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Inside the Collection: Sung-Ran Kim

This month we’re featuring Sung-Ran Kim, a Korean-born metalsmith and pioneer in the technique of electroforming.

Kim was born in Seoul in 1960. In 1984, she earned a BFA in Metalcraft from Hongik University and stayed in the program to complete an MFA in 1987. Unusual for an artist, Kim decided to pursue a second graduate degree, and in 1994, she graduated with distinction from the University of Iowa with an MFA in Metalsmithing and Jewelry. It was in Iowa that she studied under Chunghi Choo, a fellow Korean-born metalsmith, sculptor, and jeweler. Choo taught her how to electroform, and together they further perfected the technique.

Like electroplating, electroforming deposits thin layers of metal on a base form using an electric current. However, in electroforming, the plating is thicker, a 0.1 - 3 mm range verses the 0.001 - 0.05 mm used in electroplating. Furthermore, after the electroforming process, the base form is removed, unlike in electroplating, and the resulting electroformed piece is a fine, self-supporting structure. This technique allows the artist to produce more complex work than could be made by hand. Choo and Kim pioneered this method to create multifaceted, unique designs, and Kim specifically utilizes electroforming to produce intricate silver folds in her work. She has also written three books on electroforming in both Korean and English, and her 2003 publication Electroforming for Metalsmithing & Jewelry is in the Metal Museum’s Library for those interested in learning more about this technique.

Kim has exhibited her work at various venues in the United States and South Korea and won many awards, including first prize in the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art’s 1995 juried exhibition Korean Craft. Additionally, she has been teaching metalsmithing and jewelry making at universities in Seoul since the late 1990s. Many of her works can be found in museums and private collections around the world, including at the Museum of Arts and Design in New York, Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum, and the Stanley Museum of Art at the University of Iowa. The Metal Museum currently has two silver pieces by Sung-Ran Kim in the Permanent Collection, both made in 1998 using the electroforming technique. One is a bracelet, and the other is a small vessel entitled “Lamp Oil Container.” Both pieces were donated to the Museum by Kim’s mentor Chunghi Choo in 2004 and were also published in Electroforming for Metalsmithing & Jewelry. These works are on permanent display in the Metal Museum’s Visible Storage Gallery.

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