+ A

Simple beauty created by a master craftsman

Apr 19,2017
Artisan Choi Woong-taek’s Ido tea bowl. [JOONGANG ILBO]
Tea bowls known as Ido Dhawan, or Ido tea bowls - of which one, the Kizaemon Ido, became a Japanese national treasure - in fact originated in Korea during the 16th century.

As Korean potters were taken to Japan during the Japanese invasion of Korea in 1592, their tea bowls became a highly valued craft in Japan, used during Japanese tea ceremonies and becoming standard ware for Japanese tea masters as well. The Ido tea bowl has been praised for its simplicity and uniqueness, which artisans insist is the beauty of Korean pottery.

Korean artisan Choi Woong-taek, has revived the art of the Ido tea bowls in Korea, embedding the characteristics of the original Ido tea bowls the artisans who came before him created. He’s currently exhibiting his creations at Gallery Kong in central Seoul.

The Ido tea bowls originates in the Ungcheon neighborhood of Jinhae, South Gyeongsang, which produced blue-gray buncheong celadon and soft white porcelains. Choi was born in Ungcheon and is still based there, devoting his life to recreating Joseon’s Ido tea bowls. To make sure he maintains the philosophy of the original artisans, Choi says he insists on using traditional methods - from collecting earth to using the traditional foot spinning wheel. He ensures that everything that goes into his bowls is natural, personally collecting everything, including rain water. What makes Choi’s Ido tea bowls special, according to Gallery Kong, is that the artisan only uses soil called sambaekto, which only exists near a mountain in Ungcheon. Among the one thousand tea bowls put into the kiln for firing, Choi only saves about 10 of them, destroying the rest that are not perfect in his eyes.

“It is really rare to see Ido tea bowls that have their original characteristics unless it’s by artisan Choi,” said Kong Geun-hye, director of the gallery. “The exhibition includes 10 original Ido tea bowls created by Korean artisans in the 16th century, which will be the first time these original artifacts actually meet the public.”

To allow visitors to experience the Ido tea bowls, the gallery will hold a tea ceremony every Thursday and Saturday, serving tea in Choi’s Ido tea bowls. Visitors can purchase Choi’s tea bowls here, which range in price from 1 million won ($875) to 3 million won. The exhibition runs until April 23. The gallery opens everyday except Mondays. For more information, call (02) 738-7776.

BY YIM SEUNG-HYE [sharon@joongang.co.kr]