Meet Namhyung Cho

NAMHYUNG CHO is a potter and member of Semiahmoo Potters Society and Semiahmoo Arts.  Originally from South Korea, Namhyung combines his cultural heritage with Canadian history to make impressive busts of Canadian historic figures such as Lester B. Pearson and John A. Macdonald. We sat down with Namhyung and talked about his art and where he gets his inspiration from.

“I make my sculptures in a way that allows others to understand historical value and knowledge in a visual way.”

Tell us about your background and how you became a potter.   
I was born in Korea and had a love of art at a very young age leading me to join several art clubs in elementary and high school for fun. This sparked my passion for the arts and my creative outlet was the driving force for me to go into art school. I graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts and very much enjoyed the process of creating and learning as a student.
After graduation, I worked with a variety of art mediums, such as stone, bronze, and polyester/poly coat, which sparked my interest in 2D graphics. After I immigrated to Canada, I found a particular interest in 3D computer graphic works, knowing how popular the 3D animations and all those digital art styles were becoming.
I decided to dive into learning more about computer animation by doing more schooling and received my diploma in 3D computer graphics. All of these prior learning experiences have contributed to the development of my skill sets as well as my personal development. I still find them very useful for my artwork and creativity.

When did you find your passion for pottery and decide to join Semiahmoo Potters Society? 
I already had some experience and basic skills with terracotta and clay. When I started off, I had a liking for clay and some proficiency, which made the handling of clay very comforting.  My daughter’s art class project in 2016 inspired me to join Semiahmoo Potters Society and look for more inspiration. All the artworks at SPS were beautiful and this made me realize that I could expand on the types of mediums I can work with through clay-making and pottery making. 
There is a temporal evolution in Korean sculptures.  How do you incorporate your cultural influence in your artwork? 
Before I started working on my bust sculptures, I have incorporated many of my cultural influences from Korea, such as environment, the feel of the art works, viewpoint and style. However, my education includes western-influenced art techniques and basics that also had a lot of influence in my work. I believe the biggest struggle for any artist is choosing the right material, mood, and style. 
I have struggled and put a lot of thought into the type of style I want to use for many of my artworks so far. This has resulted in me pushing forward to try new things and combine my cultural roots with western influences in my art.

There is a poetic beauty in your sculptures. What is your motiviation behind your busts of Canadian Heroes such as Louis Riel and Lester B. Pearson?
I always had a great amount of interest in Korean history, which expanded to Canadian history upon my arrival to Canada. I believe that history is very important, as it teaches us valuable life lessons for the present and the future. I make my sculptures in a way that allows others to understand the historical value and knowledge in a visual way. I got inspired by the many historical buildings and sculptures of historical figures. This became a big incentive for me to have a very historical mindset with which I visually sculpt what these figures have left for us. The sculptures are a reminder of all the influential figures in history. People today can lead a good life thanks to the legacy of those who have stood up for their rights and for the rights of future generations. As an artist, I believe our job and responsibility is to remind others of the hardships that past generations have gone through and the things they have done for us.     
What do you enjoy most about being inside SAS Pottery Studio?
The interactions between other pottery members is the most enjoyable aspect of  working at the studio. The exchange of ideas I get from others are great and mind opening. Being in this great community, I get to see a glimpse of each person’s lifestyle and their philosophy through everyday interactions. This allows me to be more understanding of those around me and allows me to develop more as a person. It helped me develop as a person and as a creative artist.  I love being part of SPS and it is a great place for anyone to expand their creativity as Semiahmoo Arts Society provides lots of space for many 
creative outlets. 

How do you approach your work, before you start making these beautiful busts? 
The first step involves research, analyzation and drawing. I read about the history and background of the historical figures through some web searches. Before I work on the actual clay bust, I look at the things that could be problematic to realize in 3D. I then draw out the figures on paper to solve the problem by comparing real pictures to my drawings. To me, this is the most important process, because it allows me to configure the 2D pictures into 3D visually by combining different resources and pictures. This analysis allows me to have a basic visual look at the sculptures and see my figures’ facial expressions. It is important to me to capture their emotions through my artworks. This is why I look at what kind of influence my characters had in history. The next step involves the clay. I start by coiling clay to build the base of the bust. I then imagine their facial structures and build on it from the head. As I progress, I gradually hollow out the insides.     After the clay dries a bit, it becomes easier to work on the basic details and scrape out more of the insides of the sculpture and make the walls thinner. I work on the finer details such as wrinkles and hair which is also easier to work with as the clay hardens. Finally, I let the piece dry for the last time then put the finalized piece into the kiln for the firing. 

Is there is anything else you’d like to tell us?
Being a member with SAS has been a great experience and I am thankful to be part of this community. The environment is very friendly and everyone is nice.