Tuesday, August 31, 2010
I thought about this kid today, who seemed to be searching for his friends, or someone to notice that it was the last week without homework! I wonder if he realized just how lucky he was, kids living only 1000 ft from where I spotted him started school today. Somehow, that just didn't seem right.
All this nostalgia brings to mind another point. Kenny and I ventured without kids in tow to Saratoga this weekend. That in itself is loaded with recollections. I remember on one particular HS visit to Saratoga, my mother and I getting into a disagreement and I got out of the car when we stopped at an orchard and I started to walk towards home. I got 7 miles away before my mom caught up with me. I refused to get into the car, I was bound and determined to find the next payphone to call my dad so he could come get me. I had $50. in my pocket, which was MAD money he had given me, I guess I wanted to see if it worked? I remember visitng with my first college roomate Joyce. We snuck up to her boyfriends cottage in Broadalben, they stayed there for the weekend while I headed through TOGA on the way to my grandmother's house in Granville. I stopped at the Stewarts and bought a coffee. I also went 50 miles out of the way to get from the lake to her house. Then there were too many adventures with Colleen in town, my roomate as well. She grew up in Clifton Park. We seemded to frequent town quite often, concerts, bars, the track to see Paul (Kenny's roomate and best friend) and the amazing dinners we had with Paul's dad and friends. More recent, attending Speedskating camp, the swims with Amy in Desolation, Tinney's (one day we will get ribs on Thursday), riding with Kelly and Alison (remarkedly I think that the orchard I spoke about above is the same one we frequent on our rides?), the Jonesville Store, The Battlefield rides (did you know there is a town named VICTORY nearby?), the awesome (I am completely jealous of)famers market on Satudays, and just hanging out with the friends I have made in the area. Saratoga, in the summer (and the fall, winter and spring) has seemingly become a second home to me. This past weekend lived up to it as well. Kenny and I went to the market, to Jonesville and to the Mill for dinner with Kelly and VIc. It was relaxing and a wonderful way to spend my final weekend of summer.
An interesting thing about the market, prior to going to Korea, this market always seemed like a very large and awe inspiring place. Its not quite as large as the Lancaster or Redding Terminal markets, but it has a much different vibe to it, more wholesome, more in tune with the environment, more like a community. After Korea, the market seemed small, still wonderful, but not quite there yet in terms of all a maket could be. The Saturday marketplace I visited had a performance space not just a stall, and so many market stalls that it covered six blocks square. There were venders of all kinds, food, goods, livestock... some in designated spaces, some just lined up in alleyways on the ground. There was also a distinct smell to the place, and what has me comparing is related to smell. All the greens I ate in Korea were called lettuce. There was a smell/taste I knew that I knew, but I could not put my finger on it. When Kenny bought some turnip greens this weekend it was a bingo moment. One of the greens I ate frequently was turnip as well as mustard, Sesame, romaine, redleaf...
Labor Day is fast approaching, and by then my first week of the school year will be over and the lazy daze will be just a memory. I am already wondering what next summer will bring...maybe adventures in Iowa? (Ragbrai?) I know that without a doubt, my adventures with Pete will have a new chapter and by then I will have 2 kids out of college. I guess we will know 10 months from now? Happy Fall!
On another note: HAPPY BIRTHDAY HANNA (your party was amazing!)
Friday, August 27, 2010
She had this incredible antique tea pot. I am thinking, by the decorative arts I have studied that it is from the 1920's and from Japan. It was something special to use once in awhile, but because of the china paint on it, I would be cautious about frequent use. Non the less, we shared some of the hand picked green tea I brought home from Korea. It was an amazing morning and I found myself rehashing things about Korea all day. I was reminiscing the subtleties of the culture.
I spent the afternoon in my studio, sort of. I made the electronic mistake of checking e-mail first, which led to too many need to tend to tasks. I eventually ripped myself free from the gadgetry and headed for some quality time with MUD. OK, quality is relative. I managed 3 hours before deciding that I was over thinking things too much. As things set up over the next day or so, I will meditate my way into this new body of work I need to accomplish for an exhibition that will occur shortly (YES I AM TOO PANICKED). I was asked to exhibit based on the work I had been known for before August but after my trip I am ready to toss the baby out with the bath water...GULP! help? HELP!!!
In the past 24 hours I have been also dealing with the impending speedskating season. Trying to secure ice, planning workouts, and finding myself jealous that Chris is in SLC for a few weeks at a training camp while my summer has come to an abrupt halt. I awoke this morning with this passion for skating that I haven't been able to muster up for a very long time. Yet, knowing that I have so much at stake with my artwork, I am a bit hesitant... perplexed...and longing...why so competitive now?
Tuesday, August 24, 2010
I managed some studio time today. I have prepared a half a dozen cups for my up coming exhibition. I had wondered what would come out of my hands after spending all that time looking at work in a far off land. I am pleased with what I have accomplished, yet its only the beginning of what I have to do. Only time (and the flame) will tell what the final outcome will be. I honestly have to say, that its the first time in a very long time that each calculated move has a glaze thought behind it (again think Red Velvet Cake) I want contrast -juicy, thick, rich, frosting against dark, grainy, reduction...I want my audience to know why I chose the glazes I did without asking me. I want them to experience my thoughts visually. ABSOLUTELY no room for words.
I sit here, making dinner for Kenny and Anna, a simple temple meal, miso, rice, greens, and fried seaweed. I thought it would be awhile before I was moved to eat rice again, but this meal seems to be connected to an inspiration. The house smells wonderful, and on such a cool day I am sure it will be a welcomed thought. I am still hanging on to that inspiration, the woodcarver I met (Park Chan Soo) somewhere in my travels (Moka), He too has an exhibition coming up, in NYC of all places. How wonderful it will be to share his work with my students.
I managed some studio time today... I was terrified of entering the space. I had these visions of being overwhelmed with information. I was pleasantly surprised.
