My Friend the Artist: Mr Il Hwan Bae
By Luke Woolley
I love my job. My job is to take the artistic visions from incredible designers and make them a reality.
Last year on the Winter Olympics in PyeongChang I worked with Mr Il Hwan Bae from Seoul, South Korea. When the Red Circle Projects team first received the sketches from the committee, we were excited, the designs looked fantastic, and we could see the potential of what we could do with the designs that came through. On our first meeting he stayed quiet, allowed the translator to do most of the talking between us but we understood each other’s roles.
On my first trip to Seoul to run through the rehearsal puppets, we really got to work on collaborating. I was taken to a number of Hanji paper suppliers with hundreds of different types of the handcrafted paper. The respect shown to the paper, the craftsmanship and the brushes is incredible.
In my time with Mr Bae he pulled out his notebook and paint brushes that he carries with him and made a sketch for me as a memento.
It was a sketch of Bodhidharma, a Buddhist monk who lived in the 6th century, the portrait means against the evil and blessing life, a charm. Mr Bae followed this to tell me the story of when he was 4 years old he began learning Chinese writing with paint on the Hanji paper, and it was the start of his life heading to design and the arts.
On my final night on the first time in Seoul, Mr Bae took me to a restaurant in Itaewon for gul bossam (Korean pork lettuce wraps with oyster).
We discussed politics, work, life, love, and bonded over the amazing food.
From then on our working relationship was fantastic, I had understood where the vision had started for the show and how it had evolved from the beginning. He knew that he could trust Red Circle Projects and that we were all working for a common goal.
Mr Bae began his career studying in cartoon and animation, doing a few short films. His first ceremony project was for the Asian games and expo in Korea. His first involvement with the Olympics was the handover section at the Sochi Winter Olympics Closing Ceremony involved in the projection. He is now a bit of a superstar in Korea after becoming labelled the father of the Man Bird, which became an internet sensation overnight. My last night in Korea after the ceremony he was receiving phone calls non-stop. It was as if I was having dinner with a movie star.
He is now working on a new project for the Korean National Summer Sports Opening Ceremony. If you are ever in Korea and looking for a designer, I urge you, go meet my friend Mr Il Hwan Bae.