am Chung is an artist who loves to explore the balance among form, function and design. Whether he’s working on hand-carved stone pots or wheel-thrown porcelain creations inspired by a book of Korean cloud motifs, Chung looks to influences beyond the art world and history. Read on to see how Prince and R2D2 figure into the Arizona maker’s worldview.
Tell us about your most treasured creation.
Probably a small pouring pot I made when I was 23. I was completely immersed in making pottery, and my professor at the time told me to hold on to the pot … because I would appreciate it later in life. I still have it, and I do appreciate it, but mainly because it reminds me of a time in my life when I felt invincible.
How did you know this is what you wanted to do for a living?
I realized in my final year of college that I was completely obsessed with ceramics and making pots. I spent almost all of my time in the studio. I decided then that I wanted to fit my life into ceramics versus fitting ceramics into my life.
What’s the story behind the best gift you’ve ever received?
“Star Wars” came out when I was a little kid, and I was crazy about it. It was almost Christmas, and I snuck into my parents’ closet to search for my present. I found the R2D2 “Star Wars” figure they were going to give me. It was hidden high up on a shelf. I was so excited, but this also meant I had perform my “surprised child” act when I opened it on Christmas Day.
Tell us about your first job and what you learned from it.
I had to move railroad ties for a city landscaping job. I learned that I would do anything to find a career that didn’t involve moving railroad ties.
Tell us about your all-time favorite piece in your home.
I have a large ceramic platter made by artist Akio Takamori with a naked man and woman painted on it. He was an artist I admired greatly when I was starting to work in ceramics. Years later, when I was in graduate school, he critiqued my work and wanted to buy one of my pieces. I requested a trade instead and now have this amazing platter. He passed away in 2017, so it’s that much more meaningful.
The artist I look up to the most is…
Prince. He was from my home state of Minnesota, and he was the first rock musician I saw perform live. I’ve always admired his musical talent and his ability to express himself so freely. He was fearless and prolific. He still inspires me even though he worked in an entirely different field than my own.
If you could get feedback on your work from anyone, whom would it be?
My great-grandfather from Korea whom I never met. Apparently, he was a talented poet and calligrapher. I would love to hear what he would have to say about my pottery based on his creative mind.
If you were given $20,000, how would you spend it?
At this point in time, I would definitely spend it on a gas kiln. It’s the gift that keeps on giving!
PHOTOS: BRANDON SULLIVAN
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