Thursday, January 7, 2010

A Tea Ware Artist's Tea Gallery

View From Park Jong Il's Home and Tea Gallery

There is an old Korean saying, “Behind every mountain is another mountain.”  The mountains of Korea are magnificent so it is no wonder that many temples are built there,  In the mountains one is close to nature and nature and the natural are at the core of Korean aesthetics and philosophy.
Park Jong Il, a very spiritual tea ware artist, selected a spot near the top of a mountain to build his home and tea gallery.  His home and tea gallery were built by hand from raw clay and naturally hewn trees in the same manner that many ancient Korean potters built their homes and studios. 
Being a tea ware artist has many facets.  We hope to introduce you to the lives of tea ware artists, both past and present, by discussing aspects of their lives.  Join us as we explore the story of tea ware.

Tea Gallery Exterior Under Construction
Tea Gallery Interior Under Construction
The Exterior After Completion

The interior after completion
For a tea lover it is interesting that the clay to build the walls of this tea gallery came from the historic tea mountains of Jirisan near Hadong.  It is the same source of clay for many old tea bowls.  Trees from the mountains were hewn to support the tea gallery.  They contribute to the feeling of being close to nature while in the gallery.  
To answer Matt's comment (below) and his question about the roof I decided to add a couple of photos and write a little more about Jong Il before introducing his work to you. 
Jong Il is a simple, spiritual and sensitive potter living high in the mountains.  While there are many tea ware artists in Korea, only a few have reached the level of financial success necessary to permit them to do everything they would like to do to their home or gallery.  While a thatch roof would be very attractive and aesthetically compelling to have, they also demand considerable upkeep and can actually cause health problems.   Jong Il would like to use handmade roof tiles but the labor and expense in currently prohibitive.  In addition the art of creating tiled roofs by hand seems to be dying in Korea.  As far as we can determine the only person left in Korea who makes roof tiles by hand is the human cultural treasure Han Hyun Jun who lives in Jangheung, Chollanamdo.  Master Han is in his late 70's or early 80's and has great difficulty getting others to take up his laborious work.  We my be posting about our friend Han Hyun Jun in a few months.  So, in other words, Park Jong Il's roofs currently are composed of some contemporary materials that are visible in the following images.

Another View of the Tea Gallery

I decided to also post two images of the Park home.  The first shows the chimney for their ondol heating system and the second a onggi pot made in Ulsan at the Oe-gosan Onggi Village.  You can see and learn more about onggi at

Park Jong Il's Home Showing Chimney

Park Jomg Il's Home with Ulsan Onggi

I know that you have been wondering what his work looks like.  So I'll be posting several pieces.  The first two images show his solution to "water and fire".

These water pots look a lot like Western tea pots but combined with their "fire bowls" they are used simply to keep the water for tea hot.  Jong Il has several solutions for handling the water for tea.  I'll show them in the next addition to this post.
I'll be introducing a number of ceramic tea artists on this blog - including some from other countries.   In addition, I'll introduce you to some of Korea's teas.  Matt is doing a great job at reviewing a number of great Korean teas on his blog so I suggest you visit his blog for more immediate information on tea.  He also looks at some great tea ware artists as well.  Many of whom we have known for years and will be reviewing more in depth here.    
Go To Next Park Jong Il Post 


  1. Morning Earth,

    The design of this house is interesting.

    It is made of the traditional housing materials of ancient potters, those in harmony with nature- clay and wood. These same elements are also the most essential elements of the traditional potter. The clay, the raw material of their wares, and wood- the energy needed to produce their wares. The clay is the yin, the wood is the yang. Wood controlling Earth creating harmony.

    Although this house/workshop is made from these traditional materials it doesn't seem to use entirely traditional Korean architecture but is more of a fusion of traditional Korean elements and newer modern elements.

    From the photos it looks like the traditional manner of supporting the house was employed where larger tree trunks are used to support the house which are not buried into the ground but instead are placed on stones. Also the photos show the traditional ondol, floor heating system, where wood is burned under the rock subfloor to create heat.

    The floor layout seems to deviate from the traditional hanok design, which doesn't seem to resemble that of traditional home shapes of either the upper class or common peoples hanok (traditional Korean house).

    In the end... was the roof finished with tile, straw, or a modern materials?

    Thanks for this wonderful post.


  2. Thanks for your post Matt. It inspired me to add a couple of photos to the previous post. Jong Il is looking forward to making hand-made roof tiles for his home and gallery. In the meantime he has used modern materials as roof covering.
    You may have noticed, I changed my name from my pottery name Morning Earth to my artist name.

  3. Cho Hak,

    Had a feeling that something was going to happen up there. :)

    He's firing his own roof tiles (giwa bongiwa)- a real potters house. The finished product will look real traditional.


  4. Thanks Matt for your comment and especially for your tea blog. I'm glad I discovered it.
    It will take some time before the roofs are complete. A potter has to work hard for a living and after taking so much time for the tea gallery getting back to his tea ware work takes precedence over creating giwa bongiwa.
    I'll create a post here if he completes it. Being a third generation KA, my Korean is nearly non-exhistant. I thought roof tiles were simply giwajang. Any help you can give with the Korean language would be appreciated.

  5. Cho Hak,

    It would be great to see the final product!

    Thought that giwa jang was just the common name for any roof tiles but that giwa bongiwa refers to the traditional Korean style of roof tiles...

    But then again ones Korean is quite poor. Yours is probably a much better!

    Thanks again for such a wonderful look at the life of these potters.


  6. Hi Matt,
    I'm in the process of selecting some of Jong Il's work now. I'll post it soon. I've been delayed as I have a firing coming up soon (demanding that I get some pots made) and have been caring for my wife who just had surgery. Her recovery is going great now so it is just my work that keeps me away. From the time of your post, It looks like you are in Korea now. I'll be there in May in time for tea and the Mungyeong Chassabal (tea bowl) Festival. Is there any chance you will still be in Korea then?
    As for my Korean language skills as I said they are nearly non-existent.
    I would also like to invite you and others to look at my new blog at