Detroit-based designer Nina Cho is inspired by her childhood in Seoul, South Korea, and the traditional Korean aesthetic of emptiness.
Born in San Francisco and raised in South Korea, Nina Cho often mines her family’s heritage for inspiration. “My work is influenced by Korean philosophy but doesn’t directly use Eastern aesthetics,” says Cho, who is now based in Detroit after graduating from the Cranbrook Academy of Art in 2015.
Take her interest in negative space, which has generated designs like her Cantilever table, a piece with a surprising ability to stay upright in the absence of supporting legs. “In Korea, we call it the study of emptiness,” says Cho, noting how some Korean painters leave parts of canvases untouched.
Her Maung Maung mirrors, named after a term for an obscured sense of depth, play with intersecting shapes and colors to evoke distant views. “When you look in the mirror, there’s a blurring of space and time,” she says.
Learn how Cho’s first memory of design is connected to the Playmobil dollhouse, and read more of her responses to our Q&A below.
Hometown: Seoul, South Korea
Describe what you make in 140 characters. I merge Eastern philosophy with experimental forms to suggest new ways of functionality and to invite inventive and personal interactions.
What’s the last thing you designed? Maung Maung Mirrors for my solo show with the Colony last year.
Do you have a daily creative ritual? Cooking. It requires me to be organized and creative. I like trying new recipes, especially making fusion foods from diverse cultures I have experienced.
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