Kim Jeong-ok is the only ‘Human Cultural Property’ that is designated by the Korean government in
the art of traditional earthenware making. Thus, he is a leader in the revival of one of Korea’s most
treasured national arts. By successfully reproducing Jeongho Dawan, or Ido Chawan as it
is called in Japan, he has made a tremendous achievement in revitalizing this profound
artistic tradition; this revived tea bowl is widely recognized as a creative triumph that
can only be achieved by a master potter at the height of his career. It clearly displays
his firm determination, immeasurable energy and deep devotion to bring back the
golden age of white pottery in his mother country.

Kim Jeong-ok has also been keenly interested in reviving buncheong earthenware,
another glorious achievement of the Joseon Dynasty’s potters, which were produced in some
of Joseon’s most famous kilns such as Gyeryongsan Mountain and Gimhae. His works have
been regularly exhibited in many parts of the world including Japan, Canada, U.S.A. and Germany;
as well, collections of his pieces are in permanent exhibitions in some of world’s most prestigious
museums, such as the Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC, U.S.A., and the Royal Ontario
Museum in Toronto Canada. His work is also dearly loved by the Dalai Lama.

The earthenware made by Kim Jeong-ok lead us to think
not only of their importance as works of art but also the
person who created them. His white pottery,
for example, vividly capture the glory and beauty of the
Joseon white porcelain as well as the souls of the
Joseon potters themselves. As soon as his works are
removed from the kiln, they reveal the graciousness
and elegance of a time gone by. At that moment, when
the fire have died and the kiln has cooled, his
earthenware appears to grow several hundred years older.
They are, in fact, like ‘living’ antiques. They belong to the
past, to a time of creation when traditions were
established by the ancestors; but with love, devotion and
extraordinary talent, Kim Jeong-ok brings these
masterpieces to the present so that they come alive with
their beauty.

The tradition of Joseon white pottery does
not just denote form or color, or the expert
movements of the artist’s fingers. It is
best represented when art and
practicality harmoniously co-exist:
when the natural beauty of form
and shape in a work of art is
organically interwoven with the practical
usage in the home. The key lies in the
austerity and simplicity of the lines and
contours that reflect both the anonymity of
the potter and the common folks who use
the ware. To achieve this, Kim Jeong-ok always
tries to remove his identity from his pieces just
as his ancestors did; he wants to be known not
because of an intentionally-malformed shape or
a singular design, but by his commitment to the
life of earthenware making, to following in his family’s
footsteps, and to keeping this important national
tradition alive.

This is why we cannot see the artist’s existence in Kim Jeong-ok’s masterpieces. He only aims to reach the state
that is closest to nature by minimizing the display of his artistic skills and keeping the original purity of the earth.
As a result, his works are like a replica of nature removed from any sign of artificiality; they represent the intimacy
and peace one feels with Mother Nature and Mother Earth. His white pottery is there to be touched, and when it is, it
gives us the warmth and gentleness that the first human being might have felt from the soil under his or her bare
feet. The true significance his earthenware seeks may be a journey back to the earth, the home of his white pottery.

View the master's works