I first spied and fell in love with Mr Hong's teawares when I chanced upon them on Tea Urchin's webpage, and then found his Instagram account. So when the time came to visit South Korea, I was determined to seek him out and make his acquaintance! He was very kind to agree to meet me!
Mr Hong lives about 5 minutes away from the famous Boseong Green Tea plantation, where he runs Nosan Clay Studio with his wife Lee Hye Jin. We had lunch at a traditional korean restaurant near by and then off to Nosan Clay Studio we went.
Nosan Clay Studio is a bright and cheery light-filled space, a beautiful place to nurture creativity for a ceramic artist. His tearoom is beautifully decked out with gorgeous teaware!
Laying eyes on the shelf beside the table, one can immediately tell that Mr Hong is a tea lover. Teapots, Gaiwans, Houhins, Katakuchi, tea caddies, all items that a tea lover would love to possess!
As we were drinking tea, we were interrupted by a series of thuds. That was my introduction to the resident cat. She tumbled in half way during our serene conversations, hot in pursuit of a..... mosquito! Which I don't think she caught! While you may think she was a clumsy cat for a ceramic studio, she actually managed to nimbly seat herself at the window sill without knocking over any tea ware, as seen in the last photo! However, she has since gone missing, much to the distress of Mr Hong, who has been waiting for her return. Let's hope the dear kitty will return!
The time came for me to depart. Meeting a potter who is a tea lover as well made the meeting extra special, and Mr Hong and his wife Hye Jin were such kind hosts! I know Mr Hong looks serious in photos here. Don't be fooled! And I am sure Mr Hong's instagram followers will agree as well - in real life he is as whimsical as the tea ware he produces. So getting a piece of his beautiful teaware is like getting to know him a little! Do check out our web store with his items! (we only have 3 teapots left for now!)
The idea of a festival focused on tea bowls appeals to the romantic tea lover in me! This annual event takes place at Mun-gyeong, which is situated in the central of South Korea. The festival uses the KBS (Korean Broadcasting System) film set based in Mungyeong Saejae Provincial Park, where Korean period dramas/movies are filmed. The participating potters each took up a hanok, which are traditional Korean houses, and set up these hanoks in their own personal style to display their art works.
The setting is beautiful and surreal, with these ancient looking cottages nestled among mountains. For those seeking activities for their kids, there are booths for children to paint their own tea bowl. Visitors can also try their hand at making a teabowl, or watch the Korean potters at work during the Tea Bowl making competition. They even have a mobile anagama kiln set up for a more realistic experience!
The local high school students dressed up as guards, residents and farmers in the town was a wonderful extra touch to the experience! They walk around the village, and at times appear round the corner where modern visitors do not wonder. Moments like these seem to transport visitors to a place long before our time.
When you need a break, go visit one of the hanoks serving up teas with the Korean Traditional Tea Ceremony demonstration. The demonstration is beautiful but casual, and their matcha whisking skills are top notch!
Our favourite Korean Potters at the Festival
After walking through the whole compound with about 30+ different potters, here are Pekoe and Imp's favourite potters at the festival!
Lee Kyeong Hee
Speaking to the potters are a great way to better understand their style and Lee Jyeong Hee is one of the few potters who spoke English at the festival! Her teabowls are beautifully shaped and she has a mixture of modern designs and traditional pieces. The combination is stylish and rustic at the same time!
First bumped into Mr Oh at a local eatery. From his friendly demeanor one will not guess that he is such a distinguished potter. I was loitering around his pieces and taking photos for such a long time, that he invited me to sit with him for a few cups of puer!
He makes the traditional Buncheong pieces where each piece is stamped or carved and then inlaid with white clay. His pieces are spectacular! Each stamp and carving is bold and confident, producing very clear and contrasting designs against the original clay colour. In my limited experience with Buncheong, he has the best Buncheong pieces I have came across so far!
Admire the intricate stamped designs on the plate below! How much patience and focus a piece like that must have required!
Park Yeon Tae Gaeun Pottery
I was immediately smitten by Mr Park's style! His teapots were suitably sized for tea brewing if you like small pot with multiple steeps to explore changing flavours with each steep. Love the designs with clean lines and rugged finishes.
His teapots can have a delicate touch too! The piece below looks almost feminine! Each time I look at this photo, I regret not buying this teapot :(
Kim Dae Woong
Definitely the most quirky potter around, his cave-man styled ceramics are such that people either love or hate them. He has a matching personality too: confident, jovial and slightly boistrous in a charming way. He spoke English so we have a very enjoyable chat about his pieces!
Now in case you are now tempted to go for the next tea bowl festival, here is some information.
For information about the festival, check out the event information on the Korean Tourism Website. It usually takes place around end April or May annually. The dates may not be set till 1 or 2 months before.
Mungyeong is about 1-2 hours away on the bus, there are no train services to Mungyeong from Seoul. There are also information about inter-city buses between Seoul and Mungyeong here, but do double check the information at the bus terminal.
Accomodations at Mungyeong is scarce as the town is usually only occupied by outsiders during filming, and during the festival. There is only one hotel in this sleepy town so do book in advance. I had a lot of difficulty booking online and eventually had to call a Korean friend to call up the hotel for me.
As this is a small town, most people do not speak English. Either engage a translator, or else be prepared to gesture/mime/ draw.
There are no money changer near the hotel so do make sure you have enough cash before getting into Mungyeong. Most of the potters do accept credit card at their booths!
Hope the information helps!
About all things Tea
Hello! My name is Hongyuan!