Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Vicki Finkel in South Korea, explorations outside the clay studio

While in South Korea for a pottery apprenticeship, I was able to balance time working with clay, with exploring some of the country.

Balancing rocks on the shore of Udo island.

I couldn't read Korean so well, but had no problem understanding smiling faces, wherever they appeared. 

Potato chips adorned with happy-faced potatoes.

After intensely working with master South Korean ceramic artist, Mooto,

Vicki working on a porcelain vase in her teacher's studio.

I was eager to see what other ceramicists were up to.

A local artist's ceramic work exhibited at one of the many museums Vicki visited.

Kimchi, the ubiquitous side dish in Korea, generally made with fermented cabbage, is served at every meal, and  found at every market.

Containers of kimchi displayed for sale.

There can never be enough kimchi.

Women making kimchi on the streets of Sokcho, on the Northeastern Coast.

Markets abound with enticing fresh fruits,


and seafood too large for their tables.

Giant octopus on sale at the Busan Fish Market.

Mushrooms are as much works of beauty, as the paintings inside the omnipresent temples.

Detail of a mountain-top temple wall.

People patiently wait for local transport.

A couple awaits the next bus.

And are rarely without their mobile devices.

Friends in Andong busy with cellular in hand.

There is so much to see and do;  no time to wait for the rain to stop.

A family braving the elements to hike in a National Park.

The day is always sweeter with a smiling kitty cake.

Cakes on sale at a department store.

Jeju island's coastline can be rugged, and exceptionally captivating, even in the fog.

Vicki hiking on Jeju island.

And no wonder ferries are so popular, with such welcoming dock workers sporting tops to brighten even the dreariest days.
A ferry boat attendant on Jeju island.
A boat on its way to Udo island.

And a trip to Udo island would not be complete without a stop at the famous Jimmy's Natural Peanut ice-cream store.

After biking all around Udo island, Vicki was lucky not only to locate Jimmy's Ice-Cream Shop, but also the infamous Jimmy himself!

Vicki is greeted by Jimmy with a solid thumb's up!
Jimmy's signature ice cream treat, sweet and scenic.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Vicki Finkel in South Korea with master potter Seong-Keun Jeon

Seong-Keun Jeon, master South Korean ceramic artist.

In South Korea the modern age is in full gear.

Subway riders in Seoul enjoy clean, quiet, and efficient transport service (free wifi often included).

 Tradition, however,  persists, including the hourly changing of the guards at Seoul's historic palaces.

Royal guards and musicians don colorful garb as they ceremonially march in front of the Gyeongbokgung Palace in Northern Seoul. Constructed in 1935, it is the largest of 5 Grand Palaces, and was the main royal house of the Joseon dynasty, serving as the seat of government as well as the home of kings and their families. 

Agricultural traditions thousands of years old also thrive, including the cultivation of rice, which has been growing in Korea since about 2000 b.c.

Rice fields in Yeoju, (population 100,000),  about 65 km. southeast of the capital, Seoul, and one of the prime rice-growing areas of South Korea.

 In Gyeonggi province, in the towns of Yeoju, and nearby Icheon, master potters keep alive the rich Korean ceramic heritage. Seong-Keun Jeon, known as Mooto, is an internationally acclaimed highly skilled artist and potter who generously shared his time and studio with me, graciously enabling me to learn and practice his specialized and mind-boggling gorgeous carving techniques.

Mooto in his studio, working on a porcelain vase.

He transforms pottery, such as these tall porcelain vases made on the potter's wheel, into artistic works of stunning beauty through his brilliant carving.

Details from some of Mooto's carved pieces. Through highly developed carving methods, he creates complex layered effects on the surface of his clay pieces, and has become a living national treasure in the country.

In Mooto's studio, outside the town of Yeoju, I was fortunate to apprentice with him.

Vicki works on a porcelain vase.

Signature Mooto motifs.

 Repetitive and floral patterns, such as the above carvings are central to Mooto's repertoire. However, his favorite pieces to create are unique hand-carved designs based on fantasy images conjured from his imagination.

Exceptionally talented carving in process.

A detail from a recently completed Mooto work of art.  

Staff at the studio work extremely hard, and long hours. They break at midday for a communal lunch.

Mooto's studio is multi-faceted, with his labor-intensive carving occurring side-by-side with faster-paced factory production work.

Vicki assists in finishing a hand-made platter at the studio.

Mooto carefully and meticulously makes his own carving tools.

Before I could begin working, Mooto required me to hand craft all my own tools.

Specific carving tools that Vicki made, some with added chopstick handles secured with red tape.

After tools were made, I could begin to carve under Mooto's tutelage.

Vicki working on a tall porcelain vase in the studio.

Loading the kilns is an arduous and critical job, which this studio manager does to perfection.

Shelves stacked with bowls and plates about to be rolled into the kiln and fired.

In addition to being an historic ceramic capital of South Korea, Yeoju is home to many national  landmarks, including the burial mound of the visionary King Sejong, considered to be the greatest king of the Joseon dynasty. His rule led to numerous scientific, technologic and artistic innovations, chief of which was the invention of the Korean alphabet, which would unify all classes of society.

Vicki befriended a Yeoju bicycle racer, who graciously played tour guide, cycling alongside Vicki to show her scenic spots including the burial tomb of King Sejong, a UNESCO World Heritage site.