Value of Thinking Hands
Craftspeople Kim Deok-ho and Lee In-hwa are a couple who studied ceramic arts at the same school. Using white porcelain soil, they create simple yet elegant pieces. They may seem different from one another but do have some similarities.
Kim Deok-ho and Lee In-hwa are a potter couple who have been using white porcelain materials to produce a wide range of pieces. As senior researchers at Yanggu Porcelain Research Institute, they devote their time to exploring the world of white porcelain. Their works are reminiscent of abstract paintings and even refined objects.
Q. Tell our
readers about yourselves.
We are married to each other and we're currently based in Yanggu. We value daily life, work and thinking pairs of hands. We take materials from daily life seriously as we turn them into all sorts of different objects.
Q. We were surprised to see your styles are much more different than we'd expected. What are your focal points?
We create objects through the rotation of a spinning wheel and marbling techniques. They're both very traditional and widely-used methods in the annals of ceramics. On the wheel, we can use the centrifugal force to create uniform shapes. With marbling, you can mix clays of different colors to create stripes and other various patterns. Both of us use these techniques to express different themes. We may use the same materials and the same techniques, but our white porcelains may still show different characteristics.
Q. Though you may have different styles, your objects are all quite delicate. What's the most difficult part of your trade? And where do you draw your inspirations from?
There's nothing easy and simple about our craft, whether it's marbling clays and putting them on the wheel, trimming the surface or heating clays at 1,280℃ and polishing the surface. This is a complicated process, and we feel the most important element is to pay attention to every little detail and leave no stone unturned. Another crucial thing is to find, within the realms of experimentation, the one thing that will make your object aesthetically pleasing in the end.
"We may use the same materials and the same techniques, but our white porcelains may still show different characteristics."
Q. Of many different materials available, you only use white porcelain clay. Why is that?
White porcelain clay is one of the most difficult materials to handle. But once we figured out how to make the most of it and started creating objects that best represent white porcelain's properties, the sense of reward was immense. And white porcelain clay is much different from other clays, which is why it has been among the world's most treasured material. We're fascinated with the whole process involving white porcelain clay and how it is so unique compared to others.
Q. Your studio is located in Yanggu, famous for quality white porcelain clay. How does the local clay affect your craft?
For over four centuries, white clay from Yanggu was the main material for Joseon's white porcelain. There's no doubting its quality. And it's never easy for present-day potters to end up in a place where they can work with and study clay of highest quality.
Q. What are your responsibilities as senior researchers at Yanggu Porcelain Research Institute?
Seoul National University and the county of Yanggu signed an agreement in 2014 to found Yanggu Porcelain Research Institute. Since then, senior researchers have taken their roots in Yanggu, and have been working with ceramics researchers from Seoul National University and Yanggu Porcelain Museum to conduct researches, host exhibitions and run promotional campaigns. Notably, we have developed glaze using white clay of Yanggu, and have been holding exhibition every year. Once a year, we also put together an archive of academically significant activities.
Q. What are your plans for the future?
In a rapidly-changing society, crafts are trying to find their identity. And as potters, we both are trying to figure out what we're trying to do and what kind of social value our work has through exhibitions and collaborations. Above all, our biggest objective is to stay in this line of work together as long as we can.