Stratum Ceramic series by Yoon-Young Hur

Yoon-Young Hur is an architect and ceramist based in Seoul and New York, whose work is recognized by her experiments on materiality, form, and site-specificity. Her Stratum series is a collection of ceramics focused on the exploration of specific concepts such as delicacy and vulnerability, related to the process of working with ceramics and their transitional stages.

The beginning

Yoon-Young Hur: The ‘Stratum’ series began when I first started to work with paper clay.  The material spoke of qualities like layers and stratification which are both about earth and metaphors of life.  I perceive our lives as an accumulation of multiple layers and directions with stability and disruptions.

Delicacy and Fragility

Yoon-Young Hur: Delicacy and fragility represent a sense of becoming and vulnerability. Such concepts are a large part of the process of working with ceramics; the transitional stages involve handling brittle low-fired bisque ware with a lot of care. There’s anxiety because they may all just break at any moment yet such fear is balanced with excitement for further transformation which is typically done through a final high-firing. Such process draws a parallel between how I deal with new challenges, encounters, and emotions every day; the balancing act between fear and anticipation for further growth and change.

The basis of the palette was formed by the inherent colors of white clay types as it goes through the different stages of firing. They are all neutral which leaves a lot of room for interpretation by the viewer and that’s what my work tries to do. The process involves making a lot of glaze samples; I put them next to each other to understand how they can work well together as an ensemble. It’s not quite like a painting but sometimes I perceive individual ceramic pieces as brush marks on a canvas. 

Main Challenges

Yoon-Young Hur: I try to celebrate the imperfection and asymmetrical qualities of physical and hand-built work. I hand tare the edges of each piece which are literally a record of that moment/gesture; it does not go through hours of “refining” because I want the viewer to feel the rawness of the material and “the moment” from the past.

Materiality is an important element in my practice. Identifying the inherent characteristics such as an unglazed clay body that reveals its raw texture, how it bends over time on its own weight or how the edge looks when it’s torn/pulled etc. Such surprises keep the exploration open and fluid. The juxtaposition between the controlled and uncontrolled process often expand and guide new series of discoveries and questions.

Interview with Yoon-Young Hur | Photography Yoon-Young Hur.