Reviving a Joseon stoneware tradition
Dec 14, 2016
Song Gi-jin, a potter who has practiced the technique of Boseong Deombeongyi for 17 years, places objects in a kiln. [PARK SANG-MOON]

Winter has arrived for Boseong County in South Jeolla Province as cold wind has begun blowing throughout the area. While the visiting breeze makes a brief stop at the Yeongcheon Dam, it turns its attention towards kilns which are kept busy burning pine wood. These winds are then sucked into the mouth of the 1200 degree Celsius fire that bakes the Boseong Deombeongyi tea bowls, a tradition that has been practiced by Koreans since the Joseon period.

Song Gi-jin, 45, is a potter who has kept the fires burning in this green tea capital by producing the aforementioned bowls for 17 years. The Boseong Deombeongyi is a unique type of pottery which originated as a category of Buncheong ware, which is traditional Korean stoneware from the Joseon Dynasty. Due to the precise technique necessary in order to produce these bowls, Song rarely leaves his kilns, despite the cold weather, in order to produce the best results.

These bowls are also referred to as Hojo Kohiki in Japan. Hojo literally translates to Boseong, while the word Kohiki means tea bowls. Song Gi-jin first discovered in 2000 that this traditional Japanese pottery was actually of Korean descent, and was told by a tea expert in Boseong that the original Korean title had been long lost. The potter thus decided to call it the Boseong Deombeongyi, and the tradition has been re-kindled ever since.

The technique of producing this pottery is also practiced in the surrounding areas of Goheung County and Jangheung County, while the potters take pride in the incredibly unique process required to create such wares. The technique was first conceived by Joseon-era Korean potters, and is a process unique to the country as it is nowhere to be found even in China, the birthplace of traditional pottery.

Top: Song Gi-jin delicately crafts the porcelain bowls. Middle: The kiln's fires are kindled by the potter. Bottom: Song closely inspects the moon jars, which have been baked three times according to the Boseong Deombeongyi technique. Right: The pottery is covered with white clay water, which gives the stoneware its distinct white appearance. [PARK SANG-MOON]

In order for the bowls to appear white, the pottery is dipped in white clay water, or has it poured over. The bowl is glazed after the first firing, and the stoneware goes through a baking process in a kiln a total of three times to produce perfect results.

Recently, Song Gi-jin has been concentrating on producing the moon jar, a traditional Korean porcelain jar that contains an opening that is larger than its base, utilizing the Boseong Deombeongyi stoneware technique.

“The moon jar has everything demanded by the Joseon Sabal (Korean Porcelain Bowl) tradition,” said Song Gi-jin.

The Joseon Sabal (조선 사발) provides implications of nature, while the beauty of the art lies in its simplicity without seeming artificial. The bowls are said to provide comfort to the souls of those who witness its beauty, and its magnificence will remain for decades or even a century later.

Song Gi-jin dreams of starting a business dedicated to traditional pottery. After setting up an appropriately-sized workshop, the potter said he would like to invite 7-10 master craftsman of different expertise in order to produce the best pottery.

From Dec. 16 to Jan. 7, the potter is introducing the “Original Korean Pottery Technique, Presentation of Boseong Deombeongyi” in Beijing. Song will present the fruits of his labor at Whitebox gallery in Beijing's 798 Art District, and will bring his Boseong Deombeongyi moon jar, as well as various tea bowls, tea cups, and over 100 tea items.

Source:JoongAng Daily

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