Onggi Pottery Production in Korea

Posted by on Dec 1, 2016 in Destinations, Korea, Travel Photo Thursday | 21 comments

Onggi Pottery

Earlier this fall I had the pleasure of seeing Onggi Pottery made in Gimhae, a small village about 4 hours south of Seoul. An Si-Seong is the only Onggi Potter left in this community, and one of a few in Korea. He is also one of the country’s Tangible Cultural Assets. Onggi production dates back 4000 – 5000 BC, so it’s easy to understand why the Koreans are eager to protect an artist who is a skilled Onggi Potter. Welcome to week 304 (12/01/2016) of Travel Photo Thursday. Join me as An Si-Seong makes us a beautiful piece of Onggi Pottery, and we visit his shop.

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The wood burning kiln has been in operation since 1932. It takes approximately a week for it to reach the 1000+ (cel.) temperature needed to produce glazed onggi earthenware. Unglazed is produced at a cooler 600-700 cel. The kiln is filled with the unfired pottery, and then the fire is started. The folks in this photo are standing beside another entrance, which makes it easier to fill the kiln with the unfired pottery. On a historical note, this village is where Catholics hid and made onggi pots during the Catholic prosecution of the 19th Century.

 

Ongii Potter, Korea

Onggi Pottery

Inside these doors is where it all begins.

 

Ongii Potter, Korea

 

Preparing the local clay needed to produce a pot.

 

Ongii Potter, Korea

 

An Si-Seong begins his work.

 

Onggi Potter, Korea

Onggi Potter, Korea

Onggi Potter, Korea

 

You can see it is a methodical process

 

Onggi Potter, Korea

Onggi Potter, Korea

 

Adding details to the pot.

 

Onggi Potter, Korea

 

We were all asked to sign the unfired pot.

 

Onggi Potter, Korea

 

Believe it or not, it took only about 30 minutes to produce this jar. It was unique and amazing to watch the talented An Si-Seong and quickly became apparent why the Korean government considers him a Tangible Cultural Asset. From the studio, we visited the showroom for delicious tea, traditional Korean snacks, and the opportunity to purchase a piece of ongii pottery. I bought the teacups in this photo.

 

Onggi Potter, Korea

Onggi Potter, Korea

Onggi Potter, Korea

 

Here is a sample of the unglazed pottery, and I love the shades of orange and gray/black.

 

Onggi Potter, Korea

 

Here we have some glazed. Beautiful, don’t you think?

 

Onggi Potter, Korea

 

This Onggi Pottery will be making its way back to Nova Scotia next summer 🙂

 

mypot

 

The large Onggi Pottery, like those in the photo below, are commonly referred to as Kimchi pots. Before the Koreans had refrigerators, they would make their Kimchi, put it in these jars and bury them until the Kimchi was aged and ready to eat. These days the pots are used for decoration, and  those produced by An-Si-Seong are usually sold before they’re fired.

 

Onggi Pottery, Korea

 

Have you ever seen Onggi Pottery being made? Tell us in the comments.

Gimhae can be difficult to get to on your own. The Royal Asiatic Society offers an annual tour in September. If you’re visiting Korea next September, add it to your must-do list!

I stumbled onto this video of An Si-Seong producing a pot from preparing the clay to putting it into the kiln. If you’re interested here is the link.

Please welcome our co-hosts this week: Jan from Budget Travel Talk Ruth from Tanama Tales  Rachel from Rachel’s Ruminations

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21 Comments

  1. Interesting! I love learning how things are made.

  2. A week to get hot enough? Wow!

  3. wow this is truly interesting and amazing craftsmanship. I must confess I have never heard of it before, but I can see this is a must visit for those visiting Korea. Thanks so much for sharing today. I particularly enjoyed watching the video. I love the shades of orange in the unglazed pottery. Happy travels.

  4. Love these types of pottery. What a great experience to see the whole process and witness such amazing talent.

  5. It’s fascinating watching potters mould their pots into shape. We have a very famous pottery in my hometown, Bendigo in Victoria in Southern Australia. It is a big drawcard to visitors to the city. This pottery reminds me of it.

  6. There is such talent out there in the world and its a shame we don’t get to see more of it. Thanks for this post, I felt like I was there touring with you! (So, are you moving back to Canada this summer?)

  7. Nancie, I never imagined a kiln like that. It is huge! Your experience reminds me a bit of a visit I made to a pottery town in Oaxaca, Mexico. You had to see the skills of those guys. That visit made me respect their craft and abilities a lot.

  8. How cool! I’ve never seen a kiln like that either. I’ve always wanted to try pottery. cheers.

  9. Wow that is one huge kiln. Seeing how An Si-Seong is a cultural asset does this mean the government pays him or does he rely on the sale of his pots for a living?

  10. Nancie, We’ve seen this done as well. It’s an amazing, centuries-old, process. We loved every minute of it. Great post!

  11. Hi Nancie, I love pottery and always wanted to learn how to make it, will try to find a course here. Since An Si-Seong is such a national treasure, I’m sure he’s passing on his techniques to the new generation. Are his pottery expensive?

  12. I’ve never heard of Onggi pottery. What’s not clear from the pictures is what makes it unique? I mean, is it about his techniques or about the materials used? Or both?

  13. Very interesting. It’s amazing how hot that over gets and how quickly they can produce such beautiful pieces.

  14. Thx for this fascinating post on Onggi Pottery. I love how local artisans are being recognized (as they should be) for making contributions to the cultural makeup of a country.

  15. Very interesting – it looks as if he is using a combination of slab and wheel construction. . . and getting lovely results!

  16. That’s very interesting! And what an important part of Korean history and culture! Making one in 30 minutes, wow! He must really know what he is doing! Thanks for sharing! Loving the glazed ones!

  17. Pottery making is such an interesting craft. I enjoyed visiting this little workshop in Korea with you.

  18. I watched the video, Nancie and found the clay preparation to be as fascinating as watching the creation of the pot. What an amazingly ancient tradition! And it’s great that a person such as An Si-Seong has been recognized as a “tangible cultural asset.” A very interesting post. 🙂

  19. Very nice article, Nancie, thanks for sharing your experience. I’ve been a fan of Korean pottery since I moved there in 2011 and I’ve collected several pieces of celadon, but I was’t familiar with the Onggi style. Looks like I need to add some to my collection!

  20. Amazing craftsmanship – and only half an hour to sculpt?!
    You’re right: seeing a specialist skill in action is amazing

  21. I love hand crafted pieces like these and they make the most memorable of souvenirs!

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