Onggi
'옹기'(Onggi)

 
옹기 (Onggi) is a traditional earthenware vessel in Korea that has been used for thousands of years as part of the nation's household. Onggi vessels are used in many different ways from storing fermented foods – famously known for Kimchi - to use as kitchenware, bowls and pots. Because of the unique way it is made – onggi has become a very coveted item in Korean daily life and a symbol of country's culture.

The ceramics glazing plays a key role in providing a waterproof surface and preventing leaks. A large number of sand particles are added to the body of the clay – these become passages allowing air to move freely through pottery. Onggi is usually fired for about 2-3 days – with the temperature gradually increased up to 1200 celsius degrees. Once onggi is fired the crystal water contained in the wall of the pottery vessel is released making the vessel porous, which allows contents to be stored inside with a longer lifetime. For this reason – onggi was mostly used to ferment food, such as soy sauce, gochujang (chilli pepper paste) and seafood pickles.

Onggi is a natural pottery, it possesses the simplicity of nature but is made with thousand years of experience and wisdom accumulated by the artisans producing it today. Since plastic and metal have been introduced, everyday usage of onggi pottery in Korea has been greatly decreased. Today, however, more people are realising the value of this natural breathing pottery, and are slowly moving away from what is just easily accessible – to something long-lasting and beautiful to look at.
1. Before shaping the onggi vessel, form clay chunks into long and round tube – roughly 120cm long and 4 cm in diameter, later to be used for shaping the vessel.
2. Take another lump of clay and spread it on top of the wheel.
3. Pad down the clay to the right thickness for the base bottom of the pottery.
4. Build the base with a thin layer of clay and link it with the bottom of the clay.
1. Before shaping the onggi vessel, form clay chunks into long and round tube – roughly 120cm long and 4 cm in diameter, later to be used for shaping the vessel.
2. Take another lump of clay and spread it on top of the wheel.
3. Pad down the clay to the right thickness for the base bottom of the pottery.
4. Build the base with a thin layer of clay and link it with the bottom of the clay.
5. Coil the clay tube that was made before slowly around the onggi vessel.
6. Slowly coil it further and flatten it as you go.
7. Using both hand with tools – tap outside of the wall to even the thickness and smoothen the surface, this is called 수레질 'soorejil'. 
8. When shaping a large onggi, place a bucket of wood charcoal burner inside to dry and prevent the wall of the vessel from collapsing.
5. Coil the clay tube that was made before slowly around the onggi vessel.
6. Slowly coil it further and flatten it as you go.
7. Using both hand with tools – tap outside of the wall to even the thickness and smoothen the surface, this is called 수레질 'soorejil'.  
8. When shaping a large onggi, place a bucket of wood charcoal burner inside to dry and prevent the wall of the vessel from collapsing.
9. Build the onggi further with ready-made clay tubes.
10. Onggi is now ready to be glazed.
11. After dried – glaze onggi with 잿물 (jaetmul) – mixture of pine leaf, grass ashes and soil.
12. Onggi is fired for 2-3 days (about 45 hours), starting at low temperature and slowly increasing it up to 1200 degrees celsius which continues on for 30 hours.
9. Build the onggi further with ready-made clay tubes.
10. Onggi is now ready to be glazed.
11. After dried – glaze onggi with 잿물 (jaetmul) – mixture of pine leaf, grass ashes and soil.
12. Onggi is fired for 2-3 days (about 45 hours), starting at low temperature and slowly increasing it up to 1200 degrees celsius which continues on for 30 hours.
13. Onggi master looking at his completed onggi.
14. 장독대 Jangdokdae – an outdoor space where onggi vessels sit altogether.
15. Getting the fermented goods from onggi.
13. Onggi master looking at his completed onggi.
14. 장독대 Jangdokdae – an outdoor space where onggi vessels sit altogether.
15. Getting the fermented goods from onggi.

© Images provided by
– Cultural Heritage Administration


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