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Furniture Designer Doha Ham


Crying Furniture, Smiling Man
Furniture Designer Doha Ham

I always imagined furniture makers to be honest like a straight tree trunk and open-minded willing to accept anyone with arms wide open. I had envisioned them silently selecting wood to create a one-of-a-kind furniture. In reality, this imagery of furniture designers I had in my head had been broken for years after meeting with several woodworkers. The disappointment was parallel to the emotion you feel the moment you figure out the truth about Santa Claus. However, after meeting with Doha Ham I learned that my fairy-tale like imagery of furniture-makers exits in the real world. Artist Doha Ham understands the fine line between art and practicality like no other. He is constantly challenging himself beyond his limits. The look in his eyes was different. He looked tired from the exhibitions he had one after another but there was a spark in his eyes. Despite the noisy ambiance, he kept his focus. When talking about his artwork his child-like innocent smile would disappear and his sincerity would surface.

“I am absolutely a commercial artist. I want to be the designer that sells the most products.” He was transparent, willing to talk about ‘commercial’, ‘selling’ and ‘price’, the topics considered as taboo among artists. His desire that people will get to know the joy of owning more art pieces, his longing to tell stories through his work, inevitably reflecting his aspirations, were all part the honest conversation we had. “In the past I was confused. I had a hard time understanding where art furniture lies in the fine boundary of art and commercial products. Oddly enough it came to me when I was working for a company and not as a full-time artist. In the end, I was simply artist Doha Ham. Whether I make art furniture, clothes or bags they are all different parts of my life story. The importance lies on the identity of my work.” He looked lively. He looked more excited than when I saw him seven years ago in the ‘A TO Z’ furniture exhibition.

He introduced the ‘Sentiment’ series, his most recent work. It is an art furniture series where emotions are impersonalized on the furniture and viewers can relate to the diverse feelings of represented by the furniture. His bench, chair, table and stands can cry, laugh, express anger and even long for love. The furniture series, in fact, tells his own personal story. At the end of November of 2017, he have opened an exhibition at the Hannamdong Guho Gallery. This year, he will also participate at the world renowned art fair SOFA. and at private gallery at LA. Moreover, he shared the news that he will be collaborating with various artists. The conversation was endless; in the back of his head he is always thinking about work. I met with artist Doha Ham standing next to furniture that cries, laughs and gets angry.

Once Again, as a Furniture Designer

I heard you have solo exhibitions lined up till November 2018. That means you will be opening shows once a month. You must be very busy.

Thankfully, feedback on my artwork over this last year has been very positive. I was chosen as the artist for fashion brand Kuho’s charity campaign ‘HEART FOR EYE’. After we collaborated in launching a gallery exhibition and showroom, Kuho had proposed that I create a ‘Doha Ham’ design line. Not only are they selling furniture but are also selling design items. Recently, I’ve been busy with this new project.

How do you manage your busy schedule?

I try to arrange appointments and projects with enough lead time. When I do not have specific appointments, I allocate my schedule towards my artwork. My studio is located in Gimpo. The place where I shape wood and paint them are in a different place. Since I enjoying working late at night when it is silent, I once brought the materials to work from home. I had received complaints for the strong chemical odor(laughs). I am thinking of moving my studio somewhere closer to home. After this interview I am heading back to the studio.

2017 was a year where you received recognition as designer Doha Ham. I heard that you left your job at a furniture brand to work on your own art. Was there a reason?

I worked at that company for approximately three years. There I learned that people who can endure company life is more fit for a company life than people good at their job. While I was there, I missed designing my own furniture. I went through a period where I had serious thoughts on my job. I was searching for something I can do for a lifetime. In conclusion, like a boomerang, I ‘returned as a furniture designer’. This time I had the ambition to work on my furniture more vigorously. I had the desire to work to the intensity where I can complement myself. I longed to express my true self. 2017 was a year where I was fully devoted to myself.

What kind of artist do you want to be?