Saturday, August 21, 2010
On that note, I am home... in the US , in NY, where everyone is from somewhere. Yet when I paid for beer last night in the Bronx and thanked the guy in Korean automatically, he looked at me like he had thought he had seen it all until I showed my sorry looking face. Kamsahaminida is all I said as he handed me my change. You would have thought I WAS FROM MARS.
I have an exhibition in December...wait a minute, I have an exhibition in December...HOLY CraP!!! I HAVE AN EXHIBITION to prepare for...two actually... and I feel this need to be completely fresh...so I am scrapping everything, considering the baby and the bath water, which in both cases are too old and too cold. I find myself thinking of Tae Keun Yoo"s work and how I am so fond of POTASH Shino's especially when they look like FROSTING against a groggy clay (similar to a RED VELVET cake). I also find myself revisting the inuksuk's that Lovey introduced me to, and Pete and I saw the development of, and I witnessed a connection to with carvings for mountain spirits in Korea. It seemed every town had a tributary stone carved for its ancestors. I was even taken by the DOL Hareubang replicas at the porcelain festival the originals are found on Jeju Island. The reminded me of the heads found on Easter Island... think about 6 degrees here, and I am talking 1000's of years in the making not the present. I am overwhelmed. Maybe a day or two of rest?
When I think back over the experience, I am astounded by how much I saw, how much I learned, how many links to new learning I was left with and how many contacts I could use for resources AND... HOW I CAN NOT WAIT to return for new experiences. I would love to spend time collaborating with Korean artists in a residency situation and then firing... I only wish I was an artist who could invite artists at WATERSHED, I know exactly who I would ask... it would be an east (Korea/China/Japan) meets west (US/GB) experience, with a Middle East/Australian twist. We would WOOD FIRE and share...Oh the possibilities...Tyler is there any way? Late June/Mid August, I think I could fill the place. How do I ask, propose, etc?
I visited Hanna today, she looked better than when I had left. I was so thrilled to see this progress. Sweetie, I hope the next round makes you even stronger! You are an inspiration and I love you!!!
I am so tired today. Its 8:30 PM and I feel completely fried. I ate pizza today, NY PIZZA, the only kind, to which I added a TON of red pepper flakes and still found it bland. Dinner? I asked Kenny to cook anything American for dinner. He grilled a nice steak. I found myself asking for lettuce leaves and hot sauce... Surely I am impressed!
More another time...off to finish the beer that will cleanse me of the homogenous stuff I drank while I was away. Oh yeah, congratulations SCOTT and MEGAN !!!
Friday, August 20, 2010
This is my last entry from Korean soil. I board my flight in about 40 minutes. I have to say that this has been quite the adventure and only the time in the air and getting through customs remains. A few weeks go 18 international ceramic artists came together to celebrate celadon in a remote farming village on the southern coast of Korea before going out on tour. We have packed so much information into that 18 days that my head is spinning.
Last night I visited the studio of a painter and had goodbye drinks on the roof of our hotel. This morning before saying my final goodbyes, I headed to view some of the palaces and the Cheonggye stream. as well as making one last stop in Insadong, just in case I forgot a bobble or two. It was 9 AM and already really hot. I walked for 2 1/2 hours hoping to pre-empt the stiffness I will feel in a very short time. The heat is one thing I will not miss. I arrived back at the hotel dripping with sweat, grabbed my bags, checked out, paid for my cab and said my goodbyes. It was a very hard thing to do considering I have gotten close to so many here. I am guessing this will be an excuse to visit other places (Melborne, Perth, Brisbane, the tree top walk of Western Australia not to mention Japan and Israel. I must confess that travel to Japan is in the works as we speak. I am hoping that it works out.
We left the hotel at 1PM and arrived at the airport around 2:15, not without wear, our driver fell asleep with 32K to go. As we passed over the bridge in Incheon the tide was down. The land surrounding the rocky islands that reminded me of Maine, was a fiery red with a wildflower that can withstand both sea water and being submerged. It was beautiful. We arrived at the airport shortly afterwards and one of our friends went on his way without saying as much as goodbye. Kim and I checked in. Her bags didn't pass screening, which was cause of for some tense moments. The culprit was an aerosol can she forgot she had. We walked around for a bit, met with some friends who arrived a bit later before all going our separate ways for good. I stopped on my way down to my gate to have something to eat. I was starving, one last Korean meal. I even ate the Kimchi.
I know it will take some time to process all I have learned and experienced. I have an exhibition in December that I will be starting a whole new body of work for. I cannot wait to see how my work changes, I know it will.
Wednesday, August 18, 2010
On another note, I did find out what the Air Raid Siren sounded for yesterday. The American Embassy was taking part in an emergency operations drill. The siren sounded to signal the start of that drill. Wow, I wonder how many panicked. The museum staff certainly seemed to.
Ok- off to spend my last 24 hours in Seoul. More later!
Tuesday, August 17, 2010
We visited another potter, Kim YikYung whose work was a big contrast, porcelain, faceted, and clean. She has a small production shop in the city of Seoul not to far from Insadong. From here we strolled back to the hotel by one of the gates and through Insadong where peddlers were selling things like antiques, brushes, paper, and fabric.
I spent the afternoon just relaxing, walking through the markets and lounging by the pool before heading to dinner (lasagna, which was very sweet and served with dill pickles). Then we headed out to the theatre to see Miso, the Original Korean Musical. It was fabulous.
Today we woke up early and headed to two museums, the National Korean Museum and the Samsung. I preferred the Korean Museum as it reminded me of the Met, lots to see and well put together exhibits. As we were leaving this museum there was a bit of a fright, a siren went off that sounded like an air raid and someone jokingly made a statement about the North Koreans finally deciding to launch something...which wasn't funny. Two of our group actually got stuck in the museum. I am not sure why the siren sounded?
