Chae Young Kim creates beautifully intricate designs exploring the tensions between the real and the virtual.
We first noticed Chae’s work when we became spellbound by her Smallest Garden collection; we’d seen nothing like this before. The more we looked into these designs, the more fascinating they became - unique, intricate and obsessive. On one level her Knitted Garden collection is stylish and witty, but on closer examination it reveals a microscopic level of obsessive beauty. Based in both Korea and Britain, Chae pushes the boundaries of digital textile design to develop her own unique aesthetic. Deeply inspired by her childhood, she studies the relationship between humans and their environment, both natural and man made. Using a mathematical approach to her designs, she uses computer graphics with the theme of Urban Camouflage, from which Knitted Room and the Smallest Garden originate. Take a closer look.
Recently Chae was invited to be a part of ‘Lab Craft’, a touring exhibition of the Crafts Council UK. Max Fraser, the curator of that exhibition, shares his favourite image with us.
“…The soft, hair-like lines on this image give the unique impression that they have been photographed or hand drawn. In fact, Kim creates such fine lines digitally using 2D vector graphics … The computer software and digital printing process facilitates incredibly fine detailing, allowing the designer to reinterpret the warmth of knitted threads onto the surface of the materials.”
Hi Chae, it’s great to catch up with you. The collection has a beautiful quality that many of our customers adore, how did you get into designing?
As a child I was very introverted and shy. I would seek comfort from looking at beautiful paintings – the perfect combination of shapes and colours create such an interesting story behind a little frame. Naturally I studied Fine Art and Visual Communication Design at the most prestigious university in South Korea, Seoul National University. I also attended Chelsea College of Art to study textile design and now I run digital print collections for fashion and interior.
Your style has an enigmatic and abstract feel to it, what inspires these futuristic pieces?
In my childhood I found a sense of healing from nature. I would observe the leaves and trees in my neighbourhood. Many of my patterns are composed of fractal structures from nature. They reflect my own thoughts which arise from my meditation. I develop my designs using digital graphic techniques, but with a human touch.
What is the process you go through when developing a new design?
As an artist I have big questions about life in an artistic, scientific and religious way. As a starting point I explore nature and paintings, find key inspiration and create an inspiring background story to link my ideas. From there I create lots of drawings to develop my concept and then begin working on the computer. I start drawing the tiniest lines or smallest dots, repeatedly and build on this one by one. Even though I use digital tools each line is create by the human hand.
Your collection has been on the site for a couple of years – what impact has this had on building your name and brand?
My work has been included in the collections on Surface View for a few years now, along with prestigious historical archives of the V&A, National Gallery and Natural History Museum. I understand each partnership on Surface View is carefully considered to ensure the high standard of quality is maintained for customers, of which I am very proud to be a part of. The distinguished and famous images motivate me to develop my artwork further to create patterns that could one day be of importance in history.
What has been your biggest achievement in your career?
I have won awards, met famous creatives and buyers but personally, the two exhibitions I participated gave me more than a sense of accomplishment. At the beginning of my career I visited La Triennale Design Musuem and was so impressed by the exhibited works. I dreamt about exhibiting there as an established artist and the opportunity came to me faster than I envisaged. The following year, La Triennale Design Museum sent an invitation to some influential Korean artists to exhibit. I was the youngest member invited. It was my very first invitational exhibition and I met some inspirational artists who have worked to develop the growth of art and design in Korea. It taught me so much and I felt not only an honour but also some responsibilities as well.
The second exhibition that brought me a great amount of achievement was when I was invited to exhibit at the Museum of Art, Seoul National University where I graduated. I exhibited with my professor who had previously taught me. I met him at the opening of the exhibition and spoke about how he had been an important role in the growth of my career. That was just great experience for me to pause for a moment to think about the past and future of my life.
We’re excited to see what you next move is – any exciting projects in the pipeline?
Recently I have developed new colour ways for my existing collections which will be launched in a couple of months. Currently I am travelling and studying the traditional heritage of Korea. I am very grateful that I have this opportunity to learn about valuable materials and techniques from artisans. It is not only about my roots but also a potential fusion and revival of traditional craft and contemporary techniques. I am at the last stage of developing two new print collections with this concept.
Finally, what advice would you give aspiring designers?
When you begin your career you may encounter many troubles, you may have to pursue avenues that are not true to your initial design vision. Be careful not to follow paths due to immediate success as you may lose the uniqueness of yourself. It is important to be commercial while keeping your own design identity.