I am absolutely a commercial artist. Many artists fear the word ‘commercial’. They are not being honest. I am fully a commercial artist because I create items to sell them. I want to make a piece that sells the most. If it sells, as a result I want to create a better product; it is a virtuous circle. If the product sells, you also have to adjust the price. I think about pricing for survival, so I can work on art for a long time. If I am receiving 1000 KRW for a piece what should the price be 10 years from now?

Furniture that smiles, laughs and gets angry

The ‘Sentiment’ series is very fun. They are furniture and at the same time an objet d’art (work of art).

I believe telling one’s own story would be the best way differentiate oneself in an era where similar products are overflowing. The series itself represents me. I have adopted my personal feelings into the furniture. There was a time where a furniture was created from two furniture with contrasting feelings that had clashed. Artists are always being evaluated. My role is to accept and tolerate diverse opinions, not to teach others about my own purpose and thoughts. If there is a lesson I learned after I returned as a full time artist, is that artists have to learn to be humble. You have to accept the opinions of others yet have to stand strong on your own beliefs. You have to be clear about your own artwork and carry the skill to demonstrate that through your work. Artists need to develop confidence. I heard that singer Jeonghyun Park practiced 10,000 times in order to perform at the TV program ‘I Am a Singer’. She gained confidence after she practices 10,000 times. I work with the same attitude. I had a mixed feelings of both happiness and fear when working on the ‘Sentiment’ series. I loved working on my own collection but I feared that others wouldn’t be able to relate to the work. I comfort myself by drawing hundreds of sketches and anticipating and executing simulations. I put effort to demonstrate confidence on stage.  

I love the fact that all pieces are created from writing. Could you explain the process?

I always carry a journal with me. The birth of each piece starts with a memo. Whether it is while I am watching TV or meeting someone, I jot down words that suddenly pops into my head. I write a story using those words and integrate it to my furniture. From this process I am able to deduct certain keywords that I truly want to convey. There is a natural flow where I transfer the writing into a drawing. Instinctively, I first sketch and then create a real life size prototype. When creating the actual furniture, I add patterns and colors which are also related to the story I want to tell. Anger is expressed through sharp teeth and shyness through covering of feathers. In this way emotions are illustrated through design and color.

What makes furniture so attractive?

The fact that its appeal is different in each location! There was a time when my furniture look so great at my friend’s house when I barely noticed it at my place. Each furniture has its own beauty depending on the location. At times furniture can look undistinctive and at times it can embellish the space. It fills the space with diverse ways like air. I personally also like unadorned furniture that is preserving its position.

You are involved in many collaborative projects. Sculpture, interior design, graphic design and even lacquer varnishing to name a few. Is there a special reason you like to collaborate with other artists?

You can avoid mannerism in doing so. You learn a lot working with other poeple. There are many opportunities to think, explore and further improve my own artwork.

Is there a person you would like to collaborate with?

Artist Jinkyung Shin who makes furniture with hanji (Korean traditional paper). I found her on Instagram. I contacted her for collaboration opportunities. Nothing has been settled yet.

With upcoming projects in 2018, I imagine that your schedule will be extremely busy. Is there a specific project you look forward to?

I have many solo and group exhibitions planned. The next exhibition coming up will take place in Hannamdong Guho Gallery in November. Like any exhibition I am nervous about this one. I am curious to see the expression of my furniture and nervous to see how viewers will react to them. However, I gave my all. I want to show my effort, the energy I put in as an artist to the people who purchase my work. Furthermore, I want to deliver the product and place the furniture at my customer’s space. I want to be the person tell them the story of that furniture. In that way I hope that more people will relate to my furniture.

You own many shoes. It is impressive to see how clean they are.

I like shoes but not to the point where I am addicted. I mostly own comfortable sneakers. My father once told me that clean and good shoes take you to great places, clean and well organized wallets bring you money, and clean and elegant clothes tidies you up. In that way, I guess I want to go to great places. When I go out on a date or a meeting, I take time in picking out my shoes. When my shoes are clean I feel more confident. When I am return home, I clean my shoes and place them back in the shoe rack.

