We spoke with Bonam Kim, an artist, sculptor, candle maker, and founder of Hannah Candle. Bonam shares how she channels interests and inspiration like imminent beauty and humanity into every piece she creates. She walks us through her journey, craftsmanship, and artistic influences.
I was born and raised in Seoul, South Korea, where I did my undergrad degree. 6 years ago, I moved to New York to attend Pratt Institute. I currently work and live in Brooklyn. I’ve had several jobs, all within the arts community, such as artist assistant, art technician, and art handler. All of these experiences have helped me grow and gave me the inspiration to start my own business.
Art school in Korea is a highly value craftsmanship and I’ve always felt pride in my ability to work with my hands. Wax is a material with a long history and I’ve always been attracted to its transient nature, so I wanted to make a sculpture that engages its temporality and sensuality at a deeper level. After making the candle, I gave it to some friends as a gift, and they gave me the idea to sell it as an art object. That’s when I decided to start my own business. I named it Hannah for it’s meaning in different languages. In Korean it means ‘one’, in Arabic 'happiness', and in Japanese it translates to ‘flower’. I like the idea of a name being able to take a myriad of forms, just like beauty.
I find inspiration in landscapes, foliage, fruits...all things related to nature make me feel inspired and I apply those colors and tones to my product.
Luckily my brand has had a steady organic growth. At the moment, there are 49 stores in the US, 3 stores in Canada, 2 stores in the UK, 1 store in Spain, and 1 store in China that carry my candles. This October, I will work with several retailers in Norway and other Nordic countries this October. I’m super excited about it.
I’m mostly interested in interior design and art objects. I have a selective collection of stores, boutiques, and galleries that I look up to. Some of them I’ve followed on Instagram for a while, others I used to visit over here in New York. I’m lucky to be working with some of them now. At the beginning, I used to be more active in my outreach to stores/brands to work with, but social media has allowed me to reach an audience that I never expected. In the last months the tables have turned and a lot of stores have been reaching out to stock my designs. It’s been exciting because not only has it allowed me to grow in sales, but it has exposed me to other brands, boutiques, and influencers that I’ve since become a fan of.
I strive for the highest quality, designs and products that reflect the beauty that inspires me. This means organic raw materials that are hand poured. I handle every candle myself, as it is important for me to ensure that their quality is above industry standards, treating each product more as a piece of art. I hope that every time someone unboxes one of the candles, they can appreciate the level of attention to detail that I’ve poured into them.
I am self-employed and it’s very important to manage the time by myself. I go to my studio at around 11:00 a.m. and start my day with melting wax. While waiting for the wax to cure, I make drawings or keep working on any other ongoing projects. My studio time is usually 7 hours, but it can be extended if I want to be there more. It’s totally my space and my playground. I don’t have a fixed check-in and check-out time.
I’ll keep developing new products inspired by the body and nature. These are common themes between us humans, and given the times, I think it’s important to point towards the things that connect us. I’m in the process of developing my third product these days. Stay tuned!
I don’t think there are tips or shortcuts to achieving your goals. Believe in yourself and just keep going. Never give up and pursue your dreams!
I find inspiration in my every day work but sometimes I like to go to museums and galleries when I’m creatively stuck. I find a lot of inspiration when appreciating other artists’ works, it moves forward my creative passion and makes me want to go back to my studio. I do yoga everyday. This is totally my time to center myself and find my inner peace.