(Written on the plane back from Seoul)

Today was going to be a busy one. Having made the appointment before realising that my flight, although leaving on the 2nd, was actually just after midnight on the 1st (which meant I was actually leaving a day earlier than I had thought), it was the fullest day you could imagine before heading for the airport.

First thing, after packing and checking out, I headed straight for the National Museum of Korea to buy some books on Korean ceramics. It was closed yesterday so today was my last chance! Last time I came to visit I was in a rush to make another appointment so had not time to check out the literature, and given that researching Korean ceramics was one of my main reasons for coming here, I feel some reading material would be a good thing once I’m home.

So, books in bag, I headed off to meet KyungWon. I must say I did spend a fairly large percentage of the day on trains. Seoul is massive, and getting around on the train takes a good while wherever you are going, and Icheon is actually a town well outside of Seoul. So we caught many trains and taxis today!

Icheon is actually one of the three ‘pottery towns’, Sugwang-ri, Sindun-myeon, Saeum-dong, and, together with Yeoju, it is equivalent to the 6 pottery towns that make up Stoke on Trent.

It is also home to Gyenog-gi International Ceramic Bienniale, one of the most famous ceramic events on the calendar. As a result, there is a massive site with several huge buildings that have been constructed over the past 10 years to house the Bienniale, the Permanent Collection and three temporary exhibition spaces. It also has a residency programmes for emerging ceramic artists housed in two well equipped, spacious buildings.

Jung Eun Han was the focus of our visit and has a studio there as an artist in residence. I was drawn to Jung Eun’s work when Kyung Won included her on the list of suggestions for the show – actually it is farily unforgettable, given that she makes large ceramic seats in the shape of bananas and quirky faces.

She showed us around. The two exhibitions I saw were excellent and I recognized many familiar artists from around the world whose work is in the collection and was part of one of the temporary exhibitions, Painting in Clay. What a luxury to be able to go through the archive and just pick world-class pieces to show as part of an exhibition.

I quizzed Jung Eun about how the residency programme works here. The main building for AIRs it turns out is quite tightly controlled and rather restrictive. It is extremely competitive to be selected, and seems to be a good place to start off after graduating. The emerging artists have one year and are paid a small stipend and have free studio space and firings. The main sticking point is that they are expected to be present from 10-6 every day and they are working in a situation where visitors can stroll past and watch – gives me a slightly weird feeling of being on display, perhaps? The artists who stay on for another year (Jung Eun is one) have much more freedom to do what they want and have really great spaces in a different building. Again, free firings, which is fantastic and low rent.

The best thing about this place must be when the Bienniale happens. I can just imagine how it must come alive with amazing art and artists, events, visitors. The whole complex is full of evidence of a rich ceramic tradition. Be nice to be there for that sometime. Even better to be in it!

After that several more trains back into Seoul and then a farewell dinner to say goodbye to Won, who has been a most excellent and conscientious host and has really gone out of her way with typical Korean hospitality in taking me to meet so many artists and exhibitions and ceramic institutions over the past 3 weeks. Next time we meet it will be in Brighton!



One of the missions I had set myself for this trip was to get some footage of the artist working in their studios. So I have been duly carrying my tripod and camera along to every studio visit and politely asking them if they mind being filmed working. I will hand the footage over to my usual filmmaker and hopefully some of it might make the cut for the eventual documentary that will be made about the project.

Alongside filming them, I have been attempting to record the sounds of them working in the studio. This is totally depends on how noisy their making processes are. I gradually got a system going where I set up the camera filming, then readied myself with the sound recorder (carefully managing to stay out of shot but as close as possible!) and with my mobile phone at the ready in my other hand to take photographs! A juggling game, but hopefully some of it worked!

Most of the artists took the challenge graciously and set about preparing things I could film/record. It was quite good to record and film BoKyung Kim and MinSoo Lee working on the wheel and using a clay mixer. Hye Mi Lee sat at her wheel carving the tiniest lids imaginable for her oil lamps, and KyungWon Baek ground up particles of fired black clay and sifted them into wet porcelain. Jongjin Park set about filing down his layered fired pieces, provided excellent material for sound recording. WookJae I filmed only, as his carving of a lion’s head was very quiet work indeed!

