We had the good fortune of connecting with Hoseok Youn and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Hoseok, how do you think about risk?
Risk is inevitable in life. It is often perceived as a negative word people are afraid of because they only remember the major risks they have taken in life. In reality, life is full of decisions and there are risks involved in every choice we make. When we avoid risks because we are scared, we might perceive our paths to be less difficult, but that only results in a state of stagnancy with no change. When you want a successful career and hone your skills within your craft, you must change things, make decisions, and ultimately take risks. It is just part of life. I like to think of risks as a great teacher that gives you opportunities to be brave and to build confidence. Coming to the United States to study was a big life change. While it was a great experience, I was constantly worried about money, English as a second language, family, and losing connections with friends and loved ones. In the end, the sacrifices I have made and the hardships I have faced allowed me achieve greater things in my career and earned many precious connections in USA. In my work, I think the process is where risk taking plays a major roll. The whole process of making my work, from the moment I pick up a pipe to every tedious detail I painstakingly add, I am constantly challenging myself and pushing my own limit. I want my art to be special, unique, and one of kind in the world, so I am always working harder to make it better than last one. I must be diligent and keep practicing, developing, inventing, experimenting, and a lot of times this results in failure. But I have come to embrace these failures as an opportunity to grow as an artist. As a young artist, I have to be willing to take risks for my work, career, and dream.
Please tell us more about your art. We’d love to hear what sets you apart from others, what you are most proud of or excited about. How did you get to where you are today professionally. Was it easy? If not, how did you overcome the challenges? What are the lessons you’ve learned along the way. What do you want the world to know about you or your brand and story?
I like collecting toys, watching fantasy and superhero movies, and playing video games. I draw inspiration from Marvel, DC, Japanese anime, and robots such as Transformers or Gundam. As a child, I spent a lot of time playing with toys and video games. I still collect lots of the action figures and display them in my room. But as an artist, I think of these toys as research and development rather than simple playthings. My BEAST series include figurative and fantastic characters constructed out of Venetian traditional glass goblet components and stemware designs. This series is my commentary on my generation’s materialistic consumer culture. I find our current obsession with consumption and materialism as it relates to social and economic status fascinating. Conspicuous consumption, a term coined by sociologist Thorstein Veblen, is a type of over consumption that people use to show off their economic ability or social status visually through their possession. The complex relationship between materialism and power, social class structure, self-fulfillment, competition, and evaluation of worth seem to shape individuality and identity today. This consumer culture mirrors the way we play with characters and avatars in the digital world. When you play videos games, you build your character’s identity, level them up, upgrade their items, giving them more power to defeat their enemies. It’s unreal, dramatic, and competitive. I see this attitude carried over to the real world where young people strive to portray a fantastical life of luxury. Living in a false reality created to appear successful to get attention or respect from others. Using Venetian techniques in goblet making, I aim to mimic this illusion of excess and wealth. The characters I created in the BEAST series are an artistic reinterpretation of this overwhelmed consumer culture. By transforming traditional goblet components into the figure’s body parts, I envision these characters adorning themselves with wealth and excess to create their identities. As the figures interact with each other, there is a sense of competitive peacocking between them.
While I enjoy the process of goblet making, these highly respected techniques are often seen as a most difficult, complicated, and advanced in glassblowing. There are thousands of different minute movement one must learn and practice to perfect to apply the details and decorations to delicate stemware. It takes years to master these techniques, and I am still constantly learning and failing. I spent a lot of time practicing, watching videos of master goblet makers repeatedly, reading and researching designs. Apply these traditional techniques in my unique body of work proves to be even more challenging. But this is what makes it interesting and fun for me, Often I must stay creative in order to make these conventional methods fit into my practice. I have invented a lot of specific tools and experimental techniques to make my process more efficient. All of which add to my experience and knowledge. While there maybe an easier and more direct route to achieve the same goals, I cherish the challenges I have faced because they help build a strong foundation towards a long-lasting career.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
It is hard for me to come up with an itinerary as I am a foreigner in United States, so I too am a visitor. But if my friends were to visit me, I would like to rent a camping van, travel across the country, and see all the remarkable places in USA. I think this is a great country to drive through, with many beautiful views and landmarks. Most of which I have not been able to visited yet. I would like to see the Golden Gate bridge, Las Vegas, Disney World, NASA to name a few. I want to visit natural sites like the Grand Canyon, Yellow Stone national park, San Antonio’s River Walk, and Glacier National Park. Wherever we travel to, I would make sure we try the local food and fare. When traveling, I usually do not have a strict itinerary because it rarely goes as planned. I enjoy going on random adventures and I think that would make the most fun and interesting trip. The most important part about going on trips with friends is enjoying the time you spend with each other, no matter where you go or what you do. Any trip will be the great time if as long as I am with my friends!
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
The most important people I would like to thank are my parents. Life is difficult in a foreign country as an international student, and I would not have made it this far without their support. It is a very complicated process to work in America when you have a student visa, thus a lot of international students are supported by their hard-working parents back home who want a better life for their children. During my time in America as a student, my mother worked hard to provide me with the support I needed to succeed. I worked diligently and concentrated on my career, pushing myself harder knowing that my mother has sacrificed a lot for me. I understand and appreciate how hard she works, especially as she is getting older. When I failed at things and get upset, she is always there to encourage me and tries her best to be supportive, even when she is far away. She is my mentor, role model, and the most precious person that I love. Wanting to repay her for her kindness and love is what drives me to work harder and be successful. Filial piety is a very important concept in Asian culture, and while it is very important to me to pay my parents back materialistically, I think they would be even more fulfilled through my success as an artist and that all their sacrifices were worth it. I love you mom and dad!
Another person that has played an important role in my artistic life is my graduate school professor Jiyong Lee. He is Korean glass artist currently based in USA. He was the first glass artist I read about on the internet when I started my glass education in South Korea. Years later, as if by fate, our paths crossed, and I got the chance to study under him during my graduate studies. Jiyong was very tough on me during school, I felt like he pushed me harder than other students. He barely gave me compliment during my three years of graduate school, it got to the point where I would get a bit jealous when he gave other students positive feedback during critiques. But this brand of tough love also came with many long chats about my work and career. He taught me a lot about glass but more importantly about growth as an artist. While I was stressed and frustrated all the time during school, I trusted him and tried to follow his teaching. Eventually, with hard work and perseverance, my style and art blossomed by the end of school. Without Jiyong’s motivation and guidance, I do not think I would have arrived to the place I am at now. I am truly thankful for him, and I miss the school environment he has fostered. It is a good thing we keep in touch, and I periodically still get a good dose of that tough love! Thank you Jiyong with all respect!
Instagram: Hoseok Youn
Facebook: Hoseok Youn