The second collection was sparse, still nicely put together. Half of it was archival Korean work, and the other half Modern. I found the modern collection much more exciting, though I was confused about the choices made for the exhibition. There was one piece however that blew me away. It was Kang Ik- Joong's "I have to Learn English" I totally got it, as after a few weeks here I feel I have not progressed to far with the Korean and despite leaving on Friday, I feel like I need to still pursue the language so that I can communicate with a few artists I have met.
Tomorrow morning I am off to the DMZ, I feel like as an American school teacher visiting the Korean Peninsula its a necessary thing to do to complete my trip. I was advised to let my next of kin know I am going as well as bring my passport. There is even a dress code; no jeans, no sleeveless shirts, no shorts... well, you have the picture.
Monday, August 16, 2010
Our first stop of the morning was the Living Ceramics Museum where we were greeted by a staff that opened the museum for us for 1 hour. There was this table ware show that was to die for. Each room had exquisite place settings, each one more elegantly funky than the previous. This was a wonderful place.
After leaving there we were treated to tea at the MOKA museum. This museum was set up by an ICA wood carver by the name of Park Chan So. The place was so exciting, sculptures in every niche, both inside and out. The buildings on the property showed the 5 typical roof lines you would find in Korea. There was a gallery space for local artists and Buddhist artifacts from all over Asia and the Pacific. After tea we were treated to a vegetarian meal on the grounds. Park Cahn So will be having an exhibition opening in NY on October 1 at the Korean Cultural Society. I cannot wait to check it out.
After leaving the woodcarver's place we went to Icheon to see the World Ceramics Exhibition hall (again we had to have special arrangements made to visit as it was not open). We had a very staff rushed hour in 3 exhibits that we could not take pictures in. The museum was a wonderful place that I wish I had had more time to contemplate.
We visited a tool shop and another pottery before heading to the Somerset Palace in Seoul. We had our traditional happy hour on the bus and Gillian tried to get our guide Mr. O to sing Arirang again to see if we could soften the tension in the air even more, next thing we know we are in full blown karaoke on the bus.
We unloaded our stuff, immediately put some wash in, or tried to anyway, our washer seems to get stuck on lock and has to be run twice to get the clothing out. We then headed out to Insadong to score something to eat. We saw a restaurant with rotisserie in the window and headed in for chicken and beer. Cool thing, there were forks and for 10 people, 5 baskets of chicken, each one a whole chicken, and 5 pitchers of beer the bill came to less than 10/person. After a great meal we headed back and called it a night. It was a good day.
Sunday, August 15, 2010
I know its been awhile since I have written directly to you, and on the 4th or 5th day after your chemo I hope that you are managing.The one thing I must say about this trip is that I have come to learn what its like to be a passenger for hours. I drive a great deal as all of you know, but this amount of sitting is incredibly painful. Yesterday, we did see two temples, Sokkuram (751), and Pulguksa (528 AD). It was a Saturday so both places were mobbed with people. (everyone and his dog, or the world and his wife, or everybody and his brother...)
Sokkuram sits atop a mountain and the road has 99 curves in it (Stupid fact you don't need to know). After quite a walk we arrived at a grotto carved out of the rocks that houses one buddha. We arrived as the mountain was shrouded in. It was as thick as it gets in Maine, pea soup as they would say. The Isreali term for this is milk. All you could hear was the ringing of the bell.
The grotto was destroyed at one point during an occupational period. In that time it was dismantled as the plan was to move it to Japan. When plans were changed and it was decided the grotto would stay in place, they could not figure out how to get the base back together, so they built a new one. The original base is scattered about in two places on the mountain.
The second temple we visited had a far more reverent feel to it. There were many Buddha’s in this one. It was a lot to explore in a very short amount of time as every nook and cranny seemed to contain something interesting. There was this one outdoor place behind the Buddha who is the Goddess of Mercy where people left stacks of stones and offerings of coins. I marvel at how this tradition spans religion and I left some of my prayers for you there with her.
We visited two artists as well. One, was an ICA (Intangible Cultural Asset) in the making of Silla wear, the other was a professor of sculpture. His place reminded me of your house in many ways despite being nothing like your place. It was a large concrete building, almost a warehouse, that had lots of well planned light, (windows, sky lights, etc) water garden, and beautifully appointed woodwork. The entry way was set up as a gallery, then there was a tea room, and studio, upstairs was the living space. In many ways I think the visit reminded me of your place because of the similarities in the hospitality.
Our day was so packed that we only had a short amount of time in the museum, unfortunately. Think National Lampoon Vacation Grand Canyon Scene. Dinner was the same BBQ restaurant we ate the night before, but with different company. It was a very long but wonderful day and I saw my first lotus flowers planted in a city garden.
Today we had a very busy day in Mungyeong Teabowl Village. It was pouring rain in buckets for most of the morning and despite that we started out about an hour earlier than usual and visited Kim Jong OK, Kim Kyung Sil, and Chun Han Bong (ICA) before lunch. After lunch our former guide, Charlie, arranged for Susan and I too leave the tour for a bit and visit a paper maker by the name of Kym Sam Sik. His paper is made completely by use of materials he grows and prepares, tulip tree, a form of nettle for the tuberous sappy root and soybeans which after using for sustenance the plants are gathered and burned for their ash. His paper was beautiful, and Justin if you are reading this blog, despite never reading blogs, you will see soon enough as I have secured 5 sheets for you to print on at a very handsome price. My hope, and the artist’s hope is that you use it wisely. We eventually met up with the group at Yoo, Tae-Keun’s studio.
Today I witnessed what it means to be a true craftsman. I saw the most incredible place lotus teapot and at Yoo Tae-Keun’s, the freshest contemporary ceramics I have scene in a very long time. I wish there was some way to share them with the world right now.
