Alabaster creates books and Bible collections like most people have never seen before. They are beautifully designed, with stunning photography and elegant layouts, all on high-quality paper.
Each book is its own work of art.
We recently spoke with Alabaster’s founders, Brian Chung (who is also the company’s business director) and Bryan Ye-Chung (also their creative director) about how the idea for Alabaster came about, the power of great art and reimagining the Bible.
How did the idea for this project for come about?
Bryan: Brian and I met in college. We also bonded because we had the same name.
I was studying art and film in college and was also part of a college ministry on campus and just always felt like those two parts of me were separate. So, I would go to the art studio and then leave Bible study, but those two experiences of who I was always felt separate.
So I was wrestling with that, trying to think of ways to bring those things more tangibly together. Toward the end of my senior year I read a book by a pastor out here in Los Angeles whose name is James Choung. He wrote this book called Real Life, and it was basically this book based off his dissertation in which he did this study on how every generation asks a different spiritual question that leads them to things like God or Christianity, and how each of those questions are contextualized to that generation.
For Baby Boomers it was “What is true?” So that’s when things like Apologetics was really big. For Gen X it was “What is real?” So, Don’t tell me what is true just be real with me. Today, he predicts millennials are really into the question “What is good?” Millennials are really into doing justice work in the world … things of that nature. And then he predicts that what even younger generations will be asking is the question “What is beautiful?”
We just felt like that is very true. In an increasingly visual culture, everyone has a smart phone with a camera, we all love to pick up beautiful books or we judge websites based on how well they’re designed. We were just really captivated by that question and thought, ‘Could we build a brand around that question and figure out ways to explore beauty and explore art within that and explore as we ask the question, “What is beautiful?’’ How do we show that the Gospel is a beautiful thing.
It was the other Brian who had the idea, “Oh, we should start with the Bible.”
Brian: I didn’t grow up in a Christian household. I grew up in a Buddhist household, went to temple growing up and came into college agnostic. It was through a campus ministry that I became a Christian.
I remember getting my first Bible as a Christian and I was really excited, but also a little intimidated. It was a black, dark purple, leather bound ESV Bible, and the first couple pages were things to fill out—it was about the translation, it wasn’t the story of Genesis. The text was condensed, some words were black, some words were in red. I didn’t understand what that meant at the time and it was on really, really thin paper. It was just unlike any other book that I had gotten. And next to me was my marketing textbook and it was designed like a magazine. And for the first time in college, I felt really excited to read my marketing textbook or just like any textbook in general.
I was a business major but I was also studying design and I just thought ‘Could this be done differently?’
It was 10 years later where I’m just having this conversation with Bryan about our faith … I think for us as Christians we hear the story of God and Jesus [and] it’s beautiful and what if we created a beautiful reading experience?
Bryan’s eyes lit up. He told his housemates. I continued to go back into campus ministry, and then Bryan came back to me with all these ideas of like, “Make the Bible like an art book or a lifestyle magazine.”
We thought it would be a good idea to not tell anyone until like a week before the launch date, which in retrospect was probably a bad idea, but we put it out there, our friends started sharing, it got some national media coverage and this little side project…