Blacksmiths in Korea are rare thus it is a pleasure to discover the work of Yi Daewon, whose show is currently being exhibited on the lower level of the Seoul Arts Center (예술의 전당). Yi Daewon is a Kookmin University alumni that went on to study blacksmithing at one of the very few colleges in America (Southern Illinois University) that offers blacksmithing. As Mr. Yi pointed out, there was really no one to study smithing with in Korea.
Though Yi’s earlier works were smooth, fluid shapes, captured in stainless steel, he sought a change in style and technique that offered him the opportunity to combine the smooth rippling grain of wood with the twisted, forged shapes of ironwork. Sometimes Yi would burn the wood black, with a torch, and polish and oil it to a smooth finish. Another interesting part of these pieces is that much of the wood is recovered from temples and other sources, thus enhancing the sense of time captured and held in the grip of iron. As Yi acknowledged, there are very few larger trees available for harvesting in Korea since so much was destroyed during the 20th Century.
Yi Daewon also creates and designs contracted pieces for various larger clients, such as department stores and has taught courses at Kookmin and Bucheon Universities.
For more information on his work, his site is at yidaewon.com.