Today has not been without cost though, it has come to light that this tour is more suited for collectors rather than artists. I know that I have an amazing pottery collection at home and enjoy adding to it, but I was sadly misled that this was a tour that would visit the major pottery centers, I did not understand that I would be pressured to buy work at every potter I have visited. You Tae-Keun made a bowl that I would have gladly traded every single thing I had purchased prior to own. I am done adding to my collection and hope that I can manage to get this stuff home. I only wish that we were done visiting artists as I feel like they are being exploited. The sad part is that the artists at the end of the excursion will not have many sales and they will lay out tea and make treats and have thirty people traipsing through their spaces looking at every nook and cranny. I am so soured.
Today our tour interpreter quit after a shouting match that almost came to blows with the organizer. It was bad enough that the men on the bus moved to the front to offer some sort of protection. We are in this tiny and charming little ski town in the middle of the country with no bus and a hotel that has lousy communication possibilities. (I am posting this as soon as I have an open signal.) I am hoping that we have a way out of here. We had a wonderful pheasant dinner last night, a feast for kings, all for about 15 dollars a person. We are headed to Inchon and Seoul next. When I get there my first order of business in my free time, finding a suitcase as the zipper busted on mine.
Friday, August 13, 2010
On the way from Gangjin we visited the studio of Min Young-ki, considered a master tea-bowl artist, though not a national treasure. He served us tea and rice cakes, talked to us about the essence of his job as an artist. It has been a life long quest to create the perfect tea bowl, equivalent in status to the important archeological/historical ones. His teacher has taught him that it has to come completely from heart and soul joined, as it it was from God. He works hard at trying to arrive at that, and has not had it happen yet. He continues to practice and maybe one day...What was interesting about this is that he showed us a 500 old bowl, and passed it around for us to experience. I have held bowls that were old before, but there was something special about this one. Maybe it was the moment.
We also went to the Clay Arch museum, a museum dedicated to Architectural Ceramics. This was one of my favorite places so far. There was sculpture all around the grounds, a residency hall and dormitories, a studio for community learning, and a very nice museum. The exhibition of Nino Caruso's work was incredible.
The time on the bus on Thursday was so long and getting a bit testy that at 7PM with an hour to go a few of us decided to fix it with an impromptu happy hour on the bus. We sampled soju from North Korea (fire water) and the old standard Maple soju we had been drinking all along. We broke out dried fish and sesame cookies. We also got increasingly antsy to be off that bus despite the libations.
When we got to Ulsan and shed that damn bus, Kim and I headed out to eat. We were ravished! The only problem was that as we walked and saw all these wonderful restaurants, we couldn't read Korean, so we couldn't read the menu. We limited our choices to pictures and ended up in a Japanese place with sticky tables, almost no lighting and lots of smoke, but it had pictures and people in it. If I was of better mind I may have run for the hills, but I was tired, hungry and adventurous after having no exercise all day. So we stayed, dined on Udon, Asparagus tempura, and some sinewy gamey overcooked meat on a stick and beer (lots of it) to wash it all down. We stumbled back to the hotel, giggling like little school girls, stopping to get water and more soju (mistake) where we continued to drink well into the night.
I now have to admit, that you would not have wanted me to write that night, and yesterday, though I started this post in the evening I was in no condition to write. I woke up so hungover (Kenny think Ouzo) that I could hardly stand up without the room spinning. Not what you want to get back on a bus. I was miserable. To make matters worse, I had left the advil right were I would not forget to pack it, yes, back in NY. (The group found me some).
I continue to be amazed at how this culture is so attached to the earth. Everywhere you go you see rice, vegetable gardens, orchards and clay. Every river seems to have as many people fishing as there are cranes. The people are tied to their ceramics heritage and proud of it. They truly celebrate the earth.
We visited an Ongi village where we spent some time exploring the history of Ongi as well as watching a demonstration of how coil Ongi is made. After which we drew on some tiles that will be fire and used as part of a mosaic in the Ongi museum. Its funny to think that I have made my mark on this place, even in such a small and trivial way. After this stop we headed out to a barley restaurant. The owner was a potter and made a great deal of the service ware. This is a place your dad would have loved. As her husband is a sculpture and built the structure out of clay, furnished the place with tree slabs, and installed a sculpture garden outside. There was a cool tile installation outside on one of the facades.
To get to this place the bus had to travel down a road as wide as my driveway with steep drop-offs on both sides, it was a nail-biter to say the least, but not the only one of the day. After lunch we headed up into the mountains to see Park jong il, a potter of note. The route there was not meant for a car much less a bus. It was a concrete road that climbed a mountainside. There were places where the houses were within inches of being clipped and finally, on the last turn we were completely stuck. Park jong il and his wife came down and ferried us up by car the rest of the way. We arrived to Lotus Blossom tea and potatoes as well as a great deal of wares to look at. After buying a few teabowls I headed down the mountain on foot to the bus, which was turned around and parked off the road, ready to go. We arrived in Deagu around 8PM to rainy weather. We headed to dinner at a BBQ place before calling it a night.
Today's adventure? I am still digesting, you will hopefully have it tomorrow.
Wednesday, August 11, 2010
We woke to rivers rushing and dozens of cranes fishing in the rice patties. There was sun and blue skies and despite the promise that last night's typhoon would bring cooler temperatures, it was hazy, hot and humid. What else is new for Korea in August? We had a packed itinerary for today, visiting two local artists, a tea plantation and a museum in the area surrounding Gangjin.
