“My jewelry is made of the disposable cans that are used only once and thrown away,” says Eunseok and we truly appreciate the way she thinks and creates art by giving old things a new life as sculptures. Let’s get to know more about Eunseok in this interview!
Hello Eunseok, even though you are using old cans, your work contains many shapes of nature. Why is nature your subject?
I lived in the countryside enjoying the benefits of abundant nature when I was a kid and moved to Seoul which is the capital of Korea when I was ten years old. The appearance of these two places was quite contrasting. The city was covered with the high gray buildings and colorful signs instead of green mountains, colorful flowers and various insects of the countryside. Although my work uses the representative materials of the city, expressing the shape of nature is probably influenced by life in these two places. I got my master’s degree from Dongduk Women’s University in Seoul and now I work on making jewelry out of discarded recycling cans.
How did you come up with the topic of recycling cans in the first place?
Usually in Seoul, the recycling pickup comes once a week. At first, I was surprised by the amount of discarded cans, but I thought it would be a waste to use and throw away disposable cans with various and beautiful colors only once. I thought making jewelry from discarded disposable cans would not only revive the discarded beautiful cans, but also save the environment contaminated with them.
How would you describe the technique by which each organic shape is assembled?
It was my big mission and it's still an important issue I'm thinking about. It was not easy to connect each separate piece tightly. After many trials and errors, I make a shape with temporary adhesives and go through three adhesive processes.
Is there any subject in nature that inspires you the most?
Using disposable cans made me think more seriously about the environment. It takes a lot of energy to make a single can and it takes about 500 years for the discarded can to be completely decomposed. Meanwhile, many creatures' lives are threatened. I try to express animals or plants disappearing due to environmental pollution. Among them, coral, which is gradually losing its beautiful color due to the bleaching phenomenon caused by rising water temperature, is the main subject of my work.
What aspect would you like to bring to other people's attention through your work?
First, I want to talk about the environment. My work using cans was accidental, but while I made jewelry from a disposable product, I naturally thought about the importance of the environment. COVID-19, an infectious disease that has currently hit the Earth, is a warning of nature for indiscriminate development without considering the environment. Through my work, I hope that many people, including myself, will think about the importance of nature once again.
Have you ever tried to make something other than jewellery?
I majored in metal craft in graduate school. I have made sculptures and tableware that were made of non-metallic materials such as plastic and wood, as well as gold, silver, and copper. In the future, I plan to challenge the production of environmental sculptures using cans.
Do you have any favorite jewellers whose work has influenced you?
I was touched to see the jewelry of Otto Kunzli and Giampaolo Babetto during a jewelry class in college. Through their works, I thought that even the restrained formative beauty could impress people. The shape of my work is organic, but I also try to express it in a restrained form like them.
How does the process of creating one of your jewellery pieces begin? Is a sketch the first thing you do or do you choose the right materials and components first?
I produce a form conceived with clay, a base material. Match the color on top of it and complete the shape by considering harmony with other materials.
Do you create some models and prototypes or do you go straight to the point?
I don't make a model, I make it right away. However, if I don't like the shape, I separate it and recombine it with other parts.
Have you ever tried to create a piece of jewellery out of polymer clay or other materials?
I've never used a polymer clay. I mainly used gold, silver, and stone, which are common jewelry materials. And I have used wood, plastic, leather and glass in part.
What are the advantages and disadvantages of cans as a material?
Aluminum cans are easy to cut or bend, so they are easy to manufacture but have a disadvantage of weak durability. And the various colors and patterns of itself are gorgeous, so it makes wonderful jewelry, but it is difficult to harmonize with other materials.
What do others say about your art?
Currently, art jewelry does not seem to be restricted by the material, size, and expression method. Artists always explore new materials, and I am one of them. Others seem to be interested in my work using new materials, In particular, they have a good opinion of the use of discarded materials.
What do you consider as your greatest artistic achievement?
My greatest artistic achievement is that I am alive. Staying alive is the greatest achievement for all of us. This is because we can say something and express ourselves while we are alive. Staying alive seems to be marvelous not only for living things but also for inanimate things. I cherish the importance of survival and want everything around me to stay alive. Even if it's a trivial thing... That's why I make jewelry out of discarded disposable cans to give it a new life.