* Date : 2015-08-03
Dotted with green tea fields, Boseong is responsible for 40% of all green tea production in Korea.
There is a master potter called Song Gi-jin who lives amidst this sea of green tea plants. He upholds the traditional way of making pottery.
Pottery is a work of art shaped by clay and water. He uses a traditional kiln that he built himself to handcraft a type of ceramic ware called Boseong deombeongi.
A biscuit-fired ceramic bowl is dunked ("deombeong" in Korean) in a mixture of white slip; hence, the name deombeongi. Deombeongi bowls were invented by Joseon-era potters and are a type of Buncheong ware, or grayish-blue slipware. They were mostly made in the Boseong area.
Boseong deombeongi has a wide following in Japan, which has a vibrant tea drinking culture. During the Japanese Invasion of Korea, the Japanese took many deombeongi ceramics with them, which they renamed Kohiki-style slipware. Some of these stolen pieces have become national treasures in Japan. Young Japanese potters even visit traditional kilns in Boseong to learn how to make Joseon-style ceramics while Japanese antique collectors covet 16th or 17th century Joseon-era tea bowls. Their love of Boseong deombeongi gives us renewed interested in this ceramic art.
Deombeongi slipware was showcased in Beijing, China last November in a pottery exhibition. It was called the East Asia Three Potters Slipware Exhibition. Zhang Runsheng from China, Touri Maruyama from Japan and Song Gi-jin from Korea participated in the exhibition. Each country's unique pottery was on display and showed how Buncheong ware could be elevated to works of art.
Amongst the ceramic exhibits, Boseong deombeongi shined the brightest. Visitors saw how practical the pottery was in its simplicity. One Chinese tea master experienced the depth of East Asian philosophy while drinking tea from a deombeongi tea bowl.
Master potter Song Gi-jin has this to say...
"Deombeongi is not a finished ceramic piece or even well-made. There is a beauty to Joseon bowls that isn't forced or manmade. This kind of beauty does not fade as the years pass by. This permanence is found in Boseong deombeongi."
Song Gi-jin has spent over 20 years making Boseong deombeongi and devoted his youth to this craft. For each piece of pottery he makes, he puts in hours of dedication and careful attention to follow the traditional techniques. Boseong deombeongi slipware grows and changes with the person who uses it. That is how, one day, it becomes a bowl containing the secrets of life.