Our first stop was Lee Huk Soo's Ongi studio. We witnessed the whole operation, from the potters working for him creating a variety of ongi sizes and table ware, to his glaze room, kiln's and clay processing areas. He told us about the 50/50 mix of clay to ash he uses for summer pots and the 60/40 mix he uses for winter pots. I had never thought about ongi colors, while subtle, they serve a functional purpose. The gas kiln you could park a train in. I actually think it was about the length of your anagama. His father's naborigama, proudly displayed next to his, is not operational at the moment, it in desperate need of repair. He only fires his wood kiln for exhibition work. The whole place was impressive and he was extremely gracious. As I turned to leave the kiln area I noticed the stairway up into the dormitory with its light grey carpeting, packing supplies and boxes as neatly stacked as the ongi in the room below. It seemed oddly familiar, reminiscent of the days prior to the renovation of the coop. Actually, the phrase "now it all makes sense" was uttered loudly enough for the rest of the group to hear it. For some reason there was this flash into your life in Dartmouth, and the struggle to have a business that could keep your artwork alive was mirrored here. Its not that I had never understood that before, but today, it was like an epiphany!
Our next studio stop was quite interesting. We went to see this tile maker, Han Wan Joon, who is the sole remaining artist to continue the tradition of making roof tiles by hand in the country. His family has been in the business for 2000 years. He is currently working on a government project that involves 30,000 roof tiles made in the traditional way. He says it will take him 2 to 3 years at 140 tiles a day. When we arrived his crew was busy making tile, putting the finishing touches on a bigger kiln, and preparing clay. It almost seemed that our group was overwhelming to the tasks at hand but still he was so happy to share it with us. He build a humidity tent out of a greenhouse frame covered in plastic. His studio is made out of clay, straw, and logs, and the kiln itself was being constructed out of raw brick, which will be fired with the first firing of the kiln and after yesterday's typhoon, things were a bit washed away. The whole place was raised of earth. I was in awe. Seeing someone work that hard at something at that age in those conditions made me really appreciate the essence of work. This man, despite inheriting his family business as his ancestors had for two centuries before was genuinely happy to do what he does. The sad part was that he has 9 daughters and no son to pass it on to.
After our trip to the studio we headed to one of the many local pottery museums (Yoengam). We didn't have much time to explore but time aside I must say that this small museum was well put together and worth the trip. The exhibited pottery ranged in age (30,000 BC to the present) and was representative of local pottery. One floor was dedicated to potters inspired by local pottery. There was an exhibit of Nagagawa Isaku, an Okinawa potter. Several of his pieces reminded me of Steve Murphy's work.
My time here has made me appreciate the opportunities I have as well as understand that there is much more to be done. After spending a day with large pots and tile I say to you that "now it all makes sense..." Kamsahamnida! You have helped me see a great deal.
Have fun playing with mud today!
Tuesday, August 10, 2010
When we arrived at the festival today we were greeted by deafening bells. They were ringing sideways. The weather was not yet full of soaking rains, it was misting and the winds were picking up. We went about our day, attending artist the workshops, visiting the various vendors to make last minute purchases, and eating our meals despite the weather. In the afternoon I was supposed to demonstrate my work at the International Artist Tent. I sat down at the wheel promptly after lunch where we dined on a meal of cold noodles in soy milk ( not one of my favorites). I was told within minutes, as I sat there at an electric wheel in a puddle of water and the wind knocking over stalls around me, that my demonstration was canceled. I was both relieved because of the conditions and saddened because I had wanted the chance to work with the Celadon clay. I wanted to know how clay on this side of the world would respond to my touch not to unlike learning how it is the people interact upon meeting with me. Its a form of communication. I wanted to know how much I would need to change the choreography of my fingers to have a conversation with that material.
I headed up to the afternoon workshops somewhat defeated. I was interested in what was going on, and took copious notes. I even had a discussion with several of the artists sitting around me about the techniques being used. I must say with some amount of certainty the visual information will eventually makes it way out of my head and into my work, but I still longed to play with the material. I looked around me and realized that there was a sleeve of open clay sitting right next to me. I silently grabbed a handful and started to create an ocarina of a fish. I noticed that the clay had a slightly different texture and feel to it yet it was not entirely to foreign to me. It reminded me of a Miller Clay body (900) that I always want to purchase for myself but never do because I always forget about it and go with the familiar despite liking the new far better. Like the man that sat next to me on the plane, the communication gap was only a small problem. There was a relationship with the clay that was inherent just like humanity is inherent. I completed the fish as best I could with not tools and I took some photos and called it a day.
We left the studio with an hour to kill and ended up at the pub for a beer and soju. This time we were joined by many more of our colleagues. There were 10 of us instead of the usual 6. It was a nice ending to our experience at the festival. We headed to dinner shortly after. I was embarrassed by how hungry I was. I had not really eaten lunch, I was completely buzzed and I dove into the rice, almost inhaling it. One thing about this culture I have learned is that it is very straight forward. They will say something that an American might think is rude or unapproachable. I was embarrassed because I was asked to slow down. I apologized and recoiled a bit. Not too long after that a small group of us made our way up a mountainside with a monk to have tea. I was sitting next to the monk and he started to ask me questions about my religion. I answered simply that I was raised Catholic but was not entirely sure that was what I would consider myself. I then asked him if he ever read Thomas Murton. He had not, but after our conversation was fascinated that a Catholic monk would be so open to Buddhism that he would make that central to his approach in his experience of his own faith essentially using the teachings of one religion to gain a deeper understanding of another. We spoke a bit more about philosophy and drank some more tea. Winding down our time at the temple. I kindly purchased some tea and on the drive home found myself wishing that I could have stayed longer.
Monday, August 9, 2010
Gangjin, Republic of Korea
I sit here not knowing if I should be worried or fascinated. Apparently, we are told that a Typhoon by the name of Dianmu is baring down on Korea and will make landfall only a few kilometers from here. In any case the weather looks very grey outside and rain and wind are imminent.
I am excited about my time here so far although yesterday I was a bit homesick, I think it was the fact that I hadn’t slept in days and the heat was wearing on me. Yesterday we visited the scarecrow army monument. In the 1500’s a Korean general assembled a volunteer army to thwart an attack by the Japanese. Those volunteers created thousands of scare crows and put them along the coast. When the Japanese arrived the saw what they thought was a very large army of warriors and they retreated. The monument is incredible.
