We've been following the work of artist and designer Bae Se Hwa since we first discovered his steam bent series back in 2010 (and soon after realized he has an entire body of non-bentwood work that's just as compelling). We got our first chance to appreciate Se Hwa's rigorous work in person while visiting his current exhibition at R & Company in New York, and the pieces were every bit as extraordinary as we expected them to be.
The installation is kept minimal, letting the sculptural designs speak for themselves
Detail of the Steam 20 bench
Steam 12 lounge chair
Steam 15 lounge chair
Comprised of only six designs—two benches, three lounge chairs, and a desk—the intimate exhibition is actually the largest dedicated to Se Hwa's work to date. He begins his process digitally, using rendering programs to generate a precise geometric diagram. Then he transitions to handcraft as he molds each piece from individual strips of dark walnut. Each strip is warmed in a steam box until it's pliable enough to shape over a structural frame. The fluid designs incorporate nooks and depressions that define places to sit.
The Steam 18 desk in Bae Se Hwa's studio
Detail of the slatted structure draping over the counter of the Steam 18 desk
Working alone out of his studio near Seoul, the time-intensive process means that Se Hwa only finishes three to five pieces a year. Equal parts function and sculpture, it's no surprise that over the years they've become highly covetable collector's pieces.
For a sneak peek behind his process, check out this mesmerizing video of Se Hwa at work.