It was near the end of my trip when I suddenly thought that I needed to film the experience of me being in Korea as well! This realisation occurred around the same time that I realised I had one day less than I thought I did in Korea because my flight, although leaving on the 2nd, was actually just after midnight on the 1st which meant my time was very short indeed.

The last few days were filled with back to back appointments and I still hadn’t had even a few hours to go sightseeing. I had one possible day when I could attempt to carry out filming.

As luck would have it, the day in question, which was my second last day, was gloriously sunny, perfect for filmingI mapped out a route across Seoul, taking in as many interesting locations as I could. I started off at the Royal Palace (Gyeongbokgung) and continued along the Cheong-gy-cheon, a new waterway which replaces a busy highway where a long-buried stream used to flow.

I visited the City Hall, the statue of King Sejong who is a revered Korean figure and is remembered in particular for his accomplishment of creating the Korean alphabet, which I have been assured by many foreigners, makes learning Korean a lot easier compared to other Oriental languages.

I visited Dongdaemun, the Great East Gate that used to be one of the entrances into the walled city,

and Zaha Hadid’s huge and impressive Dongdaemun Design Plaza that dominates everything around it.

I then went to see Namsangol Hanok Village, pretty touristy but retaining many traditional Korean hanok buildings in a pretty setting underneath Namsan, the most central of the five mountains forming a ring around the city.

I caught a bus up to the top of Namsan, which was quite an experience. The 360 degree views of Seoul from a lofty vantage point were quite astonishing. (Brighton I360 eat your heart out!)

After watching a performances of traditional dances and mingling with about 5000 other visitors (really!), I caught the cable car down to Namdaemun Market, the biggest market in Seoul , where I tried a new dish for lunch that I hadn’t had before – very nice!

My camera ran out of space on the memory card and battery, so for a while I had to resort to filming on the iPhone, until I manage to get to the camera shop to buy the necessary back-up equipment to continue with the camera. After seeing Sungnyemun, the West Gate, I ended up after dark at Deoksugung, the only Royal Palace that you can visit after dark, which was lovely and peaceful with illuminated architectural gems.

Last stop was Myeong-dong commercial centre, heart of Seoul by far the busiest, most vibrant, neon-lit shopping area of any city I have ever visited. Defintely worth trying to capture on film except my new battery ran out in record time (probably wasn’t charged fully in the shop) so again I had to resort to the phone. Anyway by that time I was really ready to stop!

After a very long but productive day (at least I hope the filming is!), I went back to my guest house to pack – 24 hours to go before I have to be at the airport and still one major visit to go!


KyungWon accompanied me to visit Jongjin Park in his studio, which is in a town called Guri, south east of Seoul. The journey involved trains and buses and we ended up in downtown Geru you looking up at a semi circular glass fronted building. JongJin with there to greet us looking very smart and promptly took us out to lunch to an excellent Chinese restaurant. Yet again fabulously generous Korean hospitality!

I first saw JongJin’s work at Ceramic Art London and then again the same year at Collect in 2015. At the time he was studying an MA at Cardiff and has since gone back to study a PhD at Kookmin University, which he is currently working on.

He shares the studio with two others but his work does seem to take over a lot of the space! I was drawn to rows and rows of jars full of gorgeous pigments in a rainbow of hues. This is what that he uses to colour the slip he uses and his test samples, look so good the way they are all laid out in symmetrical patterns, he is thinking of making an installation piece with them.

His work is very distinctive and he treated us to a demonstration. What he does is paint individual sheets of kitchen towel with coloured slips and layer then on top of each other. His work slightly resembles delicate, crumbling confections of millefeuille pastry and it’s coloured in pastel shades like candy too! He layers up to 600 sheets in a single form. Incredibly time-consuming, labourious work, with astonishing and unique results. I am looking forward to having his work in the show!