Were visited by two artists as well. Cho Jan Ho, who is a ceramic sculptor interested in the thought of Korean identity. His work is spontaneous and conceptual. His traditional forms, such as bowls, are glazed in an untraditional manner, which is considered somewhat controversial. He used some pretty interesting tools, including rice cake paddles. Lee Hok Su is a traditional Ongi artist. He spent the afternoon putting together a 4 ft Onji jar and explained the whole soy sauce terraces in homes. Each family may have up to 30 of these jars. He makes about 8 of these a day, they take a few days to dry, then they are glazed and set to dry again but this time for 3 months before being fired.
After this we had a very traditional dinner celebration, which consisted of 100 plates. It was fascinating to say the least with many different types of sashimi, including beef, as well as dried fish, crabs, kimchi, bbq, miso, rice and tea. There were several things I tried that were very interesting and I am not quite sure what they were. The souju continued to be poured..
On another note I have been asked to consider leaving my work to be part of the permanent collection of the Gangjin Porcelain Museum’s permanent contemporary ceramics collection. I know this is a big honor, but truthfully I am on the fence about this. I have another few hours to decide.
I have to give a demonstration today. Lets hope it goes well.
I hope you are dealing with the new round of chemo. Please know that my heart is with you. More later. XOXO
PS, I will post the picutures later.
Sunday, August 8, 2010
Dear Val, August 9, 2010
Gangjin Celadon Festival
I wanted to share with you the magic of this place. Gangjin is a very mountainous area situated by the sea about 5 hours southwest of Seoul. Haze seems to hang in the air here, and the breezes, even when coming off the water are warm and full of moisture. The city was once protected from a Japanese attack by an army of scarecrows that were dressed in traditional clothing and outfitted with weaponry and strategically placed along the shoreline, we pass the monument to this army on our way to the festival each day. The event is taking place at a pottery center that is located in one of the many mountain meadows and it houses the National Celadon Museum. Celadon and ceramic education is so important to existence here. I am amazed at all I have witnessed. The workshops for the public seem to guarantee a sense of pride in the crafting of celadon, and the heritage it has supplied. I have to admit that until my arrival I had no clue as to what Celadon really was. I always just assumed that it was a glaze type (calcium based?) that’s color was influenced by the amount of iron that has been added to the glaze compound. I also assumed that celadon was a glaze that was traditionally applied to porcelain. I have learned differently this week and it has opened my eyes even further in terms of the nature of the materials being used.
Its not the first time I have seen artwork directly tied to culture and a culture influenced by the artwork it produces, however, this is the first time in my life where I have been immersed in a situation where I am witnessing the nuances of just that. It is as if this is a national team sport. (Sorry, I am assigning a western mentality to explain, which doesn’t do it justice). The people and the artisans here have great admiration for those who work with their hands and as foreigners who are willing to come to their country and share a love of clay with them has granted us somewhat of a celebrity status. I was even asked to autograph an exhibition card next to the picture of my work.
In any case, I arrived to the festival yesterday with a very tight agenda. We had a two hour workshop on carving and inlay with Jung Ki Bong. It was extremely informative, and made me want to go home and make some better tools for my own carved work. When I get home the umbrellas and elastic bands from my boys needed to be discarded underwear does not stand a chance. This is also where I learned about the nature of true celadon, and how the color is controlled by the iron content of the clay and firing material more than the amount of iron placed in a glaze. It was explained that the inlay technique was started originally to hide firing blemishes but the average potter may study the creating of one particular form for about fifteen years before learning those carving and inlay techniques. What does that mean for his pots prior? I spent a good portion of the time recording Jung Ki Bong working so that my students can enjoy the experience as well.
On the way to the workshop I took a look into the kiln shed. I had noticed the day before that they were getting ready to fire and I had never seen such a maticulously clean kiln area in my life. The kiln was candled at around 10PM and the crew was just starting to get a good firing rhythm going. It was also starting to get very hot outside, and I found myself being very empathetic to the crew that were glued to that spot. I fired Chris’s kiln last year on a similar type of day, 9o+ degrees and very high humidity. I suffered tremendously. Never the less, the firing was just starting to gain speed and they were wonderfully gracious about letting us witness it. The anagama was about the size of Chris’s with no appendages (salt/soda chambers). It is housed in a beautiful shed with tremendous gardens planted all around it.
During the workshop, I took a break and ducked back into the firing to see how things were going, camera in hand of course, and Yon Jae Jin, the factory manager snatched up my camera and placed wood in my hand and directed me to stoke the kiln. Which of course he took pictures of. One of the firing crew called me over to where he and the others were sitting and had me join them for some cheongiu and seafood pancake, which they happily announced was Korean Pizza in broken English. I indulged and then excused myself as politely as I could and snuck back into the workshop, a bit snickered I might add.
After the workshop we dined on black noodles, scallion pancakes, and more cheongiu. We had an hour of free time in which to explore the festival. I have been here two days and have yet to see it all. The event is that massive. We then returned for a workshop with Mying, Jae Hyeon who is considered a maser of the sabal, or bowl. Did you know that unlike the Japanese tradition, in Korea a bowl is not granted a specific purpose such as rice or tea? I found this quite utilitarian.
In this workshop, I also learned that the north and south are not brutal enemies, as portrayed in the media, and cultural exchanges and commerce are still a vital part of the society. Which surprised most of the group. Traditional Celadon is manufactured in two places, here in Gangjin and up in the North. Artists, to this day actively exchange cultural information as if the preservation of the cultural tradition supercedes politics. This was heart-warming to hear.
