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ARTIST ROOM | Annaliisa Alastalo

Glass Artist Annaliisa Alastalo


Crystal Clear like Glass,
Glass Artist Annaliisa Alastalo

I remember the time I read about Annaliisa Alastalo from Finland, her husband Sung Hwan Hong (glass artist and architect) and their two daughters Saaga and Saara in a magazine article. Their cozy house on a mountain slope in Namyangju, the family in their front garden looked happy. It was as if they are living the life of every artists’ dream. Their house shined with glass artworks made by the couple. Their lives were crystal clear and pure like glass. Their studio with a glass furnace at the center looked peaceful as nothing dangerous was happening. Their glass like impression did not only inspire the magazine editor but also readers and many people. They were soon featured in many other publications and television. In 2011, the couple released 2 books (SEEDPAPER)that portrays their lifestyle. I wanted to hear their story of how aritst Hong Sung Hwan fell in love with Annaliisa when he was gaining fame in Europe, the story of how they settled in Korea and moved to Namyangju to a house they built on their own for their children. I wanted to know more about their slow lifestyle in Korea, interior decor, food and education philosophy. I was eager to meet them in person. More so as I progressed through their book.



I headed to Namyangju to meet them. I was curious to see how their family had changed over time since the last time I saw them on television. It has been 12 years since Annaliisa came to Korea and it seemed like she has been more active as a glass artist. There on a mountain slope was a familiar house. Annaliisa walked through cherry colored flowers to greet me. “Hello, welcome to our place,” said Annaliisa in fluent Korean.  The place was filled with her recent works of goblets and dome shaped glassworks. There were some works that were inspired by Korean celadons. Not “blue” but “blue-like” colors. That glass shined with Korean aura. “Recently I have been focusing in my work. Not procrastinating but finding time everyday to work on my artwork freely. Other than glassblowing I have also been working with textiles and I have also been hosting events. Simply put, I am showcasing Annaliisa style. I post my works on my blog (https://blog.naver.com/annaliisa) and Instagram(www.instgram.com/annaliisa_alastalo). An artist’s lifestyle in itself becomes work.”

The TV in the gallery was playing a video produced by Annaliisa’s husband Sung Hwan Hong (videos my be watched at Youtube Annaliisa_Annaliisa Alastalo). The video portrayed the surroundings of the house during the four different seasons. In the video, there were scenes of how beautiful glass objects are made and how they embellish everyday lives. The scenes were irreplaceable with words. “In the beginning, the first floor had two sections: the gallery and studio. Now that the kids have grown, we decided to knock down the wall and change the layout. The space of the gallery has been strengthened and the studio has become brighter which is better when working with glass. On a sunny day like today, we get full light through the big windows. Glass is fuller with life when it is reflected on light.”



On the way to the studio, there were a collection of her most recent works, all different shapes, colors and sizes. As we were heading to the studio, her husband Sung Hwan Hong had just finished his work and was coming back home. She put on her coveralls and turned the furnace light on. “The room might get warm but I will slowly show you how glasswork is made. If you see the process, you will understand what the work entails and you will start falling in love with glass.”

Annaliisa and artist Sung Hwan Hong worked in the furnace station as if they were a synced being. One person would melt the glass while the other cooled; one person shaped the  while other perfected details. They demonstrated what is known as glassworks most crucial stage, glassblowing. They would melt colored glass at the tip of the pipe in the furnace, then use a wooden block and wet newpaper to cool one side of the glass. Annaliisa blew in through the pipe. The glass showed a lovely color and was blown into a beautiful shape. Extra time is required when making goblets because there are additional steps where first the base and the body is made separately then later pasted together. Several assistants can finish the work in no time, however Sung Hwan Hong easily can take on the job of two persons. The goblet quickly took its form. That moment when you need artists’ skills, expertise and artistic sense, the face of the two artists heated as the work picked up pace.







“Isn’t it like magic? The way glass melts in heat and unveils its lovely color as it cools and hardens? I have been falling in love with this mystical material. The more I work with glass, the more I feel more its charm.”

I didn’t know when it was being melted but as it cools, the glass finds its true color. It’s like discovering a hidden color.

