Look down, are you sitting on a chair? If you are, do you know who made it, can you feel and see the grain of the wood, can you describe the color or the shape, is it art? Maybe you aren’t sitting but no matter where you are, whether that is an office or your bedroom or a train station or in a park, there is furniture around you and it these objects that often make up our lives without us even paying them much mind except for the efficiency, their cost and maybe if they match the other items in our homes. But there is more to a chair than just something to sit on and the work of Joseph Chun proves it.
Born in Daegu, South Korea, Joseph became an artist after being drafted into the army. “It is mandatory for Korean men to join to the army for two years. While in the army, I had to suppress my emotions and feelings, and had no freedom to choose what I wanted to do. My job was to stand guard at a post looking at the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea, and as sat at the guard post, I had lots of time to think about myself looking and about what I wanted to do with my life while gazing out at the beautiful nature outside of the fence.” Joseph says that in those days, looking from South to North Korea having nothing but the simplicity and silence of fences and bunkers and grass around him, he decided to work in the creative field. This attention to detail and relish in the privilege to be able to choose creativity over the strict and often harsh reality of the army and of a war, can be seen in the ultra-minimalist and so expertly crafted furniture of Joseph Chun.
Joseph Chun has worked for distinguished furniture firms such as Hatchi Collection founded by award-winning Japanese designer Shuya Iida; Pickett Furniture which works with clients such as J. Crew; and KWH Furniture created by acclaimed craftsman Kai-wei Hsu. He has presented his pieces at fairs including the Wanted Design’s Launch Pad and has exhibited his work at Gallery R, Bevier Gallery, WantedDesign NYC, and Cargo Project Gallery. His furniture design produced under the name of his studio, Joseph C. Furniture, has been featured in publications such as Design Milk, Artweek, Wescover, Medium, Art Rabbit, and Surface, which also selected his work to be part of “The List”, a directory of the best design firms and brands in the US.
Joseph feels that furniture is the best medium for his creative impulses because “I was always interested in object design, I often thought about possible ways to improve design and functionality as a kid. I choose furniture because it is something we all have to interact and feel with our own bodies daily, yet furniture has infinite improvement possibility. I draw inspiration from my rich experiences growing up in different cultures, I wanted to share my thoughts and experiences through my work. I like wood because of how the grain patterns can be like our fingerprints. Also, it is close to our body temperature, it doesn’t get cold as metal or plastic, not as dense as marble or stone. I think wood is a human body friendly material, a perfect material for furniture.”
This human friendly design and material can be quickly felt when sitting in one of Joseph’s chairs, when writing at one of his desks. In the art that just happens to be usable in everyday life that is Joseph’s furniture, there is more than just a surface, or a seat or a holder, there is depth, there is feeling, there is a tenderness in every stroke of the chisel or the sander or the hammer felt through one’s body as it interacts with the wood and cushion and glossy finish.
Joseph believes that all furniture must be durable and functional in order to be complete. His work revolves around this philosophy, which guarantees timelessness using traditional woodworking techniques. All of his furniture is exclusively hand crafted to ensure a seamless quality and from within that quality and care comes the ultimate magic of Joseph’s work: the fact that anything made with such love and attentiveness, with such emotion and focused time, can shift beyond function and into that realm of religiosity, communal care and love that great art inhabits.
DAEGU, SOUTH KOREA