When the day of learning was wrapped up, I headed over to the kiln, to see how the firing had progressed. I was again handed some wood. I had a few hours of free time and allowed myself to sit through a few stoking cycles to see how they fire. Two things amazed me, all the wood-fire potters from our group seemed to be doing the same observational research and comparing notes and though there was a pyrometer, they were relying more on the color of the smoke that was coming out of the chimney than anything else to dictate stoking, including the blowhole. They seemed to be keeping the kiln in a consistent amount of reduction, as the smoke was a very light grey as well as wispy. They stirred as much as they tossed, and the firebox was completely open. This was something every one of us was marveling at, wishing we were fluent enough to ask the proper questions such as the effects on the draw. I was thrilled to have had that experience and cannot wait until I return today to see how the firing has progressed and how well the crew is faring. They told me in very broken English that they fire for 3 days and cool for 7. I am hoping to share with them the vimeo link to a firing I documented at Chris’s a few years ago.
I arrived here in a melancholy state knowing that the end of this trip would be met with a return to the chaotic sleep deprived schedule of school. I am four days into the trip and realizing how enriching this experience will be for my students. I have come up with numerous ideas and will be reframing a handful of lessons. I still have a great deal of time between now and then to further my repertoire. I leave Gangjin on Thursday to head out on a tour of the other 8 pottery centers in South Korea. I am sure I will have many more adventures to disclose.
I hope this has found you and Elsie well. More later.
Have fun playing with mud today!
Saturday, August 7, 2010
I had had such a busy day yesterday that I don’t know where to start. We had abalone porrige for breakfast, which was OK, and I must admit each meal today was better than the last, though I am so tired of kimchi, fish, garlic and onion. Today we wrapped meats in lettuce and sesame leaves, at lunch it was pork and dinner was beef.
After breakfast we started out day at the market place where haggling was the rule of the day. I didn’t do so well, and got taken a few times. I am still trying to understand the nuances of the currency. In any case I did get a few nice items. The market had a great deal to offer in terms of people watching and weird foods. I could see myself in Andrew Zimmern’s shoes.
We went to the festival after lunch. I was taken back by how huge the festival is, imagine our State Fair dedicated to just ceramics! Upon arrival you are greeted by the sound tunnel, 15 hundred bells created by Mr Kwang Kwang Mugg strung up throughout the main thoroughfares of the festival. The sound is magical. A short walk led us to the international demonstration tent, where there was this huge banner promoting the exhibit pictures of us and our work were on it. After viewing the exhibition, which was set up in a museum like setting we headed toured the grounds so that we would get our footings. It was there that I found the kiln shed. The anagama was amazing looking. I was in love.
I then visited the Celadon museum, which had a historical exhibit. A group of us then went to the beer tent. I tell you this because it was important to what happened next.
While sharing a large bottle of Hite, a drumming corp paraded by, we ran to watch. The next thing we know we were pulled into this drumming circle by the drum major and the media was on us like flies to …well, I think you know where I am going with this. We were instant celebrities. It was one of the most amazing experiences. I wish I had not been so tired so that I could have caught myself on the news. I was told it may be in the paper this morning as well, we’ll see.
Today we are going back to the festival, we have a carving workshop this morning as well as demonstrations throughout the day. I am so glad I made this journey. I just wish I could grab more than 5 hours of sleep.
More later! Love you!!!
Friday, August 6, 2010
August 6, 2010
Its 9PM and is still very hot and uncomfortably humid plus its been raining on and off all day. My stomach has not been about me today at all, matter of fact, by mid-day the amount of cabbage, onion, garlic and salt I have ingested has left me wanting to hurl big time. It was a very long bus ride down here, with the driver almost falling asleep at the wheel several times. We stopped at a few rest areas along the way beside the Pepsi and jelly beans, I ate some corn-cakes filled with a custard and drank a CHARCOAL brewed coffee. Yes, it tasted like really good ice coffee filtered through charcoal, not terrible, just terribly weird tasting. The corn cakes reminded me of the egg cakes you get in Mott Street in NYC.
Lunch consisted of rice, some type of hot pot (really bland) and a bunch of different fishes. My favorite, and surprisingly my stomach’s favorite too, was those little ones your mom always serves, you know the sweet, salty, crunchy sesame dried and fried anchovies with the shredded nori?
After lunch we headed to Mokpo, which is a seaside port town, We went to see the celadon exhibit at the maritime museum. The pots in the exhibit were ones unearthed from a ship wreck in Waldo. These were incredible works that have been restored to their original condition. Kim, my roommate from the first night, made a comment that I will take back to my students. “These are well made pots”. They say under the sea for 800 years, were recovered with barnacles all over them and restored to gallery quality. I found the working port interesting. There was a huge tidal plane. The building itself had a few fish ponds set up behind it, where the fisherman would take advantage of these tides and harvest fish when the tide was out. We arrived there just as the fisherman were calling it a day.
We then traveled about an hour to Gangjin where we met up with the exhibition people, checked into our motel, delivered our work, and headed out for dinner. I had this cold noodle dish called naeng- myeon and some shoju, which tasted like vodka with a touch of maple syrup added. My legs are not used to all this sitting on the floor. I am so tired that I could not muster up an appetite. We shopped for some fresh fruit after dinner. After returning to the motel I showered to get rid of the heat and grime from the day. I am hoping that I can sleep tonight so that I feel better tomorrow.
Tomorrow will be an interesting day. Our exhibit will be installed while we are off sight seeing. I think we are having abalone stew for breakfast and then headed to one of the last true open air markets in Korea.
Until then! Love you! xoxo
Thursday, August 5, 2010
Dear Hanna, August 6, 2010
Herb Hub Hotel
We will be on our way towards Gangjin shortly. I just wanted to describe my night. I didn’t sleep! I think my body was on the wrong side of the clock. Funny, the only thing that feels it is my stomach. We had 3 kinds of Kimchi, rice and dumpling this morning, oh yeah and fried bologna. It was a great breakfast.
Its raining here, and is supposed to all day. I cannot believe how much humidity is still hanging in the air despite the rain, and its about 90 degrees at 8:30 AM.
