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Jiho & Sam, Titirangi

Words by Yasmine Ganley

Images by Greta Van Der Star

The name Walk In The Park suggests the idea of slowing down, taking in your surroundings and enjoying the quieter moments. Working with timbers such as Totara, Puriri, Ebony and Kauri their collection palette ranges from green to gold to black. Each piece is smoothed and oiled in beeswax to celebrate the wood’s natural grain and knotted features. The collection en masse is exceptionally soothing to look over, with arching and rolling organic lines and the curved wood softly glowing.

Built with a combination of materials, their studio is split into two floors connected by a steel and wood ladder. The lower section hosts all of Sam’s wood making machinery, while the upper level reveals Jiho’s sanctuary, complete with a built-in desk, a display wall of their recent wooden pieces and two cane loungers with a view into the native canopy. These two working spaces give a glimpse into Walk In The Park’s overarching aesthetic — a merging of their appreciation towards the functional and classic (seen in their collection of vintage pieces dotted around the studio), and the forever-changing organic surroundings growing just outside their slanted windows.

 

Where does your love for wood stem from?

Sam: I studied furniture design in Korea and after that, all of my interests have been related with wood. I am now turning wood and have found it has given me so much satisfaction as there is greater chance to interact with the material, getting to feel the raw texture, aroma and characters of each type of wood while carving. I think this keeps me digging into the world of wood.

I studied furniture design in Korea and after that, all of my interests have been related with wood. I am now turning wood and have found it has given me so much satisfaction as there is greater chance to interact with the material, getting to feel the raw texture, aroma and characters of each type of wood while carving.

We love your use of native timbers, where do you source your materials?

I had been searching for native wood for quite a long time before I started wood turning, as most timber suppliers sell only a few native species with size limitation and lots of imported wood. So, after a lot of searches and visits to a few weird places, I finally reached an amazing place in Matamata. The guy there (Graham Oliver) is a professional wood turner and is selling the best selection of native wood and New Zealand grown exotic timber for wood turners and crafters.

 

How do you find the local creative community in Auckland? How have you found yourself supported within this, and how do you enjoy other makers’ offerings?

We were very impressed with how local makers are supported by the community and the city. For instance, there are many places that are easy to show your fresh products in, such as handcraft markets, events and exhibitions, and even the commercial retailers prefer to sell locally made products. Also, New Zealand has really great creative community that is willing to teach and pass on handcraft skills and specific professional skills. I learnt the skill of wood turning from one of these local communities and found them really supportive.

We have found the local makers here create beautiful objects with locally sourced materials and an invisible spirit that, we believe, stems from New Zealand’s natural surroundings. Those inherent abilities keep giving us fresh inspirations and impetus.

 

What are you currently working towards?

We like to make one-off pieces rather than producing a large amount of the same designs. I have decided this is the only way I can keep my creative engine healthy while giving more interesting work to the public. So I can never really tell what I am exactly making at any stage. However, I am planning to make wooden plates and cups with a traditional lacquer finishing, which is the hardest and most durable natural finishing. I have found a lot of kitchenware, especially bowls and cups, have a plastic covering (polyurethane) on them to create a strong barrier against any moisture — it is strong and practical but it does not sound good to me, as there feels to be no real difference from just using plastic bowls and cups.

We like to make one-off pieces rather than producing a large amount of the same designs. I have decided this is the only way I can keep my creative engine healthy while giving more interesting work to the public.

Above: Full Length Apron in Stone.

What are some of your local must-do/see/eat tips?

Watch the $5 movies at Academic Cinemas on Wednesday. They show a lot of beautiful independent and international movies. Sentinel Beach in Herne Bay has a beautiful sunset. It is tiny little beach so you can feel like you have your own private beach. Every Sunday we go to Sea Breeze cafe in Westmere because they have the yummiest brunch and beautiful coffee with nice view outside.

What was the last thing you saw or read that really moved you?

When I was a University student, my tutor recommended the book In Praise of Shadow by Junichiro Tanizaki for my project. In this book, Tanizaki praised all things softened by shadow, the beauty of ageing and anything understated and natural. After reading this book, I have delved into Japanese wabi-sabi aesthetics and have kept developing ways in which to bring these philosophies into my work.

 

You both seem very busy, yet devoted to your practice. What is your trick to staying productive?  

I think we do support and rely on each other a lot. Jiho does all the social media work, packaging and document stuffs, while I am concentrating on producing products. All sole makers will understand (and appreciate) how helpful this partnership is for productivity. Another thing I try to do is make my ‘to do’ list as simple as possible since, I have found it actually helps to improve my self-satisfaction and provides me with better working patterns.

Do you have any morning or nighttime rituals? 

Jiho has a background in film directing, so we are always watching independent movies together most nights after dinner. Also, I have a little space to draw or make small things in our living room. It is always used for a few hours before going to bed. Most my creations have been come out from this space.


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