• 분청 (Buncheong), shades of nature.
  • Ceramic making is an age-old technique for creating both functional and decorative items from earth and has been practiced in many corners of the globe for many centuries. Korea has a rich culture of ceramic making, with its most celebrated forms of pottery emerging in the Joseon dynasty period, which dates back to the 15th century. 분청 (Buncheong) is one of the most beautiful ceramic styles that comes from this time, where hand-craft, wood-fired ovens and various forms of earth are drawn upon by artisans to produce table ware that is rich in character and lovely to look at.
    Sung Wook Park has been practicing 분청 buncheong for decades in Korea, though he’s still refining his technique in forming colour variations and textures in the artful pieces he forms at his studio, Musso. Similarly passionate about the art of hand-formed ceramics is Xavier Mañosa, who alongside his parents runs Apparatu - a brand he founded in 2009 in Barcelona. The firm is respected globally for the surprising characteristics of its ceramic forms, winning the company a loyal audience in collectable design circles. Fashion names such as Isabel Marant and Hermès have flocked to Mañosa’s work for use in visual merchandising projects, while Apparatu also supplies ceramics to design brands such as Spanish lighting specialists Marset.
    While the pair live and practice many, many miles away from each other they share a strong understanding of the value of ceramic craft, its natural potency and the importance of the maker’s hand in the process behind it. With this in mind they sat down to discuss 분청 buncheong and why artisanal practices remain crucial in the progression of craft.
    • 1. Korean tea set in white and black shade

    • 2. White clay dipping detail on a moon jar

    • 3. The natural shades of 분청 (buncheong)
    1.
    2.
    3.
    1. Korean tea set in white and black shade
    2. White clay dipping detail on a moon jar
    3. The natural shades of 분청 (buncheong)
    • 분청 (Buncheong), shades of nature.

    Ceramic making is an age-old technique for creating both functional and decorative items from earth and has been practiced in many corners of the globe for many centuries. Korea has a rich culture of ceramic making, with its most celebrated forms of pottery emerging in the Joseon dynasty period, which dates back to the 15th century. 분청 (Buncheong) is one of the most beautiful ceramic styles that comes from this time, where hand-craft, wood-fired ovens and various forms of earth are drawn upon by artisans to produce table ware that is rich in character and lovely to look at.

    Sung Wook Park has been practicing 분청 (buncheong) for decades in Korea, though he’s still refining his technique in forming colour variations and textures in the artful pieces he forms at his studio, Musso. Similarly passionate about the art of hand-formed ceramics is Xavier Mañosa, who alongside his parents runs Apparatu - a brand he founded in 2009 in Barcelona. The firm is respected globally for the surprising characteristics of its ceramic forms, winning the company a loyal audience in collectable design circles. Fashion names such as Isabel Marant and Hermès have flocked to Mañosa’s work for use in visual merchandising projects, while Apparatu also supplies ceramics to design brands such as Spanish lighting specialists Marset.

    While the pair live and practice many, many miles away from each other they share a strong understanding of the value of ceramic craft, its natural potency and the importance of the maker’s hand in the process behind it. With this in mind they sat down to discuss 분청 (buncheong) and why artisanal practices remain crucial in the progression of craft.

