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Sophia Yoon

Fine Furniture Ākonga

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The joy of making things people use and value is what drew Sophia (Sojung) Yoon to furniture making.

The joy of making things people use and value is what drew Sophia (Sojung) Yoon to furniture making.

Sophia was attracted to UCOL's Diploma in Fine Furniture as it would allow her to learn the whole design process, from drawing plans to getting hands-on in the workshop and bringing her ideas to life.

"I thought making furniture was the best thing for me because I wanted to make things that are useful and durable, and I can see when a customer is happy with my work," says Sophia.

The two-year Diploma in Fine Furniture offers ākonga (learners) a practical learning experience taught by qualified furniture makers. In the programme's first year, Sophia learned the fundamentals of furniture-making and built furniture based on pre-existing plans. The second year is when Sophia really flourished, as she was able to start creating her own designs.

Sophia's lecturer encouraged her to enter Charette's Starchitects Chair Design Competition – an international competition for designing and constructing iconic chairs. Sophia's Waterfall chair placed in the top 30. The chair was inspired by an endless cycle of water, falling from the top, flowing outwards, and returning to its origin. Sophia achieved this look through a technique called kerf-bending, which involves cutting a number of small slots into a piece of wood to help it bend. This was a huge challenge for Sophia as she had to be very precise with her cutting. The kerf-bending involved a lot of trial and error, but the end result was something Sophia is very proud off.  

Sophia Yoon's Waterfall Chair.jpg

"Furniture can be very simple, but I like to be able to put my personality into the things I make. Just adding small details can make a piece stand out from other furniture," says Sophia.

Over the course of her studies, Sophia received four Women in Trades Grants to help her cover costs associated with her studies. An external donor established the grant in 2021 to encourage women to learn a trade at UCOL Te Pūkenga. Thanks to these grants, Sophia was able to buy new tools that allow her to add different details to her furniture. 

"Being a student, it is hard to buy new tools and materials, so these grants really helped me a lot," says Sophia.  

With her studies wrapping up, Sophia is excited to start her career and hopes to one day establish her own workshop and brand.

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