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.
Inside these doors is where it all begins.
Preparing the local clay needed to produce a pot.
An Si-Seong begins his work.
You can see it is a methodical process
Adding details to the pot.
We were all asked to sign the unfired pot.
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.
Here is a sample of the unglazed pottery, and I love the shades of orange and gray/black.
Here we have some glazed. Beautiful, don’t you think?
This Onggi Pottery will be making its way back to Nova Scotia next summer 🙂
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.
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.
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