Onggi Master

Traditional Korean Earthenware

Onggi is traditional Korean earthenware made from clay with a high percentage of iron and hand formed on a kick wheel. Onggi has a long tradition as storage containers for fermented foods and dates back to 5000 BC.

Onggi (Korean: 옹기) is Korean earthenware, which is extensively used as tableware as well as storage containers in Korea. It includes both unglazed earthenware fired near 600~700 °C and pottery with a dark brown glaze that burnt over 1100 °C.

The origin of onggi dates to approximately 4000 to 5000 BC.[1] There were two types of earthenware: a patternless earthenware which is called Mumun and a black and red earthenware. The former, a patternless earthenware, was made with lumps of clay including much fine sand; however, the predecessor of Goryeo celadon and Joseon white porcelain, a black/red earthenware, was being made with only lumps of clay. The color of earthenware is determined by the iron contained in the mud and the way of burning the pottery. The present onggi shape dates from the Joseon era. There are many records about onggi in Sejong Sillok Jiriji (Korean: 세종실록지리지, "King Sejong's Treatise on Geography"): "There are three kilns that make the yellow onggi in Chogye-gun and Jinju-mok, Gyeongsang Province".[2]

Head, Heart, Hands

Korean artist Lee Kang-hyo is a master of Onggi . A short documentary film tells the story of this widely respected master potter and the spiritual journey that plays a major role in his artistic practice. We are brought into his studio where over the course of 5 days we witness his dynamic working process and he shares with us his definition of making art and making a beautiful life, and how the two are inseparable. Lee Kang-hyo is the opposite of a Celebrity Artist and a testimony to the pure joy of creating.

How to use this resource in IB Art

This film is a great teaching resource for IB art, it addresses many of the areas of learning we aim to integrate into our teaching of a holistic curriculum:

  • It explores a traditional art form deeply rooted in the past but brought into a contemporary artists' practice.
  • It demonstrates how art can have both a practical and an expressive form and function.
  • It shows one individual artists personal development within a given art form, how he struggles with convention until he finds his own way of working within this tradition.
  • He embodies so many qualities of the IB Learner Profile , its quite inspiring!

The film is 35 minutes long, perfect for one lesson period with some written reflections in the Visual Journal to follow. (Also a great substitute lesson plan). It is guaranteed to inspire (at least some) students and stimulate some thought provoking discussion on what it means to be an artist.

Visual Journal Reflections on Lee Kang-hyo

What is Onggi technique?

How does it reflect Korean culture?

What did he learn in Japan about ceramics?

Where does Lee Kang-hyo find inspiration?

What is the function and purpose of his work?

How is his body and heart involved in his art practice?

What does happiness mean to him?

watch the 35 minute video on vimeo

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