Jiyeon Kim

11.01 2016 INTERVIEW DATE

Laypoetry, Designer

Cheongun-dong, Jongno-gu, Seoul

A mysterious interior where there’s a room within a room, adding up to a strange place with doors that count up to ten, the warmth of the sun piercing through the wide window, the unfamiliarity of the carefully arranged pebbles create a unique poetic space. It belongs to designer Jiyeon Kim, who strives to find the precision of her own in the midst of the era where indecisiveness is considered as a good nature in people. Her home and office silently tell us about her favorite things, what she thinks is right and shows how she renders those into a physical space and objects.

Yoojin Jung

Please introduce yourself.

I am an independent graphic designer working under the studio name ‘lay poetry(http://www.laypoetry.kr)’ since 2015. Majority of my works are focused on web or print media.  

 

What inspired the name ‘lay poetry?’

There was no inspiration. I chose it simply because it felt and looked nice when the two words were put together. It was only afterwards when I started to wonder why I named it so. Because in every unintentional choices you make, there’s always a reason. I think poetry is a collection of non-verbal and formless emotions all captured into shrewd language and design seems to walk a similar stage. For instance, branding is not only about the brand’s core value and the aesthetics portrayed into products, but also about presenting the brand’s ultimate goal. So I think what I do is that I catch a specific aspect of a brand precisely and illustrate it into visual language.

We were told you began working at age 20.

My very first client was an accessory designer Bowon Choi who then ran a brand called Hoya N More. She now runs a scarf brand Le Vent Se Leve. At that time I dreamed of becoming an illustrator so I posted some of my illustration works on my blog, which Ms.Choi came across by chance and made contact, asking if I could make illustrations and build an online shopping mall. Back then I only knew how to make basic codes for websites but I was so courageous that I answered yes. After the first meeting I bought an instruction book on how to build websites on my way home and completed an online shopping mall for the first time.

 

That was a pretty unusual choice, because normally for a 20 year-old, enjoying every bit of college life is the priority over working.

From when I was young, my dream job would change constantly from a painter, animator, cartoonist, illustrator to a designer. And starting a ‘real job’ as soon as I can was the best way to get closer to my dream. Actually, I was desperate to leave my hometown (Busan) and enjoy my life on my own in Seoul rather than being excited about college. I grew up in a very strict home where my curfew was 6pm in winter season and 7pm in warmer days, so I wanted to break away from that and relish my freedom, doing whatever I wanted to and watching as many movies and performances as I could.

So you left home as soon as you entered college.

I spent my freshman year at a boarding house near college and started living on my own the next year. The school was located near the mountains so there was absolutely nothing around and nothing to do. Ever since I settled near Anguk station, I’ve never lived beyond the region between Anguk and Gyeongbokgung stations.

 

What sparked you to move to this house?

I moved in last December so it’s been almost a year now. Next to my first studio apartment was a senior welfare center and every time I opened my window I’d see a group of the elderly just an inch ahead doing their exercises on the rooftop which was painted in this green, water-proof paint. So I stayed with my windows closed all year round. And later I moved to Sajik-dong where I found a house with a great outside view for the first time. I was deeply moved by that.(laugh) And the biggest reason for choosing this house is also the open view on all sides despite the fact that it’s only four stories up, thanks to the absence of tall buildings.

It’s not easy to live by yourself and clear the daily chores like tidying the house or cooking meals for yourself at home.

To some people, decorating or tidying up a house isn’t a big deal but I personally think it’s a very important aspect. I mean, it’s your everyday environment. Of course, those that enjoy the chaotic state can still be happy about it. I’m not talking about the perfect tidiness or maintaining the cleanness at all times. It’s more important to keep an environment that makes you feel comfortable and do the things you like consistently, even if it’s something trivial throughout your day. I believe keeping up with the small, everyday aspect of life holds out life as a whole. This is me speaking but actually when I get busy my house becomes chaotic too.(laugh)

 

What do you like about this neighborhood?

There’s no specific reason, I just like it. It only takes a short walk from the Gwanghwamun intersection to the Gyeongbokgung station but the atmosphere changes pretty dramatically along the way. You’re surrounded by tall office buildings near the Gwanghwamun area, where it’s nice to see how the city runs in harmony, and as you walk towards Gyeongbokgung, the tall buildings suddenly disappear out of your sight and instead you see the mountain, the trees and feel the warmth of sun, which I think is great. I also like the street that starts near the Blue House and  stretches down to the Gyeongbokgung Stonewall Walkway. This is where poet Youngdo Lee described of its beautiful scenery just before sunset which I completely related to. The commercial area in Gwanghwamun is another place that I like. Nowadays people create this certain atmosphere in order to popularize a commercial area but in Gwanghwamun there’s no such vibe; it’s just all sorts of stores jammed in one big building. No color, no specialness but it actually makes me feel comfortable about it.

Where in this house did you put your most effort on when arranging it?

