Seorabeol Togi(Korean Traditional pottery)

<Seorabeol Togi(Korean Traditional pottery)> 
–  creating an art out of the daily container of humankind.

I went to Seorabeol Togi in Gyeongju Folk Craft Village to see Togi(traditional pottery), a good pottery. Togi does not have a beauty of color like celadon or white porcelain. However, made of pure soil, fire and water, Togi has something more than just a nice appearance. Togi breathes by itself. It absorbs water and air and when it releases them, it gives out the good energy of itself together. That is why a flower in Togi is not wilted for a month. Also, Togi is not glittering. Instead, the leftover ashes of the tree drop to the pottery and make its own unique glim. Known to be the first container of humankind, Togi was extraordinary even it is a simple craft without any special decoration.

Togi becomes alive at the fingertip of 

the potter Kim Heongyu.

Seorabeol Togi:- connecting the three generations.
I met the prominent potter Kim Heongyu and his wife – Kim Heongyu is the head of Seorabeol Togi who inherited the family business which is a three generation-old. His friendly wife was explaining how to make a Togi in detail and Mr. Kim was focusing on his work sitting in front of the wheel in the studio.

"How long have you been making Togi?"
"10 years."
His wife smiles and says he has been making pottery for 40 years, not 10.
So I asked “Why did you say 10 years when it is actually 40 years?”
“To look younger,” he makes a joke.
Mr. Kim Heongyu was apparently hiding his high sense of humor. But when he is working, he is always serious and delicate when dealing with Togi.
What is he working on now is the body of so called Osim Deungjan(Oil lamp with five wick) It is an oil lamp where the five candlewick can be supported. 

How would the Osim Deungjan
(Oil lamp with five wick)be made?

01 Lump of clay becomes an art in Mr. Kim´s hand

Clay in the plastic bag is well organized. This clay is aged for six months before being used. It seems like a miracle that these balls of clay transform into a beautiful oil lamp.

02 As the wheel turns, clay makes its shape..

The wheel that Mr. Kim uses is a traditional wheel that needs strong power from the leg. While kicking the wheel with his feet, his upper body doesn’t even move a bit and transform the clay into pottery. By long time of work, his back is twisted and his joints are having problems, but still he says it doesn’t really matter. I guess that is what craftsmanship is all about.

03 Round rims are the tunnel for oil

Unlike the sharp rim of other potteries, the rim of Osim Deungjan(Oil lamp with five wick) is well-rounded. Inside those rounded rim is empty. As it is an oil lamp, it works as a tunnel for oil to flow which is needed to turn the light on.

04 Making a breathing hole

To make an oil tunnel, he rolls the rim of the pottery outwards to make an empty space inside and then connects it. When drying, the connected clay could fall off and that’s why you need to make a hole for breathing. Making and baking is not the end of the pottery, you need to dry it before baking and watch out carefully so that nothing falls off or loses its shape. As such, it takes such a sensitive care to make it. Perhaps, that’s why the final pottery becomes so precious.

05 Making it nicer with wave pattern

Putting a very thin branch made of bamboo on the body of the oil lamp and turn it one round makes a nice wave pattern on it. This is a saw-like tool to make patterns.

06 Slowness, the foundation for the firmness

The kiln in Seorabeol is also a traditional one just like the wheel he uses. It is not an electric kiln but a soil kiln. Baking the pottery is also a very sensitive work. You don’t start the strong fire from the beginning. First, starting with making the bonfire, then slowly make the fire to be stronger. As you also have to dry the pottery for some time before baking, it takes quite some time to see the completed version of Osim Deungjan(Oil lamp with five wick).You should make the fire slow and cool down the heat slowly. Taking it slow and waiting is essential to make Togi.

07 Completed Osim Deungjan(Oil lamp with five wick)

Now I go into the Togi display room on the other side of the studio and finally see the completed version of Osim Deungjan(Oil lamp with five wick). It looked much more beautiful and glorious after seeing all the process of how it came to the world.

Unique charm of Togi with the same shape, 

but never the same color.

After having been baked in the soil kiln in studio, beautiful Togi are moved to the display room and boast their own charm. I felt a little dizzy when I entered the display room because of the strong scent of soil. It even felt like being in a kiln as the scent of soil is mixed with the scent of fire from the heater. While looking at all the Togi, I found out that all the Togi have different color, even though their shape could be same, as the size are measured before making. As I mentioned in the beginning of the post, when the Togi is baked in the kiln, ashes fall down to the pottery and they are baked together with the pottery, resulting for each Togi to have different color from one another. Ashes could fall on any part of the Togi and it works as some sort of a glaze. Human can´t decide where the ash falls down and that’s why even though Togi could have same shape, it glows differently. For this reason, I could say that every Togi is the one and only in the world.

 | Can you feel the difference?

Why don’t you drop by at Gyeongju Folk Craft Village where you can find Seorabeol Togi?

It was an honor to see the valuable pieces of arts in Gyeongju Folk Craft Village, a village where artist live. Not only this, it was also a pleasure to walk through a village with quaint beauty. Before this visit, I thought Gyeongju Folk Craft Village is just a place where you can buy tourist souvenirs which I wasn’t really interested with. As a local in Gyeongju, I did not see the point to visit the souvenir shop. That’s why it was my first time visiting here. However, after this visit I realized that I was totally wrong. It was such a beautiful village worth visiting.

Ji Jin Hee, an actor, has also been to Seorabeol Togi.


I heard that an actor Ji Jin Hee has been to Seorabeol Togi in Gyeongju Folk Craft Village. He experienced making the Togi by himself to put in his photo essay book called< Ji Jin Hee´s train trip.> It would seem different to see Seorabeol Togi in the book.

Epilogue. Scenery of Gyeongju Folk Craft Village

How to get to Gyeongju Folk Craft Village

Location of Seorabeol Togi
Address: 201-7 Ha-dong Gyeongju-si Gyeongbuk

 Phone: +82-54-748-0170
Public Transportation
 Bus number 10, 11, 700 go to Gyeongju Folk Craft Village. Get off at  Folk Craft Village station and take a look at the village.


Popular Posts