    Sung Wook Park
    Xavier Mañosa

    Illustrations by Jiye Kim
    • Both of my parents are ceramists, so I grew up around their ceramic workshop in Barcelona. I went to Berlin to study industrial design and I continued to work with ceramics while I was living there. At one point however, my parents called me back because they were struggling with their ceramics business, so I came home to help. That was a situation for many artisans in Spain back then, because they were failing to modernise their businesses. When I joined we changed the name of the workshop – now known as Apparatu, to refresh the identity of the family-run operation. One of the reasons we succeeded is because my parents are very open minded and let me to bring bold changes in the business. One of the approaches was pushing the boundaries of ceramic and constantly experimenting with different materials with clay. This approach has led us to create ceramics for various design companies including pleat box ceramic lamps for Spanish lighting company Marset and unique ceramic podiums for fashion label Isabel Marant’s shops.
      • Our whole family is involved in ceramic making as well – my wife is a ceramist and one of my daughters is also a ceramist and the other one is studying sculpture, so you could say our whole family shares a similar interest. We have been based in 양평 (Yang Pyeong) – a northern area of South Korea, for about 20 years now.
        분청 (Buncheong) craft existed during Joseon dynasty period (15th-16th century) and it disappeared as white porcelain was introduced - this is what I practice and I did my thesis project about 분청 (buncheong). What sets buncheong ware apart is its coating of white slip (a white liquid mixture of clay) on top of greyish-green colour clay. There are different techniques within 분청 (buncheong) – 상감 (sanggam) – inlaying motifs or patterns as decorations, or 귀얄 (guiyal) – brushing where the white slip clay is simply brushed over and the texture is expressed. The technique I practice is called 덤벙 (dumbeong) – dipping – where I hold the bottom of the vessel and soak it upside-down in the white slip, so usually the bottom stays uncovered and placed in the wood kiln, at around 1250 celsius degrees. It’s a very simple technique really.
  • There are a lot of details that make 분청 (buncheong) ceramic ware very special from what I can see, there is something about the white clay-slip and how it’s glazed and the reddish-colour of the clay underneath that is interesting. I could only guess how they have been made, but now that you have explained I understand it better.  You have taken a technique that was getting lost and have developed it in your own way. I really like that because people always so afraid of a certain craft disappearing.
    In Spain, unlike Korea, we mainly use low temperature glazing and there are certain techniques that you need to know when using low temperature, but these techniques are also disappearing here in Spain. But, if there is interest in craft or technique, like you have with 분청 (buncheong), the craft will be revived and can be developed in a new way.
    • Thank you. And I know a little bit about Spanish ceramics, I heard that the clay itself is very fine, so it’s works better for ceramic making at a low temperature. In Korea, the clay is much more coarse and has lots of iron in it so we work with it a higher temperatures. And there are many different kinds of clay available – from white clay to normal celadon clay, so I tend to use various different types of clay in my work. I did a lot of experimenting with clay when I was younger trying to understand the different characteristic of the material. Once the clay goes into firing, some clay creates a very rough texture as a ceramics because of the iron reacting to the white clay slip, some can appear with a lot of spots and some turn out with more pink-ish tint rather than the typical terracotta colour. Now I know which clay and the amount I must mix to achieve what I want.
      With 분청 (buncheong) when the vessels are dipped into white slip, it reacts very differently depending on the types of clay that I have used as base. Once the dipping is finished, I glaze them in my wood kiln and there are changes made once again in colour and texture. You can achieve so many different shades of colours and texture with 분청 (buncheong). Unlike the rest of ceramics, with 분청 (buncheong), it’s an interaction between a mixture of clay with another mixture of clay - used in the white slip - and this gives you a unique colour and texture. This is what I really love about 분청 (buncheong) and I really enjoy the whole process.
  • "You can achieve so many different shades of colours and texture with (buncheong). Unlike the rest of ceramics, with (buncheong), it’s an interaction between a mixture of clay with another mixture of clay - used in the white slip - and this gives you a unique colour and texture. This is what I really love about (buncheong) and I really enjoy the whole process."
    4. The whole moon jar is dipped into a white clay slip, leaving a natural pattern on the bottom
    5. Every vessel reacts differently in terms of shade and texture through the process
    • Wow I didn’t know that the white-slip can change the colour and the texture so dramatically. Do you only use a wood kiln? Or do you also own a gas kiln? It’s not really our culture to use a wood kiln, as you need to know a certain technique if you want to go over 1000 degrees celsius temperature. So at Apparatu, we only own a gas kiln, so it’s my dream to own a wood kiln one day.
      • I have both wood and gas kilns. You can achieve over 1000 degrees with wood kiln and I work around up to 1300 celsius degrees. The main difference between the gas and wood is that with gas you are able to achieve evenly glazed vessels, as the heat is distributed equally all-round within the kiln. But with wood kiln, the temperature is very different from the font and the back of the kiln. You end up with some that have melted in the front and some that are not fired enough in the back. So unlike the gas kiln, you can achieve variety of glazed effects when reacted to different temperature of the fire, so you can say it’s more fun. But I’m not saying one is better than the other.
  • Yes, I agree. My parents and I are more interested in the material and process side of the ceramic craft as well, the value is in our authenticity. Our pieces are all unusual or quirky, because all of our products are all hand-made. However like you said, it doesn’t mean just because the products are ‘machine-made’, they are always bad compared to hand-thrown products on a wheel and I appreciate both production processes. They both can result beautiful unique objects and also horrible objects! 
    • Yes that’s true! The reason why I am using the wood kiln is because of the process. When you fire wood in the oven, it’s an actually quite exhausting process, it makes you question yourself and makes you think again about what you are creating and makes you think about life in general? It makes you feel like you are part of 분청 (buncheong) process and the process becomes your everyday life, it’s like a ritual. 
  • Yes, I get it, it’s the complexity. I am and have been, surrounded by abundant materials and products. I have a big gas kiln, mountains of clay and lots of tools. When you have abundance of things, you start to lose respect to the gas, to the clay, to the whole process. And I think it’s important to sometimes go back to how things originated. Like you built your own wood kiln, so you have a better understanding of how things work. I don’t even know what to do with my gas kiln except to turn it on and off. And it’s just pressing the button and while I wait for the machine to start I might be doing completely something else, then you are out of the loop of your own ceramic process. So with the wood kiln and you have to build the fire and being in front of it, you are related to the whole process. 분청 (Buncheong) was once a forgotten craft, so are there also a lot of other practicing this craft?
    • Well at universities, they still teach 분청 (buncheong) along with the standard Korean white porcelain and celadon ceramics. But when it comes to usage, 분청 (buncheong) ware needs more care than your everyday glazed tableware because of how it’s made. The standard porcelain for example is glazed immediately on top of the clay, so it almost becomes like glass. But with 분청 (buncheong) it’s a relationship between clay and another layer white clay on top and then it is glazed at the end - this makes the vessel a bit more fragile, so it needs more care than the standard glazed tableware. For this reason I believe it’s probably less practiced by young people.
      However, people who practice 분청 (buncheong) know the beauty and the character that only this form of ceramic making has and the unique textures and colours that can be achieved. But I think people are starting to appreciate the quality rather than quantity in Korea, people are spending more money on a product with quality - there are definitely more people looking for 분청 (buncheong) ware today than for large-scale production.
  • "To practice 분청 (buncheong) you really have to understand what is natural. That ‘naturalness’ has to be in your every day life as well. And only you can really express what is natural within you and that takes time. Like for me, it took me 30 years to understand all the characteristics of the clay – it took time. I think it takes time to mature to really understand what is natural."
  • Are there more people like yourself practicing 분청 (buncheong) too?
    • I don’t think there are loads of people practicing it, I think it’s because to practice 분청 (buncheong)you really have to understand what is natural. That ‘naturalness’ has to be in your every day life as well. And only you can really express what is natural within you and that takes time. Like for me, it took me 30 years to understand all the characteristics of the clay – it took time. I think it takes time to mature to really understand what is natural. 
  • Yes I agree, this is also what we are trying to to in our work, you can see that in our work, some can be seen maybe a bit too natural - like not polished maybe - but it’s beautiful and authentic and that’s what we value. Also in Spain, I think it has become a good time for the artisans, for a family business like ours, because people are also looking for more honest, authentic objects that are hand-made. 
  • INTERNATIONAL VOICE
  • XAVIER MAÑOSA

