When traditional ceramics meet western painting: Ceramist Lee Mi-hyang

안정희 기자l승인2019.05.21l수정2019.05.21 11:24






▲ Ceramist Lee Mi-hyang

Ceramist Lee Mi-hyang is famous for her endeavor to bring new styles and methods to the traditional ceramic art. However, this does not mean she forsakes all those traditional beauties and values; rather she enriches them by adding her uniqueness. <Power Korea> met her and listened to her story.

One of a kind ceramic glaze
Born and bred in Daegu Metropolitan City, Lee majored in western painting with ceramics as minor. After graduation, she opened an art academy until she moved to Seoul with her husband. 

“It was by this time I started to make ceramics in earnest. And from my late 30s, I started to display my works at various competitions and exhibitions. I thought it was a little late to start my career as a ceramist but that actually motivated me more to push my passion forward” says Lee.

It is notable that she made her own ‘glaze’ to make her works unique. Ceramic glaze is an impervious layer or coating of a vitreous substance which has been fused to a ceramic body through firing. Glaze can serve to color, decorate or waterproof an item. Glazing renders earthenware vessels suitable for holding liquids, sealing the inherent porosity of unglazed biscuit earthenware. 

“I used ash of leaves or barley or grape tree which goes through a long time of ripening and just right portions of mix with feldspar or silica stone to make my own glaze. It took me a considerable amount of time and effort. But the time and effort became nothing when I saw the beautiful colors of the glaze I made. I might have to say that this fun of making my own glaze has driven me this far.”

Applying western painting to ceramics
The patterns and colors of a ceramic depend on kiln, temperature, time, number of days for baking while the quality depends on the intensity of glaze mix ratio. What makes Lee’s works unique in addition is that she applies patterns of western painting to her ceramics in an effort to give modern sentiments to the tradition. Apart from ceramics, Lee also has a keen interest in tea sets.

“It is my goal to make tea sets with something new and something different over the traditional tea sets like made of buncheong or celadon. For this, I give small variations to the body, the lid and the handle of each tea set I make. It is a pleasant process of clothing tea sets with colors and glaze so that they might look like western painting imbedded in tea sets. I think this might captivate the hearts of modern appreciators.”

Solo exhibition at Suwon Cultural Foundation Gallery
Alongside her own art works, Lee is actively engaged in teaching ceramics to both students and adults. She is also giving lectures at various high schools and organizations in Suwon City. 

Meanwhile, Lee is having a solo exhibition at Suwon Cultural Foundation Gallery from June 1st to 9th under the title ‘Table’ as she is displaying this time both Korean and western tableware instead of ceramics. The sets of dishes are to be accompanied with comments as well as the white clay works on how different their colors are and how they can be used. It is also noteworthy to pay attention to the five cardinal colors of Korea at the exhibition: blue, red, orange, white and black. 

“For me, teaching people the beauty of ceramics and Korean patterns is as important as having solo exhibitions. Some will get healed emotionally during the process of making ceramics and some even turn their career as would-be-professional ceramists. Moreover, making ceramics is a great tool to open one’s heart and communicate each other. I will keep carrying on my passion for as long as I can.” 


안정희 기자  honesty5835@naver.com
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