True Craft: In Conversation with Jeremy Joo
SHARP & ECCO
With the weather cooling down and the leaves turning red and orange outside, it’s about that time of year many of us retreat into our homes to spend the winter hibernating, watching Netflix, and endlessly scrolling our phones. Our home is where we spend most of our waking days, especially those of us working from inside the same room where we cook dinner. Despite living in the city and paying exorbitant amounts for the privilege, the ability to be one with nature can feel so far away. That’s why it’s important to bring nature to you. Your home should be an oasis.
That is what the artist Jeremy Joo is hoping to accomplish. His furniture line is a beautiful minimalistic approach to building natural materials that feel essential in our times and homes. His work feels like a perfect balance of creative expression and sturdy simplicity.
“We humans are a part of nature,” Joo explains, speaking from his Toronto studio. Surrounded by many of his distinctive pieces, the designer looks the part, wearing an ascetic streetwear outfit complete with vintage-looking ECCO Staker boots in oiled nubuck and brown leather, available as part of ECCO’s new Heritage collection. Although Joo lives and works in Toronto, where the harmony between nature and craft can feel chaotic, his work brings a sense of calm and natural beauty to the location it embodies.
Joo’s love for nature is apparent in his work. He takes inspiration from Korea, Japan, India, and parts of Africa. He likes that the proportions are large, and everything is very low to the ground. Either you are sitting on the floor or slightly elevated, but you are always close to the ground and mother nature. This approach is much different from your typical North American household or dining establishment. He finds those cultural ties speak to him much more than western aesthetics. “Looking at modernist pieces from Jean Prouve and Charlotte Perignon definitely gives me inspiration,” he muses.
“I pull from a lot of different places, but it all circles back to my own experiences and how I view the world. It’s a lot of things, and it’s hard to pinpoint exactly where it comes from; many of my ideas are more ethereal than traceable or linear,” he says.
A professional craftsman like Joo relies on premium quality in everything he works with, including footwear. With the rugged and versatile Heritage collection, ECCO brings the best of Nordic craftsmanship to a range of timeless and iconic workwear, with functional, comfortable pieces that are as durable as they are stylish. Like an outstanding piece of artisan-designed furniture, the Heritage collection is all about authenticity, functionality, and, of course, quality.
Jeremy has been spending many days in the studio prepping for a new collection for next year. He just wrapped a four-piece project for the company AAVVGG. His primary focus right now is his day bed, which he hopes to finish by the end of the year. He talks with enthusiasm when describing this new piece, eagerly pulling up samples of what it will look like off his phone.
His day bed borrows from other pieces he has made, like the club chair and the sofa. It has the same exterior shelf seen in his previous work, giving the user a place for their things. It’s simple yet effective. He describes it as a large day bed low to the ground and on the same level as his previous work for a cohesive look and feel. “Everything is very in line with each other,” says Joo.
When finished, it will be upholstered in high-end fabrics and be a real stand out of the new collection. “I think this day bed is going be pretty cool,” he says excitedly; his enthusiasm is infectious. He remarks, “The day bed is a natural extension of the collection for different orientations of the human body.”
Joo started his studio in 2018, working with furniture and object design and hopes to also start including spaces and interior design in the future. Growing up in Toronto in a Korean household, he says “that a lot of the values, the forms and the philosophies of Korea are ingrained” in him.
Throughout his work, he believes there’s a lot of tension at play between the Korean identity versus the Toronto identity versus the global identity. He finds “the interplay the interesting part.” The tension between those worlds can help show you what you like and don’t like about certain things and how you can change that and emulate that for a different design in the future. The past informs his work, but it’s also about dissecting what was bad and what was good and how to move forward. It’s all very poetic in a sense.
His pieces start from a place of familiarity. What feels familiar? How does one sit? How does one sit comfortably? These are thoughts that cross his mind when looking at a new way to design. He wants it to be intrinsic for not only himself but the people he’s thinking about, and from there, it moves into an unfamiliar zone where he has to assemble the pieces. “It’s the chaos of creation.” These pieces are both symbolic and physical. He chooses to work with natural materials and avoids using nails and screws when possible. Everything’s made with genuine care and appreciation of the world around him.
He explains that he wants to emulate what nature does and reduce us to something smaller so we can see the larger picture. He’s not here to make very showy, flashy, hyper-decorative furniture; he wants to create solid furniture for a life to be lived with it.
One of his most noteworthy pieces is the Stool Collection, which was an early example of his love for making platforms. “When you look at a platform, the point of a platform is not to look at the platform. It’s to look at the item it’s holding up. I think the ethos behind the practice is being able to lift up life or lift up the importance of the important things in life, whether that’s nature, family or just thought itself. It’s about lifting the person up, and here’s a platform to do that better.”
He explains deeper, “The furniture is not meant to be the centre of the room. It’s meant to be the architecture of your environment so you can live the life you want.”
“Seeing the gratification of something that was in your mind that wasn’t anything physical that now takes up physical space before you. It’s an exciting feeling and experience. There’s a natural ebb and flow between the familiarity and unfamiliarity of creating new pieces of art.”
Nature and craft feel more essential than ever when it comes to how we live; Jeremy Joo’s work is a living embodiment of that. Bringing nature into the home is super important to him, and is a good reminder that we could all probably do with decluttering our houses and picking up some new furniture that will last a lifetime.
Jeremy Joo’s new collection featuring the day bed is set for release in the spring of 2023.