Friday, June 4, 2010

Tea Tour Korea 2010 Part 2 (Gangjin)

Sitting around a festival waiting for someone to come to view your work is not very exciting.  I did have groups of monks and a big collector (who bought several good teabowls) come by knowing exactly what they wanted, but that type of sale didn't happen every day and since I had not been with the Heiss’s and Mary visiting the Mungyeong Artists in their studios, for me, the most excitement came during the adventures after the festival.
The Heiss’s along with international artists from Australia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Latvia and Russia accompanied us to Gangjin - at Gangjin’s invitation.  Being able to introduce these artists to the Gangjin area made our adventure very special.
The afternoon of our arrival, we visited Muwisa an ancient temple founded originally in 617 CE and last rebuilt in 1555.  One of the only remaining paintings from the Goryeo Dynasty can be found at this temple.  Nearly all paintings above ground were destroyed during the Japanese invasions particularly the Imjin War - The Pottery War.  Battles for that war were fought in Gangjin's harbor and surrounding areas while a replica of a turtle ship is docked in Yosu a port not far away.

 I believe this is Guan-eum Buddha of Compassion

We were there at a very historic time in the life of this old temple - Muwisa.  They were rebuilding large sections of it using ancient methods handed down for many generations.  Throughout its future the year 2010 will be listed as a year of major renovation at Muwisa - and we were there.  

 Each log is hand planed and fashioned to fit without nails.

Not far from Muwisa is an O’Sulloc tea plantation.  O'Sulloc is a rising star in Korean tea.  Watch for it to be sold in your country in a few years.   This O'Sulloc plantation is just over 20 years old.  Their larger plantation and beautiful tea museum are on the island of Jejudo.  The tea in Gangjin is machine picked in this beautiful setting and the tea drinks quite well. 

The beautiful Mount Wolchulsan frames O'Sulloc tea

 The Gangjin O'Sulloc Tea Plant

That evening we visited Sanghwa College where Kang Kwang Mugg, our host and chair of the ceramics department, demonstrated the making of ceramic carving tools and we toured the facilities.

 Gangjin makes their carving tools from umbrella ribs.

The next morning we experienced the beautifully inlaid celadon at the Gangjin Celadon factory where we met our old friend Yoon Jae Jin who is now the head artist at the factory.  The complex, just for celadon, is huge a testimony to the respect Gangjin has for celadon.   Historically, work produced in Gangjin was considered the finest celadon in the world and 80% of the Goryo Dynasty celadon found in museums throughout the world was made in Gangjin.  Today, they work to maintain that tradition of excellence.

 A 12th century Gangjin Celadon Tea Pot

In the early afternoon, we went to the studio of the onggi potter Jeoung Yoon Suk now a Human Cultural Asset in onggi

 Chollanamdo uses the flopped slab method to form their onggi.

After the onggi visit, we went to Gangjin’s great tea temple of Baekryeonsa, home of the famous tea master Yo Yeon and one of the former homes of the historic Korean tea master Cho-Ui.  There, we had ujeon, fresh first picked green tea and also bought some of the unique ddokcha they make.  The Ujeon was presented in individual cups allowing each participant to watch their tea expand from tiny dried curls to small leaves.  The smooth, sweet taste of good Korean ujeon like this is amazing.  

The monk prepares small sample cups for us to experience

 The expanded leaves make a very smooth and sweet tea

While we were experiencing this tea, Yo Yeon brought in a bag full of freshly picked tea leaves.

 Yo Yeon Picked Tea.  Is this pick sejak or jungjak?  Is it for green tea or ddokcha?

 Yo Yeon's ddokcha rediscovers an old temple tradition. Delicious

The next morning we went to the studio of Jeong Ki-bong one of Korea’s premiere celadon artists as was his father before him and is his son as well. His tea ware is quite varied and beautiful and his carving skills are superb.  We definitely will return to this artist later.

 Let Jeong Ki Bong serve tea to you. 

A Jeong Ki-Bong Double walled vessel. Even the interior vessel is carved!

 Our trip to the Yeongam Pottery Museum (where we saw an outstanding exhibit), brought us some interesting Yeongam green tea served by the director Kim Kyu-Hwa.  “It tastes like mint.” one of the quests exclaimed at first sip.  But it was just the freshness of another amazing green tea.

 Kim Kyu-Hwa serves us tea.

A trip to the very interesting Maritime Museum in Mokpo finished our day.
That last evening we visited the home of our host Kang Kwang-Mugg and met his wife Her Yoon-Jeung and daughter Kang Ga-Hyen in their lovely home.  Mary and I knew Kwang-Mugg and Yoon-Jeung before Ga-Hyen was born and have watched her grow over the years.  This visit was a was a real treat for us and for those who had not been in a Korean home before.  Ga-Hyen played the piano beautifully to entertain us.

What a beautiful way to end our stay in Gangjin


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