Thursday, January 22, 2009

Lee Kang Hyo

We are finally back home in NC. We did some family visiting after getting back in the country but now we are really home! It feels good!  However, we still have several posts in the works that we did not finish in Korea...
During our last week in Korea we were able to visit one of our favorite Korean potters, Lee Kang Hyo. Mr. Lee has recently had a couple of exhibitions at the Pucker gallery in Boston that printed some great catalogues of his pots, so some of you might be familiar with his work. Mr.Oh and Mr. Lee did a Onggi tour in 2001 of a bunch of universities in the U.S. which I think greatly increased the awareness about Onggi here. Michael visited Mr. Lee's studio in 2002 and was really excited to go back.
When we arrived we approached his studio by walking through his kiln shed. Along one side were several beautiful jars about 3 or 4 feet tall.  Unfortunately, the light was beginning to fade, so the pictures aren't that great. In Korea there are three different Onggi techniques. In Kyonggi-do in the north, they build the pots using coils to form rings that are joined and paddled. In Kyongsan-do in the east, they also use coils but instead of using separate coils for each level they spiral up. In Cholla-do in the southwest, they use slabs. Mr. Lee studied with onggi potters in Kyongsan province so he uses the spiral technique. These jars are not traditional Onggi forms although they use the Onggi technique.
He has two wood kilns- above is a photo of the smaller one.
He has an amazing way with slip. It might be a little bit hard to see from our photos but the Pucker gallery catalogues show it well, especially the most recent one. The jar below had some great pink dots on it. 

He then showed us around his studio. The picture at the top of the post is of his onggi wheel. Below is a wall of sketches and some of his plates. He unfortunately did not have many plates in his showroom so the Pucker gallery catalogues are a good place to see the amazing slip painting that he does on them.

This chicken pot has iron painting on it, which is pretty unusual - he normally does mostly finger wipes.
He served us all tea in his showroom, but we couldn't sit for long when there were so many nice pots to look through.  Below are some of his slab-built forms.
Mr. Lee's pots are very lively. He's basically combined the Korean onggi and punchong traditions to make some really exciting new pots.  Onggi pots are finger-wiped through a brown-ish black glaze, and punchong is the tradition of coating dark clay with a white slip.  He does finger wipes through the white slip, which is kind of a combination of the two.  
In addition to his large jar forms, he makes lots of small functional pots.

Visiting Mr. Lee was definitely a highlight.  He is such a nice man, and it was great to see his pots in person.  

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Kimchi withdrawl

We're back! Well, kind of. We arrived in Cleveland on Tuesday night at Michael's parents house and have been trying to recover from jet lag and the 14 hour time change.  For some reason it was easier when we arrived in Korea.  But after not sleeping for most of the night, Naomi got up at 5:30am ravenously craving rice and kimchi (and that was after a hamburger feast last night!)  We were super busy the last week in Korea, so we have a whole bunch of stuff we still want to write about.  But for now, we have snow on our minds, and our last day in Cholla was very snowy.  Because it was a little difficult to travel, we went to this Buddhist temple that was a short drive from Mr. Oh's place.  When we arrived, there was some talking with the people that run the office there, and it turned out that we would have dinner there, do a short ceremony with the head monk, and then have tea with him.  While we waited for the afternoon practice to end, we walked around the snow filled temple, and it slowly became dark with the moon rising.  Beautiful!  Then we had a simple vegetarian dinner with the monk and the sort of pre-monk women that practice at the temple.  After dinner, the monk performed a small ceremony with us in the main temple, which was really interesting.  We then retired to his house and drank tea for about two hours which they make from wild tea plants around the temple.  It was a really nice last day in Cholla-do.  Below is one of the stone spirits that guards the walkaway to the temple.

The morning we left, Michael and I took one last walk around the village near Mr. Oh's studio, and admired the snow on the rice fields.
And now back in Cleveland, we are experiencing single digit temperatures during the day, and quite a lot of snow.  The river behind Michael's parents house is half-way frozen.  This treacherous weather has given us a good excuse to stay in and sleep (or not sleep) at all hours of the day and night.  Don't worry - there's still more to come about some of the adventures we had before we left.  Hope everyone is staying warm!

Friday, January 9, 2009


Well, we're back from Seoul for a few days at Mr. Oh's studio before heading home.  We have a huge back-log of things to write about and have been super busy, so we'll just have to write about it all more when we get time, and also when we get home.  We were hoping to do a little more traveling around during our last few days, but we've just had a really big snow, which might slow us down a little.  It's beautiful though!  Now for the exhibition... We were very happy with the way it turned out, and we got a lot of really  positive feedback from people who came (and interest from another gallery to do a solo show in the future!).  Unfortunately the light in the gallery was nice if you were there, but not the most conducive to taking pictures, so they are not the best quality.  Hopefully they will give you at least an idea of what some of the pots look like.
We got really excited about Mr. Oh's celadon glaze, and used it quite a lot.  On these two faceted vases, we really liked the way it turned out - clear when thinner, and a beautiful green where the glaze dripped and was a little thicker - similar to old punchong pots.

Here are a couple of Naomi's wacky bird boxes...
One of Michael's jars.

The two bowls on the right have the pink kaolin slip under the celadon glaze.

