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See art, see artists, make art at Ye’s Park: It’s not your ordinary excursion when you can spin a clay vase

May 30,2019
Young visitors to Ye’s Park in Icheon, Gyeonggi, paint ceramic bowls to make them their own and take them home. [NEWS1]
Visitors can be creative with the design they put in on the porcelain at Ye’s Park to make something that doesn’t exist elsewhere. [LEE SUN-MIN]
Some of the outdoor installations at Ye’s Park to make the space where all kinds of artworks are welcome. Above: Many different shops display their ceramics for purchase.[LEE SUN-MIN]
Ceramic master Lee Hyang-gu, left, demonstrates how to spin the wheel to make a baekja daeho, or a moon jar, while ceramicist Yeo Kyung-ran shows how to put a colored glaze on to plates before backing them. [LEE SUN-MIN]
ICHEON, Gyeonggi - Everything needed to make a weekend fruitful with experiences is at Ye’s Park, an artistic park 10 years in the making. You will feel cultured by looking at ceramic artwork and feel a sense of accomplishment by making plates and glasses. You can even apply patterns and images with colored paints to make them truly your own, or buy those that are already made and displayed by the masters.

Being surrounded by nature is a joy visitors can get from walking the trails through the flowers, followed by a light meal of rice and banchan, the small sides dishes that go with fresh rice. It makes for an easy day for families and friends to spend a memorable time together without too much planning. It could easily take six hours to enjoy everything the park offers at its 350 craftwork studios.

Gyeonggi’s Icheon tries to take the title of the must-visit city when it comes to craftworks in Korea. With the opening of Ye’s Park, where the popular Icheon Ceramics Festival is held annually, the city tries to attract people who are looking for more hands-on experiences during the weekends. The park isn’t just a place where rows of shops sell ceramics, but a place where families and friends can make their own plates and decorate them and blow glass.

The park is big. Just walking from one end to the other without stopping at any of the stores could easily take 30 minutes. Yet it’s almost impossible to stroll without at least window shopping or browsing new items for your desk or table. The majority of the studios are run by ceramics experts, but others specialize in making musical instruments or blowing glass. Together, they help the park earn its name as the artistic spot to visit. Some of the ceramics experts have several decades of experience and offer hands-on sessions. Thanks to the fact that the park has masters with studios and shops at the same time, it is easy for visitors to look around and then get answers to questions regarding ceramics and their daily work.

At Namyang Ceramics, a master not only demonstrates how he makes round-shaped vases - often called baekja daeho, or moon jars - of many different sizes using a spinning wheel, he also shows how clay is baked in a large kiln that keeps its heat even for a day after the fire is extinguished. Although many dream about trying having their “Ghost” moment by spinning the wheel, master Lee Hyang-gu said that first timers almost never succeed in spinning on their own and need an expert to spin it with them. If you want to be creative with the patterns, that is also possible. The master’s daughter, who is in charge of adding images to the ceramics, will guide visitors in how to add color. If you wish for the image of a pig, then you can pull up an image online to make a sketch, and then add colored paints with a brush to finish. If a visitor makes one and leaves it with the studio, they will be able to get it within a week by mail. It is 20,000 won ($16.70) per person to either make a pot or a painting. It is also possible to simply buy finished products in the shop adjacent to the studio.

What captures the eye of many is glassware studio Flux. Here, the masters provide the rare experience of blowing glass to make a cup or a vase. Visitors can make a cup in the shape of their choice, such as a big beer stein or a vase that is narrow and long, for instance. While blowing glass to make a product is not for everyone, making a glass muddler is an option even for a 6 year old. For more musical experiences, visitors can choose to decorate a ukulele. At Cera Guitar Cultural Center, visitors can use paints to make their own ukulele and learn how to play it.

What’s different here in comparison to other art parks is that the craft masters actually reside on site. Each master has built their own building inside the park, and many of them have fit out an upper story as a place to stay and the ground floor as a shop and or a studio. Some have guests over for an “art stay,” so that visitors who wish to stay overnight in the park can do so. There are about 30 spots open, and depending on what room option you choose, it could be about 30,000 won per person to stay overnight to about 200,000 for the entire space per night.

BY LEE SUN-MIN [summerlee@joongang.co.kr]

Ye’s Park is open everyday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. It takes about an hour and 15 minutes from central Seoul to the park by car. Visitors can also get on a bus from the Seoul Express Bus Terminal to get to Icheon Terminal and get a local taxi to the park. Tours in English, French, Japanese and Chinese are currently available upon request in advance.

For more information about the park, call (031) 638-1994.