Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Tea Tour Korea 2010 - Part 1

(click images to enlarge)
What an adventure we had in Korea before, during and after the Mungyeong Chassabal Festival.  I don’t really know where to begin.  
We arrived at our hotel in the heart of Insadong, walked out the door to explore the area and around the corner where we discovered a small gallery exhibiting the work of a tea ware artist.  I had to walk in.  To my surprise, the artist looked familiar.  He knew me too.  After a while we realized that we had exhibited together a couple of years earlier in Gyeongju, the ancient capital of the Silla Dynasty that eventually united all of Korea.  Mary, my wife, and I, along with some other international artists on one of our tours, had been invited to exhibit with the Korean Wood-fire Association in Gyeongju.  Jeong Song-hoon, the exhibiting artist, is a member of that association.   

Jeong Song-hoon Bo-yi Tea Caddy

Jeong makes an interesting tea caddie for 'bo-yi'  tea (not to be confused with bori or bodi cha i.e. barley tea).  'Bo-yi' is the Korean term for 'pu-ehr' tea also known in China as bo-ee similar to Korean. Jeong’s small teapots, in particular, are quite nice and we had to add one to our collection.  Rediscovering this artist set the tone for what would become a great Korean tea and tea ware adventure. 

 Jeong Song-hoon Bo-yi Teapot

I had been corresponding with David Mason and scheduled a meeting the day after we arrived in Korea.  If you have never heard of David Mason, an expert on Korean tea, Korean travel and Korea’s mountain spirits, you really owe it to yourself to follow my links.  We met him to discuss our mutual interests.

David Mason at his Neighborhood Restaurant

In the process I became very interested in the Baekdu-daegan, Korea’s mountain spine, that really involves travel, tea and much more.  The Baekdu-daegan makes a major turn at Mungyeong thus putting Mungyeong at the center of any adventures that might take place there.  
The next day we also met briefly with Brother Anthony, co-author of The Korean Way of Tea who by chance was having a meeting with Jeff Novick, an antique dealer from Thailand, who has also corresponded with me about my tea ware.  David and his wife and Jeff and his wife would eventually meet us again at the Mungyeong festival, although separately.
There were 30 international artists from 26 countries that participated in the 2010 Mungyeong Chassabal Festival.  These, in Mungyeong’s order, included:
America - Myself / Australia - Sue McFarland / Belgium - Linda De Nil / Canada - Barbara Balfour / China - Wang Guoxiang / Czech Republic - Petr Novak / Denmark - Anne Mette Hjorthöj / England - Lisa Hammond / France -  Claire Linard / Germany - Ute Dreist / Ireland - Peter Fulop / Japan - Yoshiro Kimura and Kim Kyung-Duk / Latvia - Dainis Punderus / Malaysia - Mohad Roslan Ahmad / Netherlands - Niek Hoogland and Pim van Huisseling / New Zealand - Elena Renker / Norway - John Skognes and Tora Haabet / Pakistan - Raania Azam Khan Durrani / Poland - Monika Patuszynska / Russia - Natalia Vilvovskaja / Singapore - Ahmad Abu Bakar and Gita Winata / Sweden - Steven Jones / Switzerland - Valentine Burkhalter / Taiwan - Shan- Shu Lin / Thailand - Somluk Pantiboom and / Vietnam - Nguyen Bao Toan.  It was like the United Nations of ceramics and we made lasting friendships. 

Exhibiting Artists Mungyeong Chassabal Festival 2010
The "Queen" joined our group as were were using her quarters for our exhibit space.

Mungyeong sponsors just one ceramic artist per country.  Where there are more than one, the other artist is a close friend, husband or wife.  One does not apply to be included as artists are selected and invited and to do so would be rude.  Obviously I can’t, in this post, highlight all of these potters but I’ll make an attempt at a few at a time, from time to time, during the next year between other postings on tea or at the dawan-chawan blog where it might be more appropriate.  
I selected three artists to introduce and admittedly there is some bias.  

