If you ask anyone in South Korea what they think of when they think of Icheon, you’ll most likely get “ceramics.” The history of the city’s love for ceramics goes back at least a thousand years. From supplying royal palaces to now hosting over 400 workshops that produce modern and traditional ceramics, Icheon continues to be one of Asia’s most recognized cities for this artistry.
In continuing to embark on their journey of both keeping and advancing the Icheon heritage, the city conducted a research and development project with the purpose of understanding how to develop products designed well for lifestyles in Korea, and abroad. This project brought together 15 leading ceramicists in Icheon to discuss their approach to design, their relationship between foods and tableware, and more.
We’re proud to highlight and have the special work of two specific artists from these conversations, and from the renowned city of Icheon at Mogutable. We start with Yeo Kyung-lan of Yeogi-Damki.
Yeo Kyung-lan is known for incorporating Korean folk paintings into her tableware. She started this approach eight years ago, when she realized how captivated she was with the colors in folk paintings along with the meaning captured through them. To Yeo, Korean pottery encapsulates humanity — they’re not too elaborate, and there’s a sense of purity. For this reason, her pieces can be best described as witty, modest yet refined. When asked about what she thinks the allure of pottery is, she describes the moment when pottery is taken out of the fire (kiln). While a ceramicist can control every factor outside of the fire, once in it, it’s left to the imagination. “With pottery, you can’t tell what color the pieces will be after being fired...sometimes, unexpected colors are produced, and that’s an appealing point.”
Then we turn to another master ceramicist of Icheon who also appreciates Korean pottery for its simplicity and warmth. Jang Hun Seong spent years studying both Korean and Japanese pottery, in search of the “most Korean thing.” For Jang, the more he understood about ceramics as a whole, the more he would be able to pinpoint how his pieces can best represent Korea. He found his answers in patterns. The character “man (萬)” embodies a wish for having many children, and is felt as a “very Korean” character. Today, you can find this as an emblem on his pieces, in tandem with such unique and beautiful colors. Jang makes his own glaze made of ash from the burning process of rice straw. This “Hoeryong” glaze is applied on top of already glazed pieces, causing the second layer of glaze to flow down the sides, creating a marbling effect. Every year, the ceramicist personally collects rice straw ash and makes the glaze from scratch, “the result is a pattern like no other in the world, this is the allure.”
You can now explore both Yeo Kyung-lan and Jang Hun Seong’s pieces on our site here.