Tuesday, January 14, 2014

The Kettles of Kim Jong Hun: Teaware Artist

   Sometimes, not often, you discover the work of an artist that you just have to meet.  Such is the case with Kim Jong Hun from Yeoju.  On Tea Tour Korea 2011 we took the group to meet one of our favorite ceramic artists the renowned porcelain carver Jeon Seong-Keun.  Jeon's porcelain work is astounding and we will feature one of his teapots here on our next post.  But for now I want to tell you the story of how we met Kim Jong Hun.  Afterwards, think you will understand why we are introducing Kim Jong Hun as a tea ware artist first.  
   During the many years of researching and visiting Korean ceramic artists Jeon Seong-Keun has become a good friend.  When we visit him he always wants to take us somewhere special or be with us when we visit one of our usual stops.  Seong-Keun came with the tea tour group when we visited the Yeoju World Ceramic Exposition Foundation (WOCEF) complexes.  Instead of going straight to the museum area, that has wonderful year round exhibits, Seong-Keun led us to the Yeoju Ceramic Retail Shop where local ceramic artists have work on display.  Immediately we saw some great water kettles.  Frank Benjowski who owns what may be one of the finest Tea Shops in the world or at least in Berlin, Germany.  Immediately called me over to look at them.

 Kim Jong Hun's Kettles

   "These are wonderful kettles. Please try to find the artist. I want to buy them." Frank said.  Of course Frank wanted them for his shop and didn't want to pay the retail price.  
I like a challenge and the chance to meet another good teaware artist always intrigues me.  But we were not staying in Korea after the tea tour so the chance to meet the tea kettle artist, Mr. Kim, would have to wait and with it the possible loss of these specific kettles if they were sold.
   In August 2011, we returned to Korea to host the group of ceramic artists, who had been selected from around the world, to participate in the International Gangjin Celadon Festival.  As part of that tour we also visited our friend the porcelain carver Jeon Seong-Keun but our time in Yeoju where he lives was so short we didn't have time to also search out Kim Jong Hun.  We made arrangements with Mr. Jeon and his wife to return to Yeoju after the tour so that we could make that connection.
   Traveling to Yeoju or anywhere in Korea by bus is always inexpensive and usually as quick as driving.  The trip to Yeoju should only take a couple of hours.   This one took 4 hours as there had been a major accident closing the freeway that diverted us to the back roads.  I had worked and lived with the potter Lee Jun Hee in Icheon, the city next to Yeoju, years earlier and this 'back roads' trip brought memories of the trips I took from Seoul to his studio so many years ago.  Both Icheon and Yeoju are "potter's" villages and two of the cities that host the World Ceramic Exposition every other year as mentioned above.  Incidentally, we are already accepting applications now for a "World Ceramic Exposition Tour" to Korea to take place during their famous exposition.  That is next year - Oct 2015 (unless they change the month).  We are looking for 12+ participants (no more than 16) at non-profit prices for a 9-15 day ceramics tour.  Contact us if you are interested.  But I digress - my apologies. 
   We finally arrived in Yeoju where we were met by Jeon Seong-Keun and his wife Choi To-Me and taken by car to meet Kim Jong Hun.
 click on images to enlarge
Kim Jong Hun lives with his wife Moon Ji Young in a traditional Korean home off the beaten path.  Their studio is on the left.  Moon Ji Young is nationally known for her beautiful and very Korean ceramic dinnerware.

 Moon Ji Young

Because she does very little teaware, we will post on the work of Moon Ji Young at another time and on a different blog.  Contact us if you are interested in her beautiful work.  Note that Korean wives maintain their family name as in the example of Choi To Me, the wife of Jeon Seong Keun and Moon Ji Young, the wife of Kim Jong Hun.  Note also that there are many fine female teaware artists in Korea and we will be posting on some of them as this blog develops.
   We had little idea what to expect when we visited Kim Jong Hun and Moon Ji Young.   We knew he fired with wood, achieving some great surfaces, but having only seen a few pieces we couldn't guess the range of his work.  

Two Kim Jong Hun Kettles 

These are the kettles we found at the shop but when we arrived, he had just received a call that some of his teaware had been sold that day so he had no idea if these tea kettles were still available.  (It took us nearly a month of emails and calls after returning home to finally learn that they were.)  Let's look a little closer at his work.


   The main feature of the lid is a very unusual knob.  It is loose and held in place by an internal support.  The lid itself fired separate from the kettle simply has a flange protruding into the vessel.


Much of not most of the teaware produced in Korea is fired at between 1200˚C and 1250˚C.  That's approximately between pyrometric cones 5 and 8 or low by USA standards.  These kettles have considerable natural ash melting so one can presume that these kettles were fired somewhat higher since most wood ash doesn't melt much before cone 9 or 10.  

 
The handles of most of his kettles are made of copper tubing formed and carefully soldered into place.   This is at once a beautiful, effective and unusual handle solution.  The various aspects of Kim Jong Hun's water kettles make them both wonderful kettles and unique.  It is no wonder that he has won top awards in Korea for them.  Wait until you see his teapots and chawan.  Can't wait?  Ask.
Interested in learning more about this artist?  A longer post on him will be coming soon to our teaware blog.

We are Morning Crane Tea are working to find and introduce both excellent teas and exceptional teaware artists like Kim Jong Hun and his wife Moon Ji Young to the Western world.  As mentioned, I will be posting more about Kim Jong Hun on our teaware blog.  Join that blog to learn when that post will be available.  If you have an interest in learning more about the work of Kim Jong Hun or his wife Moon Ji Young now contact us.
P. S.
I can't leave this post that began with the porcelain carver Jeon Seong-Keun and his help finding these artists without showing at least one of his pieces.  I'll be posting on his teapots soon.

 Double-Walled Bottle Jeon Seong-Keun

This piece is completely hand carved.  Can you imagine what his teapots are like? 

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