I had to move every 2 years as soon as the contract ended so I wasn’t really able to make a big picture of the house arrangements. It’s been a similar case here as well, the only room that fit my bookshelf was the bedroom and the sofa would fit nowhere else but the living room. So everything’s pretty much arranged according to the layout of the house. I’ve never made big purchases on furnitures either. Rather than to plan big, I guess I furnished the house with bits and pieces of this and that. And I really enjoy being focused on making arrangements that starts from those small stuff in the house. The first thing I did as soon as I moved in was to fill the shelves before even opening the rest of my packages.

 

We get a sense of what you mean by looking at the pebbles you aligned.

Those are pebbles that I brought from Hua Hin, Thailand last year. There were thousands of pebbles on the beach there and I noticed that they looked different from the ones I see at beaches in Korea. Despite their solid properties, the stones portrayed this tenderness from its smooth surface which felt beautiful.

 

What triggered you to collect the things on your shelf?

You can probably tell; I don’t have a specific collection. Some ask me if I collect snowballs but out of all the snowballs here there’s only one that I bought. The rest are brought to me as presents as people started to acknowledge me as ‘a person who likes snowballs.’ The same goes for the owls. Those are half-willingly collected but I think that makes it more interesting. They aren’t bound together with a coherent taste but arranging them on the shelf with a new kind of consistency is pretty fun.

It was impressive to find poetry books lying beside your bed while we browsed through the house.

I never lend my favorite poetry books to friends.(laugh) And I try to buy two or three copies of the same poetry, one for my bookshelf, one for the side table next to my bed and one to carry around. I feel relaxed when I have a poetry book within my reach.

 

We’re starting to wonder what your favorite poetry is.

I like poet Seunghoon Lee’s poetry. I like his <Fantasy Of You>, Daecheul Shin’s first poetry book <For The Deserted Island> and Taeksu Yoon’s <Entering The Forest To Shoot The Bird>. Reading poetry can sometimes give a sense of this hazy emotion or the chance to define my thoughts. The undefined, abstract emotions are keenly illustrated into poetry and that’s what makes it special.

Your office, where it feels like it had originally been a residential building, also renders the feeling of lay poetry. How did you locate yourself there?

The building had almost been abandoned for a long time. It is owned by an acquaintance of the fashion brand Used Future downstairs (1F), and he wished to overhaul the whole place and provide it for the young creative people. My friend, who’s an interior designer working under the studio name Grav, did the overhauling job, took one of the floors as their office and I joined as I was looking for an office of my own.

What are the differences between a house and office?

I’ve realized that an office space is a whole lot more important than I thought. Filling one up can reflect on the outcome of my work entirely or bring positive effect on the efficiency of my practice. The whole process of bringing the empty space to life with the effort of showing what aesthetic sense and taste I have was really fun.

Is there a lifestyle you seek?

I simply want to live simple. People nowadays frequently talk about ‘minimal life’ and the simple life that I define stems from a certain precision. When I see things pretty I desire for it and when I see mouth-savouring food I desire to eat it. I can’t get rid of things easily and I’m not good at tidying things up. And I’ll probably stay this way forever. Merely reducing the number of households doesn't help you reach simplicity. The precision that I meant comes from looking into the things that I believe is right, what I value most, the reason for liking or disliking something and organizing your thoughts about those. In a way, choosing the aesthetically right things upon your precise belief could be defined as your taste or the eye for things. I think a simple life is possible through the process of finding your own precision.

 

What does home mean to you?

A home is a separated, disconnected space from the outside world where it provides pure relaxation. I want it to feel like I’m fully protected and comforted by it. When there’s a typhoon or heavy snow, there’s this cozy, comfortness I feel inside the house. It doesn’t always have to be the physical conditions like the weather—I wish a house gives you that safe and sound feeling at any time of the year.

RECOMMENDED PLACE

Chocolat DJ

#114, 1F Park Palace, 20 Sajingno 8 gil, Jongno-gu, Seoul
3 Gyeongbokgung
02-733-7911
16:00-23:00(Wed-Fri), 14:00-22:00(Sat-Sun), closed on Mon·Tue
  PRICE RANGE

“It feels like you build up some sort of a relationship with the owner when you’re there.”

It is a chocolate store that doubles as the studio of chocolatier Jiyeon Lee
who had once dreamed of becoming a radio DJ. Nestled inside a large apartment complex in Gwanghwamun, it specializes in making chocolates added with hard liquor, from whiskey to gin, as described in the phrase she wrote herself “begins cold but ends hot.” The narrow space gradually adds friendliness, where chocolatier Jiyeon Lee makes the best selection of alcohol for your hot chocolate while she chats, just like a DJ on the radio. Kim recommends trying the ‘tasting course’ that allows you to taste a variety of its menus, from its most popular whiskey bonbon, liquor ice ball—an ice-cream version of on-the-rocks which you pour liquor over the ball-shaped ice-cream, to hot chocolate with alcohol. Reservation is required for the tasting course.