Seungjin Yang turns balloons into beautiful furniture

Written by Lea Dolan, CNN

Plump, fluffy and – for lack of a better word – squishy accessories have dominated homes and Instagram feeds since the 1970s design revival began about two years ago. Vogue dubbed puffy furniture “the most delicious home trend of 2021” last May, while The New York Times touted the ubiquity of plush sofas, chairs and ottomans as akin to the craze for the pandemic-induced sweatpants of 2020. A 70s velvet armchair by Tobia and Afra Scarpa – “la Soriana” – can set you back up to £6,461 (about $7,800), while a perfectly rendered donut pouf by New Zealand designer Sabine Marcelis costs €1,599 ($1,640).

But while Scarpa and Marcelis’ designs encourage a soft, flowing sitting experience, there’s one designer who’s bucking the bubble trend. South Korean artist, Seungjin Yang, makes candy-colored bulbous chairs, stools and benches with a twist – his pieces are made from real inflatable balloons. Since graduating from Hongik University in Seoul in 2013, Yang’s main design activity has been making sturdy, structurally sound furniture from rubber party favors.

The chairs are architecturally sound and “can’t be busted,” Yang says. Credit: Courtesy of Seungjin Yang

Each piece of furniture takes about two weeks to create, and Yang says they “can’t be shattered” thanks to a special epoxy resin coating. “My work is brilliant when done,” Yang told CNN via email. “Some people think (the finished product) won’t be difficult, but it’s difficult.”

The balloons are inflated and then molded into different shapes to form each part of the design. For example, a stool has 3 “legs” and a longer ball is made into a spiral shape for the seat. The colored resin is applied in layers; with more layers needed to make the delicate material strong enough to hold weight. Once all the elements are dry and solid, the furniture is assembled and dipped in the resin one last time.

The artist’s striking portfolio – which at first glance looks like the aftermath of a child’s birthday party – has caught the eye of design aficionados, some of whom have participated in various design and craft festivals. . In 2021, Dior commissioned Yang to reinterpret the fashion house’s iconic medallion chair for Milan Design Week, alongside 16 other artists and designers. “For me, adults can still play like kids,” he said in a video promoting the event.

The artist currently plans to exhibit for Design Miami in November and hopes to hold a solo show in New York early next year. He’s also looking to push the boundaries of balloon design even further with bigger pieces, like making a two-person sofa.

See the gallery above for a preview of the artist’s ongoing “Blowing” series.

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