Youngshin Kim

04.19 2017 INTERVIEW DATE

Oblique flower design, Florist

Itaewon-dong, Yongsan-gu, Seoul

Florist Youngshin Kim of Oblique Flower Design takes her flowers and arranges them like an odd still-life painting, casting a peculiar atmosphere unseen elsewhere. She seemed like the person with an affection for flowers, taking this job as fate, but contrary to our expectations she confesses that she purposely holds herself aloof from them. A person who can be sociable online but becomes too shy when face to face with another, we met Kim at her blue-tiled studio.

Yoojin Jung

Could you share us how you became a florist?

During college I made a personal website after my name (www.kimyoungshin.com) for a project. And surprisingly, I began receiving a number of calls including one from an editor of a fashion magazine, offering me a job as an assistant, which I accepted. I think they saw a potential in me after seeing my writings and photographs on my website but I quit after a year and a half. The job basically was fit for someone who liked to meet various people but I’m not the type that can easily mingle with others. So after that I decided that I’d study abroad to extend my studies of industrial engineering but I faced some difficulties while preparing for it, ending up with a longer break. I wanted to use that time productively so I began to learn things which included flowers. I completed a professional course at Jane Parker which sparked my interest in flowers and eventually gave up on studying abroad.

Were you ever interested in flowers or the florist job before?  

Not a single bit. Buying flowers used to be a once-in-a-lifetime experience for me. To be frank, I took the professional course only because there wasn’t a universal course available. Generally people took the professional course in pursuit of becoming a florist but I had no particular goal which made the tutors confused. But apparently, in the end I did choose to become one. Life is pretty interesting.

You must’ve had a hidden gift.

Well, I received a lot of compliments during my class so I guess I did have a bit of a gift.(laugh) Come to think of it, I think I had less burden in my heart since I started it as a hobby and was able to work with a more casual mind. And because I had no knowledge on flowers, I think I was able to make a more bold approach than others. There was this one time when I surprised my teacher with a bouquet made of black flowers.

What triggered you to become a florist despite your zero interest in the past?

After two weeks or so since I started taking that course, my long-term headache and amnesia was magically cured. It might’ve been the aromatic effect from the flowers or the energy they give me but the one thing that I was sure of was that somehow flowers made a pretty good match with me. People’s growing interest in my work slowly began to give me confidence as well. Looking back, I think I started this job thinking I should do what I do best rather than what I like.

Now that you’re a florist, do you like flowers more than you did before?

I purposely try not to like them. Instead I try to look at them cold-heartedly as much as I can. It’s better that way because it’s my job, while I keep the way I feel about the things that I like the same way I always feel.

Is there a reason you opened your studio particularly in Gyeongnidan-gil?

There’s a bakery called ‘Frank’ right next door and it was one of the early projects I worked on. The famous Jinoo Jang, the owner, asked me to do a commission for him so I used dry flowers to cover the ceiling and while I was at it, I learned that the space next to it was soon going to be vacant. So after working on Frank, I moved right in.

How do you feel about the neighborhood?

Making new friends is not an easy thing for me but I was able to do so with the same age group around here pretty naturally. We all worked in different fields but shared the young spirit of small businesses which enabled us to become close rather easily. The best part about Gyeongnidan-gil is that our various collaborations spring new inspirations and synergy all the time.

Where did your studio name ‘Oblique Flower Design’ come from?

I sourced it from a closed cafe that was near the university I went to. I was a regular there and the name ‘Oblique’ sounded either French or English and the interesting connotation and gender neutrality was pretty fascinating. And it goes well with the overall image of the flowers I make.

You were born in Seoul and lived here all your life, right?

