Jee Hoon Stark, also known as Hatori Sando, is a painter and architect who has been collaborating with Too Cool For School for several years on the Dinoplatz line. He and the TCFS Creative Director, Young Ah Kim, have been friends for many more years, and in this interview they got together to discuss what Jee Hoon is up to these days. Find out more about Jee Hoon Stark and what he is up to now!
For me, the biggest challenge is not finding a project but being able to take time for understanding the new environment.
With unexpected turns in life, I was able to reside and work in New York, Honolulu, Munich, Japan, and now Seoul.
These places gave me a wider perspective on differences in culture, language, and life in general.
Y: How’s life in Seoul? How long have you been living there?
JH: This is my second time coming back to Korea. It is very pleasant to be back. I just found a live / work space, but when I arrived last year TCFS was really kind to let me use their studio space in Myeongdong., which was great.
In the past, Korea has been my childhood sentiment. This time, my perspective has matured and I’m really enjoying life here in Seoul. Neutrally, I was surprised to see how much it changed and didn't change. I have been here for about 16 months and am now beginning to adapt to new environment.
Y: How is the residency going?
JH: I am not sure if I would call it a residency. If it is, it would be more like a personal residency. I have always found a way to motivate and create in the new environment. The biggest challenge is not finding a project but being able to take time for understanding the new environment. I have always appreciated that challenge, and taking my time.
Y: You have, perhaps, an unusual nomadic life. I think people might be interested to know where you have lived before.
JH: I was 13 years old when I came to the US from Korea. From the beginning of my new life in a small town in Iowa, it was that point on that I was able to build and adapt to new conditions of life and environment. I am an American (North American) but in the heart I realized I have always been comfortable as an expatriate. For me, it’s very difficult to explain this thought in words. With unexpected turns in life, I was able to reside and work in New York, Honolulu, Munich, and now in Seoul. These places gave me a wider perspective on differences in culture, language, and life in general. They gave me motivation for my last 15 years of works.
Y: And where would you like to live next?
JH: If an opportunity comes along, I would like to explore South America. I have always been intrigued by the landscape and bright colors of South America.
Y: Maybe you can talk about how you have been working with TCFS for the past few years.
JH: It’s been wonderful to work with the TCFS team. At first, I was clueless about the cosmetics world, but over the years I am learning and building an ongoing relationship with them as a team. I have always enjoyed listening to TCFS and their attitude towards new ideas and collaborators. The openness and freedom of creative ideas and ultimately having fun doing it! We understood each other naturally and I believe that was the key to our continuation of ongoing projects.
Y: Hatori Sando, Jee Hoon Stark, who are these people? Who are you? Why do you use two artist names?
JH: No real reason. I really liked the name and I thought it would be interesting to create Hatori Sando as a colorless draftsman. Mainly focusing on drawings evolving around everyday objects and space.
Y: Architecture, drawing, painting, and lately you’ve been into ceramics too! How did that come about and what kind of challenge is it to work with clay?
JH: Three years ago, I came to Korea for a two-month long commissioned project. At that time, I had an opportunity to visit a ceramic village in Icheon (city south of Seoul) and discovered some wonderful ceramic works. I was positively influenced and realized it would be great to learn and incorporate my paintings/drawings onto three-dimensional works. It’s been intriguing to see how three-dimensional form works with two-dimensional lines. I really appreciate clay! (earthy soil with senses). It’s one of those materials with long history. For me, working with clay is a surfer riding waves. It takes time and patience to get familiar with its form of nature, and once you understand it, you have so much more to appreciate. I have always enjoyed working with hand, whether it's clay, wood, metal, or paint. At the moment, I have found a wonderful pottery studio in Seoul and am working on new series of cups and vases.
Y: What’s your favorite food this time of year?
JH: I feel it changes every autumn. And it depends on what is available during each season. I have enjoyed and appreciated seasonal food. At the moment, it's simple comfort food at home. Green tea over burnt rice with Korean side dishes. It’s a similar dish to Japanese Ochazuke. I almost have it every day.
Y: What do you miss most from The States?
JH: Hard to narrow it down. From Iowa, my mother’s rhubarb pie and wake up to country fog in the peaceful morning. And from New York, different faces of people and riding my bicycle in the scented city. From Hawaii, papaya and swimming under the sunny rain.
Y: What music are you listening to nowadays?
JH: I enjoy a variety of music and it always changes depending on the seasons, but I would say Tom Waits is someone I have always enjoyed at any moment. Currently I am listening to early years of Tom waits and road songs of Townes Van Zandt. I have also enjoyed listening to young musicians from Korea. Zion.T would be one particular Korean musician I am tuned in now… He is wonderful.
Y: What’s the best that Korea has to offer? And the worst?
JH: In my personal thought, it would be “Patience” for both best and worst.
Y: Please give us your prediction for the next ‘hit’ makeup product :p
Hum… With my limited knowledge of the cosmetic world, and without the context of the cosmetic ingredients, I would like to see (if not already existing) the essence of Korean pottery emerging with Korean makeup products. I wish to see more of the inner beauty of Korean pottery and it would be interesting to see that collide with cosmetic beauty. For me, I always saw buildings and products as part of human form; therefore I see them as living-life forms… skin and surfaces… I am not sure if this will be a ‘hit’ (hahaha).
*Stark was slightly timid about publishing his own photograph and kindly denied to provide his portrait for this interview.
Here is a short video by TCFS New York creative team
and Hatori Sando starring Too Cool For School's Dinoplatz Dino.