  • Apparatu is a Barcelona based ceramic making company a brand he in 2009 by Xavier Mañosa. He progressed the work of his parents, who work with him today, into a firm that is internationally known for its unique approach to the craft. The company creates one-off pieces and also collaborates with fashion and design brands in creating fine ceramic works for them to use in their product ranges and on displays.

    SUNG WOOK PARK
    www.instagram.com/musso_you
    XAVIER MAÑOSA
    www.apparatu.com

  • INTERNATIONAL VOICE
  • XAVIER MAÑOSA
  • Apparatu is a Barcelona based ceramic making company a brand he in 2009 by Xavier Mañosa. He progressed the work of his parents, who work with him today, into a firm that is internationally known for its unique approach to the craft. The company creates one-off pieces and also collaborates with fashion and design brands in creating fine ceramic works for them to use in their product ranges and on displays.

    SUNG WOOK PARK
    www.instagram.com/musso_you
    XAVIER MAÑOSA
    www.apparatu.com

    덤벙 (Dumbung) is one of the techniques of 분청 (buncheong) pottery – where you simply dip your clay vessel in a white slip clay. The main characteristics are the white slip clay dripping patterns and the natural area where the white slip clay isn’t covered. 분청 (Buncheong) is a form of pottery unique to Korea, first emerging at the end of the 14th century and lasting for about two centuries. 분청 (Buncheong) ware is marked by crude forms and child-like motifs with a coarse texture.

    분청 (Buncheong) ware was developed by different regional people and were designed to be practical. Therefore, 분청 (buncheong) ware has certain freedom in the styles and forms that are produced -  unrestricted by any criteria. These traits are considered to be an important value by the ceramists today and 분청 (buncheong) is still practiced by many Korean artists.  
    1. Mix the clay up to the specific needs and blend together.
    2. Throw the clay onto the wheel and mould the clay form.
    3. Refine the vessel with tools.
    4. 덤벙 (Dumbung) technique – dip the vessel into a white slip clay.
    1. Mix the clay up to the specific needs and blend together.
    2. Throw the clay onto the wheel and mould the clay form.
    3. Refine the vessel with tools.
    4. 덤벙 (Dumbung) technique – dip the vessel into a white slip clay.
    5. The vessel is completely covered in white slip clay except where the hand is holding the vessel.
    6. Dry the vessels.
    7. The vessels are fired between 1000–1350 celsius degrees inside the wood kiln. 
    8. The temperature is controlled by adding soil and wood.
    5. The vessel is completely covered in white slip clay except where the hand is holding the vessel.
    6. Dry the vessels.
    7. The vessels are fired between 1000–1350 celsius degrees inside the wood kiln. 
    8. The temperature is controlled by adding soil and wood.
    9. Reaching the end of the firing.
    10. The part where the hand was holding the vessel leaves a natural pattern on the vessel.
    11. The unique texture is created by the fire – exposing the iron in the clay.
    9. Reaching the end of the firing.
    10. The part where the hand was holding the vessel leaves a natural pattern on the vessel.
    11. The unique texture is created by the fire – exposing the iron in the clay.

    © Images provided by
    – Sung Wook Park


    CONTACT                FOLLOW
    CONTACT            FOLLOW