More later sweetie,
My time in Korea will be a shared letter format to Hanna, who is a dear friend battling colon cancer. Without her urging I would not be here!
Dear Hanna, August 4, 2010
THE JOURNEY BEGINS…
I am sitting here waiting to embark on this grand adventure. My morning was a nice relaxed one. I finished the book my friend John lent me (Honolulu) and then Justin drove me to the airport. We arrived very early so we sat and talked for a very long time before I decided that I needed to bid him goodbye and to make my way through airport security. There are two things that make me nervous traveling, airport TSA and Customs. Today, heading through the checkpoint I had reason to be upset. I was harassed again for my ceramics. What is it about NY, do they not see the validity in the arts? Or was it the fact that my laptop had a rather rebellious sticker fixed upon it, “fire pots not guns”? In any case, my ceramic work, which was so well packed, was inspected, the packaging torn apart, the work swabbed, the swabbing material then run through some analyzing device despite being able to clearly see that they were pots, and then the bag was shoved back at me for me to put back together. In the meantime, the TSA official could not get his head around me traveling to ASIA alone. His partner told him to knock it off, which I thought would be a saving grace, but then snidely declared that he was ruining the chances for his mother to get a nice Christmas present. I want to believe in humanity, and I think I do, but I also think I know why so many hate “Americans”, I was truly embarrassed to be one today while going through security. The sting of their reactions to a female artist made me think that they must treat others that way as well. Right now I am so glad to be leaving this place.
Dear Hanna, Still August 4, 2010
Somewhere over the Great White North (Canada)
So I have been in the air now for about 5 hours, I think. I watched the plane take off on the BIG screen in the cabin. I never knew what the pilot saw on take off. Did you know that the runway looks like a road (yellow line down the middle) with BIG white arrows in the direction of travel? I wished I had my camera out so I could take a picture of it. I actually found myself thinking about my work, and the inscribed lines I use, the colors, the symbols.
So far, I have watched 2 movies, Date Night, which was funny in a cute type of way. It was a chick flick of sorts, but I think married guys should watch it. I hope never to be described as a great roommate. I also watched Invictus, which I would recommend completely to everyone. I found that this flick was inspirational. It also had me thinking about Andrew, you know Chris’s friend that used to skate. He played rugby in South Africa last year. OK, I am boring you with my endless rambling already, sorry. I guess sharing a 14 hour flight in this manner is bound to do that.
I have also spent my time reading a bit. I have saved the current issue of The Studio Potter (V 38, N 2) for just this occasion. I received it several weeks ago, and decided not to open it until I was in the air. What a surprise it was to see not one article written by a friend, but two. I enjoyed both John and Chris’s articles very much. I thought I was technologically SAVVY until John had me questioning my own skill set. It killed me that I couldn’t get online in that instant. Then there was this one article, “Embracing Change” (Richter) that left me riveted to my seat. I found myself searching for something to take notes with and on. The seatbelt sign was illuminated and my computer and sketchbook were stowed above so all I could muster was the lip-biting and rereading and reflecting, and rereading, and more lip-biting. She talks about energizing the canvas, treating each aspect of the work as its own culture and then getting those cultures to speak to each other. Who knows, maybe that is what this trip is going to do for me. I cannot wait to share with my students in a few weeks.
You and your mom were correct in stating that I would be treated well by the airline. The food/drink has flowed since boarding. I have to confess that I goofed at dinner. I thought the rice dish was the beef dish, and so, SADLY, I ended up with an completely WESTERNIZED meal. Everyone else’s smelled SO good and I was stuck with beef stew over ziti and succotash. They have been very accommodating to the language barrier, automatically assuming correctly that I do not speak Korean. They were thrilled to hear that I was traveling to Korea and not on from there. I have a good feeling about this already.
The man sitting next to me has been friendly, making sure that I have what I need. He is a school teacher. He teaches HS technology and was in the States on a 3 week vacation. I offered him my fruit (you guessed it, MELON). It was so nice to get a welcome smile. It makes me feel as if the language is only going to be a very small barrier. The immersion began the minute I stepped onto that concourse in JFK.
Hah, I scored something wonderfully tasty, somewhere just before flying clear into tomorrow. It was this sweet bun filled with some kind of meat filling. It was incredible! The plane’s entertainment system has this camera on it that lets me have a landscape view even though I am not sitting at a window. Anna told me to make sure I looked out over Alaska because it was cool. I am currently looking down at ice flows, and I must say it really is cool. By the way, it is tomorrow (August 5) and I am just about ½ there. I know this is nothing for a world traveler such as yourself, but for me, its my first time crossing the line and I feel like I should be doing this happy dance with confetti falling from the ceiling and horns blowing…Justin told me that this crossing would be difficult, hah, maybe he was just as bored as I am right now, but did not have anything to write home about. What I think is cool is that I have followed the sun, its still bright as can be outside and its 10:30 where you are. Now I am just waiting to cross over the Russian land mass. The pack ice is cool and all, but…I have been looking at it for a long while.
I hope this finds you feeling good, and that you have had a good week of rest before the next round of Chemo.
More adventures later! Love you sweetie, xoxo
Hanna, August 5, 2010
The man from the seat next to mine escorted me to the customs counter and told me what to expect throughout the country. He was from Deagu, which is one of the cities I think we will be staying in at some point. Customs was a piece of cake. I am at my hotel. Which is strangely European, though you are required to drop your key off at the front desk whenever you go out. I am not sure if I like that or hate that? We leave tomorrow on our journey to the other coast (Gangjin). Where we will be exhibiting our work.
Tonight’s dinner was fabulous, kimchi hot pot, seafood pancakes, vegetable pancakes and of course all the side fare you could ask for. We even drank a bunch of beers. Most of our group are from OZ so … ask Justin what he knows about that.
No major things to report, only that my phone doesn’t work. Hopefully my bankcard will? Well, off to bed!!! I am so beat!
Love you, XOXO