Thanks to Joo for all the photos.
Before I came to Ulsan, almost right after I was offered the job, maybe even before, I discovered the Onggi Festival which takes place near Ulsan every year around this time. I was excited to go, made plans, and got over to the pottery village today. While I had tried to do a little research beforehand, I really had no idea what to expect. I knew onggi was traditional Korean pottery, mainly used for storing food. I knew there would be a bunch of international artists, and I knew I wanted to buy some pottery. What I didn’t realize was how huge the compound would be, and I had forgotten how much I enjoy art processes and craft.
When Joo and I arrived at the pottery village, we were both overwhelmed with its size. While the festival only takes place for one month out of the year, the compound is set up like a theme park, only for art. It’s amazing. Outside the gate are pottery shops, food stands, a school, kilns and a museum. Inside was a food court, several different galleries showcasing different pottery, interactive studios, demonstrative studios, exhibits on the process of making onggi, and even exhibits on the uses of onggi, including an area for making kimchee which is kept in onggi.
Going with someone who knew little about pottery allowed me to explain a lot of what was going on and take a second look at things about pottery that I had taken for granted – like that clay is cut off the lump with a wire. Of course I also learned a bit about the processes of pottery in Korea.
Pottery is an ancient craft and the festival celebrated Korea’s use of onggi as a utilitarian, food storage vessel. Each step of the process was shown either by visiting artists, interactive activities, or through photos with details.
I had never seen someone make a very large pot, and the process of construction varies from that of smaller objects. Rather than trying to center a lump of clay that is same size as the artist and then pull it up into a shape, the clay is rolled out into slabs that are then added bit by bit onto the pot.