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[Herald Interview] Glass artist Kim Ki-ra looks back on life

During the creation of her latest collection “Dear Life,” glass artist Kim Ki-ra went to hell and back, and lived to tell the tale.

“While I was working on the series, I hit the lowest point of my life (due to personal issues),” the artist told The Korea Herald Tuesday at Gallery Sklo, where her solo exhibition is currently being held. “But during this time, I also realized that I can truly rely on myself as an artist, even in desperate situations.”

In those trying times, Kim found inspiration in everyday household items to capture the nearly six decades of her life.

She had originally started off preparing her current exhibition with the “Door” series, which signifies more than just a new beginning for the artist.

“There is a certain irony associated with doors,” Kim noted. “Whether you open a new door with or without hesitation, the end result will be the same.”
Glass artist Kim Ki-ra (Gallery Sklo)
Glass artist Kim Ki-ra (Gallery Sklo)

However, her focus eventually shifted to encompass all aspects of life -- from everyday annoyances to life-changing milestones -- when she was gifted Canadian writer Alice Munro’s short story collection “Dear Life” earlier this year.

With a new concept in mind, she continued working with kiln-formed glass to create the four-piece “Dear Life” series. In one creation, a glass block in the shape of a house is propped on a bed of steel nails.

“A nail -- by itself -- is useless, but bring some together, and you can build houses and furniture,” she explained. “I wanted to capture that a home or a family is not the effort of just one thing.”

Kim, whose first love was ceramic art, got her first deep look at glass and its intricacies during her time at the Rhode Island School of Design in the 1980s.

Recognized as one of the key figures in popularizing the modern studio glass movement in Korea, Kim is currently the Head of Glass Studio at Kookmin University’s Graduate School of Design.

Dear Life I by Kim Ki-ra (Gallery Sklo)
Dear Life I by Kim Ki-ra (Gallery Sklo)

However, as an artist and an educator, Kim fears for the future of glass art in the country.

The public and academic rhetoric around studio glass returned to the country just within the last 25 years after disappearing at the beginning of Korea’s Goryeo Kingdom, according to Kim. However, as Korean universities are tightening their belts, it is facing a danger of disappearing from Korean culture once again.

“The survival of glass art depends on the interest and curiosity from the public,” she said. “As a professor, it’s important for me to show my students how much this art brings me joy, and inspire them to do the same.”

Kim’s exhibition “Dear Life” will run at Gallery Sklo in Sinsa-dong, Seoul until Oct. 23.

By Kim Yu-young (
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