Isn’t it like magic? Originally, I was majoring in ceramics and glass at University in Helsinki. I had an opportunity to take a glassblowing class and I fell in love with this magic-like material. The color and the texture of glass is different as it reveals its color when it  cools and the hue it displays as it receives light. It takes a different shape depending on its use.

Then how should we use a goblet? Your blog (https://blog.naver.com/annaliisa) shows the different ways to use your products. That very distinctive from other artists. Most artists, instead of creating products for practical use, put effort in increasing the value of the object.

How would you define handcrafting? Handcrafting is the act of creating practical objects with your hands or simple tools. Long time ago when moms made patchwork quilts, that is also handcraft. Therefore handcraft entails satisfying artistic appeal and practical use. That kind of education is taken seriously in Finland. We are always thinking of practicality of handcrafted products. you have to try to create a functional and artistic object also. Goblets may be used a wine glasses or for drinking water. But it may also be used to as a vase or as a candle holder. Sometimes you may leave it as it is and use it for decor. My goal is to make glass objects that naturally appear in our everyday lives. .

I originally thought glasswork was beautiful because of its clarity, however your work contains a lot of distinct colors. I especially like the opaque glass object inspired by the Korean celadon. The bluish color is quite attractive.

I have never started working on something with expected end results with a certain color or texture. I go with the flow. Sometimes I suddenly get inspired while I am gardening and sometimes I go through the same process and end up with a different result. On the opaque side of the glass, I wanted to create glass bubbles but it wasn’t completed planned. The bubbles gave a peculiar touch. I start working on a piece with a general plan, but the details are dependent on that day’s situation and emotions. Therefore no piece is alike. My husband likes perfecting the aesthetic of the glass and I prefer working in a impromptu way with what the result might be a coincidence.



Are you influenced by working with glass in Korea? I see a lot of Korean aspects to your work.

That might be the case since I am living in Korea. I prefer calling my work natural over Korean or Asian. The experience of living in nature with flowers and fruit trees, and the different colors of the seasons is what influences my work. My recent works of opaque, pastel tone goblets are also inspired by nature. If possible, I avoid rigid working style to have a more of a natural flow.

That glass vase with the flower on top of the small table, your pieces shine even with one flower.

What I love the most after moving to Namyanju, is the fact I can enjoy the change of the garden scenery during the four seasons. My husband decorated the garden with recyclable objects he found in the neighborhood and the people love it.  I start my morning routine with an espresso on the bench. My pieces are better fit for one simple wild flower rather than a bouquet of flowers. A little while ago, a florist expressed interest in a flower arrangement class with my work so we did a class together. I never officially learned flower arrangement. Since I was little, I used to pick flowers and decorate my house. Since most houses in Finland has a garden, people grow herbs and vegetables. Moreover, since there are many forests, we have experience with plants and a lot of the times we go to the mountains for vacations. The closer I am to plants, I feel comfortable and relaxed. As describe, that is slow life. When I first came to Korea, I lived in Insadong. I had a hard time adjusting. After the children were born, I had more of an urge to live in a nature friendly place. Here I am surrounded by flowers and greenery.  I wish my daughters were closer to nature and have the desire to learn from being outside. However, they like to sit on their desk and study.

Korean education is competitive. Have you ever thought of going back to Finland for your children?

Yes, I have. I would like them to study in a more relaxed environment. Nonetheless, the happiness of my daughter and my family is my priority. It doesn’t matter if we are in Korea or in Finland as long as we are happy and each of us are doing that we enjoy.




“It doesn’t matter if we are in Korea or in Finland as long as we are happy I can live anywhere. I am in luck that I was able to discover  what I love and what I am good at. I feel rewarded through my work and being acknowledged by others increases my self-esteem.”

When is your happiest moment? Is it when you are working with glass?

Yes. I am the happiest when I am working with glass. It has only been 10 years that I have been active as a glass artist under the name “Annaliisa Alastalo.” Recently I have started to make clothes as well. When the children were young, I made clothes for them with organic cotton. Now I am making dresses for adults with organic material. I also love cooking, so I hosted a class where we bake and dine together. I also love food styling. My husband records the moment and produces videos. I uploaded the videos on social media and the audiences really like them.  I am in luck that I was able to discover what I love and I am good at. I feel rewarded through my work and being acknowledged by others increases my self-esteem.

