Thursday, December 18, 2008

Korean Mountain Potter

Yesterday was a full day- we visited some friends of Mr. Oh's who treated us to a great home-cooked lunch, and then we all went to visit a young potter who lives way in the mountains without running water or electricity.  He used to be a monk, but now he lives in this tiny traditional house he built, and makes pottery. He gathers many of his materials from nearby, and fires in a three chamber wood kiln.  Can it possibly get any more classic?  We really enjoyed seeing his house, studio, and beautiful setting, and it made us reflect on the impact these things have on visitors to a pottery- especially since we were traveling with pottery collectors.  
The paper door opens to a very small room (maybe 4'x7'? -smaller than a piece of plywood), that six of us squeezed into to have tea.  The floor was heated by a traditional wood ondol (below), so that even on a cold day, we had the door wide open (looking out on a beautiful view of bamboo and mountains), and were almost hot.  The door to the left is to the kitchen, which is pictured below, whose wood cookstove heats the floor of the house.  We're planning on doing a whole post on the ondol system soon, because we are really excited about it.
Walking down to the studio, we passed an important place - the outhouse! (shown below)
He had just unloaded his kiln the day before, so his studio was full of fired wares.
Naomi found the warm spot again - there's nothing better!  This is another ondol in his studio.
His kiln is a small three chamber wood kiln with clay and straw for insulation.  This is a traditional korean design, where the chambers arch in both directions, which makes for a beautiful form, but tiny doors.
Wheel and pottery... now we come to the difficult part... although his pots had a lot of great qualities (beautifully textured clay, lots of pink dots) - and there were some really nice ones-there weren't any that we really wanted to take home with us.  We realized that a kick wheel, wood kiln, local clay, and beautiful working spaces are powerful and important, but they are only tools for making pottery, and not an end in themselves.  We're sensitive to this notion because we use and respect a lot of these same tools, and think of them as wonderful collaborators in the process. It's easy to get sucked into these things, but we are reminded that the reason we use them is to make better pots.
Pink dots...
And lastly, one of the nicest contemporary moon jars we've seen:

1 comment:

Shane Mickey said...

m and N
great post, so neet to see the way he is working! cant wait for the ondol post, i love that idea, i waste to much time thinking of a floor heating system for the house, oh well. i found it amusing the way the mt. potter wadded inside the glazed bowl, can u imagine that in the U.S.! i thought selling anagama pots was hard! keep up the good work u two