Glass Artist, Chanu Yi originally dreamed of becoming a painter. However, one day he was so impressed to see the sunlight projecting into the window while he was taking stairs. Since that day, he thought that glass is something that he was truly looking for and started studying.
Chanu makes his artworks with the ‘lampworking’ technique, which is not common in Korea. He says that the beauty of glass derives from transparency. Glass does not only display every object through its penetrating and transparent characteristics but also gives a completely different feeling according to the object’s feature through the glass. Considering the multi-characteristics of glass, Chanu says that he has never been bored with his glassworks.
'Blowing', basically processed by blowing through the mouth, is one of the most common techniques to make glass dishes. However, Chanu makes glass utensils with the ‘lampworking’ technique which is unfamiliar and distinctive from the blowing method. Lampworking is a technique that heats a glass tube or glass rod by igniting a mixture of oxygen and LPG gas. The technique is characterized by its formative beauty. When glass is heated, it starts to melt and flow downward, and the organic relationship of fire and glass during the process helps the element make a beautiful shape. In terms of tableware making, lampworking is tricky since glass has a limited time to withstand the heat. If the glass is exposed to heat for too long, the shape starts to get crushed. Lampworking is a complicated method that requires high concentration and endurance within a certain amount of time.
Furthermore, lampworking is not appropriate for large-sized works. Thus, it is used to make small-sized pieces such as accessories. However, Chanu doesn’t discriminate size by overcoming the technique’s difficult characteristics. Instead of using conventional tools that have limitations to make large works, he has created various artworks with the special tools that he designed by himself.
Chanu says that craftsmen need to make their tools. He even designed his kilns and argues that without them artists will easily struggle from limitations. He asserts that tools can differentiate the artist from others and they can help craftsmen develop to realize various expressions. With this mindset, he has made and used various tools that are solely optimized for his works. Since he mainly focuses on glass utensils that are easily broken and melted, he uses heat-resistant glass called ‘Pyrex’ to compensate for the shortcomings of the material. He pursues not only artistry but also practicality by refining the technique and object. Focusing on the grip of hand and touch of lips, he emphasizes the organic and relational form of lampworking.
“I have to like it. That’s the most important thing. I can sell my works only when I like them.”
Chanu points out that every work should be satisfied by artists themselves. He continues to work without losing his direction even if his style requires more time than others. He says that an artist’s works take a long time to be completed. Although straight or formal patterns can be mastered through practice, organic forms with curves require more time to elaborate an artist’s style. Thus, endurance in designing own style is the most important virtue of artists who have to spend a long time on their works.
As people have different looks but share the same body parts, glass are created with the same purpose as tableware. Only their shape and size are decided by the artists’ style as different human expressions are.
“I’m not fixed. I’m a craftsman and a craftsman has to be a craftsman by doing craft. I think I should be it when I can be it.”
He says it is the enduring interpretation that makes him be an artist. Only when he works slowly and appreciates the work, he feels that he can finally be an artist, not a technician. When pressed for time and has to work mechanically, he feels that he becomes a kind of manufacturer at the factory, not an artist.