I saw that you opened a cafe and workshop program for those who want to visit this place.

Many people have expressed interest in purchasing my pieces. I have told them I am not selling any products over the phone or through the internet. If time allows, I tell them to come visit the Namyangju gallery, have some tea and purchase the pieces that they really like. One must feel and see handcrafted products in order to know it is truly theirs. Customers may learn how to use my products, see my studio and enjoy tea in a peaceful setting. They may also have a conversation with me!

(Annaliisa suggested we have some drinks and cake while continuing the interview. Before heading to the kitchen, she went inside the DJ box (area with music equipment) and turned on her favorite song, a Swedish pop song. She placed a cake served in a beautiful colored glass plate along with a glass of lemonade on top of the table with gleaming sun rays. As the sun shined against opaque glass, it couldn’t compare to clear glass. Her humming made the glass look even lovelier.)



“You life changes when you are surrounded by nature and beautiful objects. Your heart and soul is also relaxed. I would like for people to not only enjoy my products but also to experience nature friendly lifestyle at this place. My husband and I are always open to invite people who are ready to embrace nature. ”

The kitchen wall made with cement bricks, the bathroom lights made from antique material are all aspects that makes this house cozy. The antique furniture by the front door looks like a special item.

It is an antique cabinet from Finland. As time passes the furniture becomes lovelier. Therefore I moved it near the front door and it has been quite useful. I also really like the small table by the window, which my friend gave me as a gift. All the furniture we own has either been around since I was a child or are old items we have picked up. My husdand and I have reformed them. People around us are surprised by the way we transform each piece of furniture. Sometimes people bring useless furniture to our place. Haha.

I truly think people will experience the charm of glass that they did not know before. For me, glass was a cold and chic material. But after experiencing glass at this place I feel the warmth of glass and its charm as it receives sunlight. I even feel the mystical vibe that opaque glass gives.

You will love glass more as you use it rather than by merely looking at it. You can use it anywhere. Like the simple happiness it gives by having a piece of cake and a glass of lemonade. I would really like you to feel the happiness I blew into glass.


Annaliisa’s Tate

Most recently purchased object?

On May, I bought some antique silverware in the only antique shop in my hometown in Finland

Any standard when purchasing objects?

I normally buy only items that do not their value over time

Where would you like to go right this instant ?

A place with cool breeze and water.

Favorite restaurant near your place?

I often go to restaurants with fresh Korean side dishes.

What dish is a must during a family feast?

Stew like Goulash and apple pie.

Another charming material that is not glass?

Ceramic, textile.

Favorite color?

Jade and amber


Date Bundt Cake Recipe

This traditional cake is normally eaten in Finland during the darkest winter, but I love to bake it year round, whenever I want to taste a bite of my childhood. It’s also always nice looking treat on my cake plates.


200g pitted dates, chopped up, 200cc water, 200g butter, 2 eggs, 150cc sugar, 1 tbsp vanilla sugar, 100cc sour cream, 350cc cake flour, Pinch salt, 2tsp baking soda

1. Preheat oven to 170C. .

2. Butter and flour a bundt tin. Place the dates into a saucepan, add water and boil until the dates are soft. Add butter and let it melt. Stir to combine. Allow to cool for 10 minutes.

3. Whisk the eggs and sugar until they form a fluffy foam. Stir in the vanilla sugar and sour cream.

4. Place the flour, baking soda and salt in a large bowl and whisk to distribute. Then add, little by little, the flour mixture into the egg-sugar foam combining with a spatula gradually adding more.

5. Add the date-butter mixture into the dough and mix well

6. Pour into the prepared tin and bake for 50-60 minutes.

7. Allow to cool completely before removing from the tin.


JINJUSIKDANG is ready to explore through observing life style of selected artist such as what he or she wears, eats and where to live in.

Creative Director | Jinju Kang

Writer | Anna Gye


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