Sunday, August 15, 2010

Suanbo Sungnok

August 15, 2010
Dear Hanna,
Kyongu, Korea
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.

1 comment:

Justin said...

dear finally got me to read your blog. sounds fun and i am still jealous of you... now you can share my feeling for being trapped in a ski town with no way out.... fun right? It sucks about the type of tour it is, but think of it this way... it seems like you are gatehring ideas in your head for future work, a refreshing excursion to learn other forms and colors aside from the new england ceramics you find yourself firing with all the time. How is your korean getting? able to communicate yet? my friend tiff is moving there sunday. I think you should get some of the latter artists you visit emails or addresses and continue communication somehow.. even if its simple mail projects like exquisite corpses. How do i become an ICA? Hope seoul and inchong is great. love you ma