A Visit to the Namu Home Good Studio

Photographed by Chris Gonzales

Diana was my first work wife at my first job out of college — with her desk facing mine, I learned all the ins and outs of her rhythms, routines, and outlook. She helped me find my creativity in a meaningful way, understand and embody impeccable work ethic, and trust my gut. Years later, I'm so excited to have her here on the Dôen journal — a space which has continued to be a source of inspiration for me, and I hope for you all. She has gone through different life moments, always with the most positive outlook — seeing and centering the ways in which change makes her grow. This energy has brought her to where she is today: a woman business owner, loving wife, supporter of artists, always while balancing the duality of herself — perfect and imperfect, Korean and American, massively creative and an organized, methodical type A personality. See below for a look into Namu, her baby come to fruition.

– Phoebe

"The idea for Namu Home Goods came at the end of 2020. I’d spent the year (along with the rest of the world) addressing the cracks that only pure global calamity could bring up to the surface. I was let go from my job a week before Christmas – and as much of a shock as that was, I sat in meditation with myself and no distractions, and slowly redefined my definition of meaning, purpose, and success.

I was in EMDR therapy to deal with past trauma, and one of the exercises was to think of a totem that represents wisdom. I thought of a tree. To me, a tree stands strong through the most bitter winter and knows, without a doubt, that spring is around the corner. I was going through my bitter winter, and had to remind myself I’d soon feel the warmth of spring. I couldn’t let a season dictate my life.

As soon as I thought of Namu Home Goods, I couldn’t stop moving forward. I felt pregnant with ideas, and sustained in a primitive way. I felt alive. I had always wanted to start a business, and even had a running list of life’s pain points in my Notes app where I would write down ideas — everything from more comfortable ear plugs to nice-looking dog gates. At the end of the day, though, the idea of Namu Home Goods just felt right. It combines my culture with art, nature, and storytelling. It felt the most “me.”

Namu means “tree” in Korean, and Namu Home Goods highlights the natural beauty of wood — with an artist’s eye — as a reflection of harmony, harvest, and peace. I unearth gallery-quality woodwork from Korea that celebrates the organic shapes that nature has gifted us.

Korean trees are much thinner than trees in America (the land is just geographically smaller), and thus, wood is a precious medium. The artists have to be much more precise about their cuts, and nothing goes to waste. The country of Korea experiences four distinct seasons, starting with cold winters that create trauma on the bark and leads to more interesting colors once you open into the log of wood. This is followed by wet and humid summers, which impacts the overall drying process. It can take up to 15 years for a slab of wood to be dry enough to be usable, so it’s a lesson in patience and letting go of control. When you see all the discoloration, naturally occurring holes, and the cracks and rings on Namu Home Goods pieces, you are seeing the tree’s life. There is beauty in the trauma the tree has faced – and this feels like a human story. Wood changes color and cracks as it ages – it grows old, just as humans do.

My unique experience in the world is through my specific Korean-American lens, and I want to share that intersectionality with the collectors of Namu Home Goods. The pieces I source from Korea aren’t traditional, but they are made with a refinement that comes from the core of traditional Korean arts – a focus on letting go, and celebrating nature."

– Diana

Diana wearing the Kennedy Dress

Namu Home Goods bowls

Diana wearing the Cecelia Dress

Namu Home Goods bowls

Diana wearing the Kennedy Dress