Yes. But I like Jeju Island more than I like Seoul and I once even thought of moving to Jeju Island for good. However, making a long stay in Jeju wasn’t as nice as I thought, probably because I was too accustomed to living in Seoul. So I changed my plan, to stay half a year in Seoul and the rest of the year in Jeju. Jeju doesn’t have any floral markets so I have to ship them from Seoul. Meanwhile, the plants and wildflowers there are really pretty. You rarely get to see them in Seoul. And this reminds me of expressions like ‘disorganized beauty.’ There are times occasionally when I get sick of the dryness of Seoul but then I miss it when I’m away. The city’s incredibly convenient to dwell. There are lots of places to go, you can get anywhere without a car and everything goes around really quickly.

Which is your favorite city?

I like Jeju more than I like the cities abroad. I used to think cities such as London, Paris, Amsterdam were great but now I’m not so interested. Although places like Iceland might change my mind.(laugh) Oceans across Southeast Asia aren’t as clean as we think but the ocean surrounding Jeju are clear like crystal. My friends and I would occasionally stop at a nameless beach as we go by and just jump right into the ocean for a good swim.

Where do you get your creative inspirations?

In the beginning, I was often inspired by the atmosphere or the color arrangements from the 17~18th century Dutch paintings. I wanted my flowers to feel like a piece of a still-life painting than to be simply pretty. I used to be crazy with fashion as well. I was fascinated by fashion brands like Comme des Garçons or Maison Martin Margiela, those with structural designs, and I guess these personal preference dissolved into my floral works.

What’s your favorite flower?

There’s a small, blue flower called ‘forget-me-not.’ It’s a bit too delicate to take care of but everytime I’m at the floral market I find myself reaching for it. However, my favorite is poppy. I’m also in the process of making a personal work on poppies. I take poppies in full bloom, dry them as I press them flat and put it into a frame, and so far I’ve done 700 or so. I’d like to do a guerrilla show with my poppies one day. I’ve never officially unveiled my studio and I’d like to take the opportunity to do so, but I have yet to decide when that’d be.

What other things do you like besides flowers?

I love to run. At the end of the day after my battle with flowers I feel the urge to workout. I go jogging at the Han River park whenever I can, to prepare myself for the marathon held every year. I also love swimming, especially in the ocean. I started a while ago and it’s been three years since I fell in love, which happened to be around the same time I began my florist career. Surfing is not my thing because it seems a little like showing off. As a matter of fact, I feel more comfortable when I’m under water. So every summer I head to the ocean to swim. And I decided that I would give myself a month-long break every January and August. In January I would fly over to another country where it’s warm and to Jeju Island in August.

What is it you like about swimming in the ocean?

Ocean swim has so many variables so the more you’re at it, the harder and scarier it gets. Strangely enough though, that part makes me keep on jumping into the water. And you might suddenly face a squall or the seawater would all of a sudden change and push in ice-cold water. Although I’m a pretty good swimmer there are moments when it gets very frightening but whenever I overcome it, I get this great sense of joy and happiness. In fact, I began ocean swimming because I thought it would make me brave. And I thought being brave would allow me to become less afraid of meeting people.

 

 

 

All outfits and shoes worn by Youngshin Kim is YMC – You Must Create(http://www.youmustcreate.co.kr).

RECOMMENDED PLACE

National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Seoul

30, Samcheong-ro, Jongno-gu, Seoul
3 Gyeongbokgung
02-3701-9500
10:00~18:00 (Mon-Sun)

“It’s where I used to frequently visit with my neighboring foreign friends. I love the seamless blend of its modern architecture and the typical ambience of the area and I would go there even though the same exhibition was still being held.”

 

Located in Sogyeok-dong, Jongno-gu, Seoul, the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art’s Seoul branch opened its doors in 2013, following the Gwacheon and Deoksugung branches. It is a work by architect Hyunjun Mihn and aside from the museum building, there are a total of six yards around it, including the museum yard and the exhibition yard, where they platform various exhibitions and performances. Its test operation of opening all week without a closing day is ongoing since October of 2016 so it’s open almost everyday all year, with the exception of four regular closed days.