Mr. Oh brought mostly functional ware. Here is one of his complete tea sets.  Click here if you want to see the way that these pots are all used for tea in Korea.  Using the white liner glaze in combination with the onggi glaze on the outside is a new innovation of Mr. Oh's, and it looks really good with tea.
On the left is one of Mr. Oh's finished smallish jars.  In an older blog, we documented him making these.  On the right is a newer form made in the same technique.  This newer work is what he's been focusing on for the past six years or so, but recently he's begun to make more traditional forms again.
This is a pretty classic tea bowl with the pink kaolin slip (sorry for the photo quality).  Mr. Oh makes a lot of different things now, but he is still mostly well known for being an onggi potter.  Some people were surprised to see this kind of work of his, and they really liked it!
Again, this photo doesn't do this justice, but here is one of Mr. Oh's smaller sculptures of stacked tigers.  We really like it. 
Lots of Mr. Oh's dishes...
This was one of his favorite medium sized bowls.  It was a pink kaolin test that came out really well.
Mr. Oh's studio mate Kim Hui San also showed several sculptures and some hot water heaters (for making tea).  We really liked these two.
While we were in Seoul, we had a mind-blowing visit to the national museum, and lots of fun looking at pottery and antiques on Insadong street.  We also had an amazing visit with one of our favorite Korean potters, Lee Kyang Ho.  So there's a lot more good stuff coming....

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Rice Cannons and The Glaze Washing Machine

Well, it looks like we are going to make it!  As expected, the past several days have been a bit crazy, but all has gone well, and we even had a little time to do some exploring on our own while the bisque kiln was firing. We went to the weekly outdoor market in the medium-sized nearby town of Hwasoon, and we had a great time.  There were of course lots of colorful displays of fruits and vegetables, writhing bowls of live seafood, and our favorite.... the rice cannon!  The picture below really doesn't do justice to this awesome scene... A popular snack in the winter time here is puffed rice and other puffed grains, and at the market there is one stall where they have several rice roasters/puffer/cannons. Each person buys a can of rice, and then waits to have it popped.  It probably takes about five minutes in the round cast iron roaster before everyone starts getting excited and covering their ears.  Then they point the roaster/cannon into a big metal box and BOOM!  Rice fireworks everywhere, and it is indeed really loud.  The best part is all the ajumas waiting for their turn "ooo" and "aaah" like at a firework display.  It was so much fun, and people were really enjoying explaining to us how it worked and giving us samples of their freshly popped rice.
Sunday was a crazy day - we unloaded the bisque, glazed all our pots, loaded the kiln, and started firing (until 8am Monday!)  Mr. Oh rolled out this mysterious contraption that had been sitting in the corner, and we discovered the joys of the GLAZE WASHING MACHINE!  There's a sponge conveyor belt that rolls around through a pool of water on the bottom, and then does an amazing job of cleaning off the glaze on the bottom of the pot.  It's pretty easy to control how much you take off, so we were soon tripping over each other trying to be the one who got to wash the bottoms (not usually a desired job at home).  
We unloaded the kiln last night, and have been cleaning and packing pots all day.  We haven't gotten a chance to take any pictures yet of the new pots, but we're planning on doing so when we set up the show tomorrow morning (after driving 4 hours to Seoul tonight!).  Even though this has been a really hectic schedule lately, it hasn't felt as stressful as it would have at home.  This has all been a big adventure and experiment for us, using clay, glazes and a kiln that are completely new, so we don't have the same pressures we would normally feel at home. We're looking forward to hopefully doing some traveling and visiting after the show, so stay tuned! (We're only here for one more week!)

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year from the future

Last night was new years eve here and we had a great time loading the kiln in the snow(really we did). We took a small break at midnight to enjoy some plum wine and peanuts. Although it was a very late night we realized it is easier helping someone else load their kiln than loading your own. Less pressure and decision making. Yesterday we received some images of the card that the gallery is making for the show.  It is about the size of a sheet of paper and folds in half. The image above is the front and back and the image below is the inside. We brought some pots from home to add to what we make here and Mr. Park took some interesting photos of them on an old table of Mr. Oh's. Well it will be new years eve at home soon and we hope you all have a great time!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

A whole bunch of Buddhas and pagodas

The calm before the storm...On Sunday we did a little bit of tourist type activities. We went to Unjusa, or the 1000 Buddhas and Pagodas place.  This is a beautiful area not too far from Mr. Oh's studio.  Although there have been various studies conducted here, no one really knows exactly how old it is, or why there were so many stone Buddhas carved.  However, they are probably from the 7th or 8th century, and there are lots of legends about their creation.  Most of them involve the residents of the village or stone masons from heaven carving all 1000 Buddhas in one night. The reason was either to protect Korea from China, or to keep the Silla dynasty going forever, or to keep Korea from sinking into the sea, which apparently was a fear because there are more mountains on one side of Korea than another, and is therefore unbalanced.   Whatever the reason, it's a powerful and beautiful place full of inspiration!
Now there are only 94 Buddhas of varying sizes and about 50 pagodas. Unfortunately, this place has been pillaged over the many centuries, not excluding this one.

There's also lots of Buddha parts just lying around.
This was one of our favorites - two giant Buddha statues sitting back to back (here is only one of them) in a proportionally small stone house.  Look how the roof tiles are even notched into each other!
This pagoda looks like a bunch of onggi jars stacked on top of each other!
This one is beautifully perched on a slanted rock...

Well this is the last day of 2008, and it's also our last day to make pots!  Happy New Year!