This was one of the bigger trips out of Seoul. Yanggu is a province but also a town situated in the north west of South Korea, quite close to the border with North Korea.

Before coming to Korea several people had asked if I was going to North or South, which I took with humour, until I realized that tourist trips to North Korea are becoming more common and on the other hand some are very curious about what it is like in the North and expressed a fervent desire to go! Not for me! I’m happy to limit my experiences to firmly south of the border! Besides I have no time for tourism! Although I concede it would be interesting to know what it’s like. The rumours are probably true, that tours in North Korea are completely stage-managed and they only let you see what they want you to see.

Anyway, I digress from the focus: ceramics!

Yanggu is one of the famous sites for pottery production throughout the Joseon dynasty, which lasted for five hundred years right up until the early 20th Century. This is because kaolin and clay deposits are plentiful all over the area. As soon as we arrived I was standing on a heap of white rocks – the raw materials for making ceramics right under my feet!

I had been looking forward to this trip ever since meeting the three artists who are in residence there at the opening I went to on my first day in Seoul. It was Deokho Kim’s solo show at LVS Project Space, who lives at Yanggu Porcelain Museum with Inhwa Lee, his wife, and Min Soo Kim, all graduates from Seoul University, all working in white porcelain with their own unique style. Min Soo is participating in Made in Korea. I first saw his work at Collect (Saatchi Gallery) in 2015, along with Inhwa Lee’s and Jae Jun Lee’s (the latter whom is also participating).

First, we went for a typical Korean lunch in an idyllic setting surrounded by rolling landscape and mountains all covered with autumnal-tinged trees. Beautiful, as was lunch, generously treated by Min Soo, with true Korean hospitality. Then to the museum.

It is a fairly big complex, with several buildings – the museum itself, which celebrates Yanggu porcelain, a big education centre, and the AIR studio. What a place. I would not mind working there at all! It’s a massive, airy space, the height of a warehouse, but feels cosy and comfortable despite its size, aided by good light. The artists have big spaces to work in and, as usual, excellent facilities all provided by the museum. There is a wood-firing kiln – a traditional climbing Korean kiln – that gets fired at least twice a year. The setting is stunning, right on a broad river with a footbridge that leads across to the wood kiln and ideal for swimming in the summer. I guess the only drawback is that the town is tiny and there is nothing to do except work! But the artists love it there. They are all successful makers, busy producing for exhibitions, all very accomplished. This residency is designed for graduates from Seoul University working in white porcelain, I believe, and everything is provided by the museum (I think!). So it is a great place to be an AIR.

The curator of the museum gave me a tour of the complex and we talked at length about the new residency centre that they are constructing.

We went to visit a couple, both ceramists, who have taken up residence in a brand-new work/live unit in the new site across town. I saw the installation that one of them is sending to the Gyenog-gi Biennial and then we all went round the new building. It used to be a barracks and is being converted into a residence for artists. There is also a new workshop, which looks a bit forlorn right now because it is under construction.

While talking with the curator and the AIRs, the idea of me doing a residency here was discussed, either with a solo show in the museum, or to create a piece of public art. When I mentioned my background as a public artist the curator became interested and I’m not surprised why! There are some fairly shocking examples of public art sprinkled around the site (condemned by all present!) So that is food for thought. The residency programme is not official yet, but he offered me to come whenever I want, with free accommodation, studio and firings I believe, which would be excellent, especially with an outcome such as a solo show or permanent piece in situ.

Originally my intention has been to come back to Korea to make my piece for Made in Korea, but then I veered away from the idea, thinking it would be too much to fit in before May. But I could come back later in the year and develop the new work to show at one of the other possibilities that has been discussed in Seoul in the autumn/winter… so let’s see what transpires.

We all went out for dinner, again incredibly generous Korean hospitality, together with the couple I met today. So that was two fabulous Korean feasts in one day! Delicious.