You own many colognes as well. Is there a particular scent that matches well with your work?

I am interested in everything that smells. Scent is connected with feelings. I leave my cologne on a side table next to the shoe rack. I spray cologne on my way out with the mindset that I can spend my day wonderfully like the wonderful fragrance I put on. The scent that matches my work would be woody notes.

What elements do you consider the most when purchasing an object?

I am very considerate. I think deeply about the reason I am buying the item. For furniture, I avoid sizes that are vague. I print the image off the internet and picture it on the actual space. If it looks good, then I purchase it. It’s like a paperdoll game. I am picky.

What are some locations you visit often?

Boon the Shop. I love the colors of the furniture and the layout of the interior. Andersen C has the perfect combination of lights, furniture and decor which creates a great ambiance. Cafe Assouline has a good combination of curtain and furniture. Each art book blends well with the decor.

When was your most exciting moment?

The moment I deliver, unwrap and place a furniture purchased by a client. It is most exhilarating when I see the furniture in the actual space.

Do you like to cook?

I am not a picky eater. I love to gather with people to drink and dine. Honestly, I do drink a lot. And I usually have bad hangovers. For that reason I have invented my own hangover cure ramen recipe. I use leftover ingredients. After many trial and errors, I have perfected my recipe.

What is your favorite restaurant?

Dongdemun Geoseong One Whole Chicken, I love the taste, mood and the people there. I also go to Apgujeong Ichi a lot. The food is not like usual Japanese. I also like Angukdong Soeun Table. Their pasta is good and the quantity is very satisfying.

There is a food you enjoy? A guilty pleasure of yours?

There are times when I get stuck while working. That’s when I have samgyupsal (pork belly) on my own. I go to a bbq nearby and treat myself with pork belly and soju. There is a small market near my neighborhood. It is the perfect place for solo eaters. The kimchi rice cooked with leftover meat is simply amazing. My expanded belly the next day is also amazing.

Jinjusikdang was conceived with the idea that the style of an artist’s art work expresses basic needs of the artist. What are your thoughts on that?

The idea is intriguing. Most of the time artists tell their stories through their work. Approaching the question from such an angle gives the opportunity to look deeper into the artist with detail. I also get curious about artist’s personal space and their personal taste. If you can find their humane characteristics by questioning their basic needs and relate them with their work, it is definitely a new fascinating approach in understanding their work.

Is there a local artist you would like to look into via Jinjusikdang?

Guho Jeong. Not only does he manage several brands, he also has experience in directing movies and performances and launching several products. His enthusiasm to collaborate is unbelievable. Even his taste is unique.

Doha Ham’s Favorites

Favorite artist?

Jeff Koons

Item you want to buy the most?

Travel suitcase

Most beautiful item you saw recently?

Artist Jinkyung Shin’s furniture made from Korean traditional paper

Weekend plans?


A movie you would watch again?

The Fortress

Favorite place of travel?


Most embarrassing moment?

When I saw my work from 4~5 years ago

What do you want to tell the world?  

Acknowledge the time and value of my furniture as much as I put effort into my work

Furniture Designer Doha Ham’s Hangover Cure Ramen Recipe


Ramen 1 package, tteogut tteok (rice cake for soup) 10 slices, 4 anchovies, 1 piece of kelp, mixed seafood (squid, shells, etc), bean sprouts 250g, 1 egg, cheongyang pepper, chilli powder,  seaweed powder

1. Boil water in a medium pot.

2. When the water is boiling add rice cake, anchovies, kelp and seafood. Cook for 2 minutes

3. Add noodle, ramen seasoning and egg. Add cheongyang pepper and chilli pepper to taste.

4. 30 seconds later add bean sprouts, close lid and cook for 1 minute. Turn off fire.

5. Keep the lid closed and let it steam for 2 more minutes. Place noodles in a bowl add seaweed powder and enjoy.

Creative Director | Jinju Kang

Writer | Anna Gye


Doha Ham’s Instragram

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