Ceramic Forms

I know I want to incorporate ceramics into my final piece as my work last year was really enjoyable to make and I’d like to continue developing a ceramic practice. In terms of how I’d use ceramics to convey my ideas I want to make something that speaks of volume and vastness – of the scale of the events during WWII that I’m focussing on.

Traditional Korean Ceramics:

Kang-hyo Lee: Onggi Master


  • Ceramic culture is very closely connected to dietry life and food culture. A lot of foods in Korea are fermented and stored. Because of this food culture Korea has become so skilled at making large jars & containers.
  • “When I make this kind of large jar or small cup, I am contained.” – Lee’s work comes through his body from his mind, into the materials used.
  • I don’t have to remake old/traditional ceramics to make good work, but understanding the cultural importance of traditional ceramics will help me make interesting work.

Large forms:


Jar with peony decoration. Korean, Joseon dynasty (1392-1910); first half of the 15th century. Buncheong with inlaid design. Leeum, Samsung Museum of Art, Seoul.


Baekja White Ceramic Vase


  • Large forms are typical in Korea as they serve as highly functional objects for day to day life, both for families and businesses for the purpose of fermenting food and various sauces.
  • These forms are steeped in tradition, with sudden food shortages after the end of Japan’s colonisation and the Korean War in the early 1950′s these ceramic forms were crucial in preserving and fermenting staple foods.



Pottery Plate with Moon and Reed Sgraffito Design


Korean dinner plate with iron black and red copper paint fish design

Buncheong artisans reinterpreted traditional iconography, often allowing only the essence of the image to emerge. Asian floral designs, peonies, chrysanthemums and lotus were defined in linear motifs. Animals, too, such as the tortoise on an elephant vessel, were also interpreted as a swash of lines. Occasionally, mythical animals change form under the artist’s guidance. For instance, a dragon and fish are joined as a “dragon fish,” the enigmatic emblem of an anonymous artist.


  • Traditional motifs aren’t always explicit, but can be more subtle and expressive
  • I don’t think any use of imagery will be relevant to my work as I’m looking to a period of history shrouded in silence and a distinct lack of historical visibility.

Further thoughts:

Currently I’m thinking of tables completely covered with small ceramic forms I’ve made over and over and over again.


When I think back to my time in Korea and the beginnings of my research into the issue of ‘comfort women’ I remember long discussions with women on the subject, as well as conversations surrounding current views of women in the world. These discussions were always had with traditional Korean drinks, either soju or makgeolli (rice liquors/wines)


Serving of makgeolli, using metal golden cups. South Korea, (2017).

Traditionally ceramic forms would have been used to serve makgeolli, and I’ve found a YouTube clip of a potter explaining how she makes these cups:

Soju was the main drink we all had when we sat down for our long discussions and I brought home my own set of soju cups when I returned. All over Seoul were stands selling handmade cups with detailed paintings of traditional Korean motifs, although these simple ones were the most popular:


Next steps:

  • Get into the ceramics room and begin making some of these forms (Email Claire).
  • Decide which form would work best to be remade over and over again to best represent the scale of the issue of ‘comfort women’.

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