Thursday, October 20, 2016

Master Craftsman - Korean Pottery

I've been watching a lot of ceramic pottery videos between the political things that I'm directed to. If you saw my YouTube history you'd think, "Jeeze, this guy's some kind of serious nutter." But there you go. I suppose that I am.

I believe this is a worthy hobby. One that would take a good deal of time and patience to master. I think of it as a language, oddly, one that you speak to yourself. 

This video has no words. The sound is piano music all the way through. Nobody explains anything. You just watch and be amazed. Each Korean master has developed his own style, although they're all complex. I like especially how designs are scratched in then painted over with mineral slip, then carefully scrapped off so that pin point legs and beaks of storks turn out black. I find all this remarkable. And at the same time discouraging. And the same time encouraging because it shows what you can get up to yourself by adapting their technique if not their style, their subject or their level of mastery. 

Others dig holes all the way through, and I wonder, what's the point of a vase that cannot hold water? It cannot be used as a vase.

I've watched African women make jars and pots by the most rudimentary methods imaginable. No potter's wheel, no kiln, no nothing. I've watched Iranian women making pots similarly. With little children all around, curious and interfering. I'd like to share some of what I've found with you. Who knows? It might encourage a new interest. A new language. This one of Korean masters is one of the best. The video shows the whole thing except the very beginning of the process of throwing the jars on a potter's wheel or building them up by coiling and pinching, rather essential steps left out.

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There is another Korean video that I like that is more of an artist's biography, a bit heavy on his own psychology and mental attitude as it changed over time. He makes huge jugs used for fermented food, kimchi and soy and such, at the end of it he slaps glaze like a dancer or a warrior, like Jackson Pollock, and slaps look fantastic and you want him to stop with the outrageous and violent and carefree splashes, but instead he continues and spreads it all and mixes it and I go, aw, damn, there went the fantastic marks. The he flicks glaze again, and it's wild again as it was at the beginning but less so, and I go, great! Stop here! Stop! Stop! But he doesn't, he blends again, and I go, aw damn, again. But that is his style. That is his technique, and that is his desired result. But I can imagine myself doing that same thing. And it's fun imagining that. Fun enough to want to actually do it. And we can!



Lee Kang-hyo's coils are huge. He drapes them over his shoulder. The African women's coils are short, so short that in one of African tribe the woman's coils are described as sausages. 

The African women live in abject poverty. All the different states and tribes have their own technique. Their wheel is a curved broken pot shard. Most move their bodies around the stationary piece rather than spin the piece as a wheel. One of them late in the video was mentioned to have have been asked to demonstrate her technique in the far East. So they flew her Air France and set her up in a high class hotel. She demonstrated her African technique then went home, back to her simple set life and her poverty. The objects shown at the end are real African art and not the everyday pots shown throughout the video. That video shows what one could do immediately in their first try. African Pottery, Forming and Firing. They're making stoneware, I think, that's fired at lower temperature to be used in open flame without breaking. They don't want to use a kiln that fires at higher temperature and uses a lot more energy. They're waterproofed by dipping in a kind of soup that they prepare, while red hot directly from their bonfire, that changes the iron inside the clay from one form to another form. All very primitive at each step of the process. It makes you want to go there and buy one. 

7 comments:

ricpic said...

As I was watching the film about the Korean potter, his autobiography as you put it, a quote from Henry Miller kept insisting on itself in my head: Every man is working out his destiny in his own way. That's what I remembered of the quote, but I knew there was more to it so I looked it up: Every man is working out his destiny in his own way and nobody can be of any help except by being kind, generous, and patient. Frankly, I could do without except by being kind, generous, and patient, which strikes me as boilerplate. Every man is working out his own destiny in his own way and nobody can be of any help. That rings true.

Sixty Grit said...

When I first started working in my current line of work I used to talk with a potter who had trained with Korean potters. She taught me that a bowl or a cup, like a story, has to have a beginning, a middle and an end - the lip, the body of the vessel and a foot.

I don't always do that, as I am an American, and much prefer our aesthetics. Less of a mover, more of a Shaker, that's what I am talkin' about.

Methadras said...

I lol'ed at the guys dancing only because it was so impromptu and sort of yielded his intent of the kind of spirit that lurked within his body and what he wanted to do. Some people are masters at things they don't like to do. Some yearn to be nothing the world expects them to be, but we all have our little roles to play after all.

ndspinelli said...

My bride was into pottery. We had a wheel, kiln, etc. in our basement. I learned the kiln emits vapors that are really bad for furnaces. She got tired of throwing pots and we got rid of the fucking kiln.

rhhardin said...

All I remember from pottery class is you've got to get the air bubbles out of it explodes in the kiln, which I thought was cool.

Most students did an ashtray.

Everybody does a lanyard at camp.

These are skills that stay with you throughout life.

Sixty Grit said...

Lee Kang-hyo is a funny guy - he works hard, he really puts himself into his work. And he has a sense of humor.

I liked both videos - the brilliant complexity of the work in the first video contrasts nicely with the freer style work in the second. The gallery of his work at the end of the second video is a nice summation of how work goes - sometimes a piece will strike you positively, sometimes they are a swing and a miss. But he keeps working, keeps putting himself out there, and by golly, when it's good, it is very good.

Synova said...

They've got some of that pale green pottery at the local Korean market. It really caught my eye and I was really excited about it and then I saw the prices. I had to admit that they were surely worth what they were asking but it was still a bit much for me.

Lots of places have the traditional pueblo pottery here for the tourists. Both the red and the black clay. That's not the least bit cheap either. There are cheap pots but they're cheap pots and gimicky Southwest designs.