 Smile Ute - Your usually smiling

 One of Ute's Excellent Teabowls

Ute Dreist was traveling internationally visiting potters in many countries when Mungyeong found her and invited her to participate. In addition, many of the European invited artists owe Ute for their invitation to participate in the Myngyeong Chassabal Festival.  She is a outstanding Germa ceramic artist and participates in many festivals in Europe.  
Sue McFarland came to Korea with us on a tour several years ago.  When the opportunity opened for more artists at the festival, she was invited by Mungyeong to participate.

Mungyeong is famous for their apples, maybe Sue will become famous for hers.

This work has a radiant quality I'm not capturing.

Sue is an excellent ceramic artist and won a prestigious award for her teabowls in Australia.  She is very active in her ceramic association as well - past president.  We've become friends and SKYPE often.
Petr Novak was found by me when I answered a question his partner, Miro Randova, posted on a ceramic site I happened to visit.  “My partner does tea ware.”, she wrote. 

Petr does superb tea ware as some of you following this site know. 

Miro should have said, "Petr does great tea ware.".  He is beginning to gain a following in Asia from the contacts he is making in Mungyeong.  The Czech Republic has a very strong tea culture and Petr seems to be a central part of it. 

A graceful teapot and some small bowls by Petr Novak

I will eventually introduce you to all of the international artists and some of the Korean artists who participated in the Mungyeong Chassabal Festival on this blog and on the dawan-chawan-chassabal blog.  
One of the highlights of the festival is its setting.  The Mungyeong Chassabal Festival is set in a beautiful comprehensive movie set.  A great place to experience both tea and tea ware. 

      Mountain mist greets us when we arrive at our booth.

Our booths are behind the palace gate

Straw thatched roofs remind us of old Korea

Many festival goers enjoy the scenic grounds of the movie set as much as the ceramic art.  That wasn't the case with David Mason.  When David Mason arrived he was with Roger Shepard who is now sitting at a temple high in the mountains near Mungyeong writing a book with David about hiking the Baekdu-daegan.  Roger and his friend Andrew Douch, both from New Zealand, are probably the only Caucasians to do so.  The adventure is like walking the heart of the culture of Korea with its many temples, mountain people, mountain spirits and tea.  We’re working on some tour possibilities that will combine some of their adventure with visits to the many artists whose homes and studios are in or near these beautiful mountains.  What experiences those tours will be! 

Roger, David and Andrew

Osaek scenic-gorge

On Saturday Mary Lou and Robert Heiss, authors of The Story of Tea arrived at the festival.  They are writing a book on international tea ware and contacted us to help them meet some Korean artists.  The festival was also a great place to meet tea ware artists from many other countries.  Mary, my wife (not to be confused with Mary Lou), with our translator Dr. Charlie Youn, escorted the Heiss’ to the studios of some of the best tea ware artists in Mungyeong.
Mary Lou (L) and Robert Heiss (R) with Kim Jong Ok Korea's National Intangible Asset in ceramics 

These artists included both Cheon Han Bong and Kim Jong Ok, Intangible Cultural Assets in ceramics.  While I stayed behind attending my booth, they had quite an adventure with these wonderful artists.

Cheon Han Bong, Intangible Cultural Asset



  1. You might wonder why I wrote about the Baekdu-daegan on a tea blog. THe spine of Korea begins in Jirisan tea country and travels north to the great tea ware area of Mungyeong, branches out past the pottery villages of Icheon and Yeoju and north though some of the most beautiful mountains of Korea. To walk it is a breathtaking journey through Korea's rich culture including tea. Like Tea and ceramics, the Baekdu-daegan touches the heart of Korean arts and culture.

  2. What a wonderfull time it must have been. Amazing surroundings, amazing tea wares and a shared experience with people just as obsessed as ourselves.

  3. Arthur,

    What a great trip it was! So much tea and teaware, mountains and more mountains. Your gift to us is used regularly. What a joy to meet you and Mary. Next year at Mungyeong?

    Jeff (Ho Go)