Sunday, June 20, 2010

Cha Chan Bad Chim (Korean Tea Coasters) Part III: The Story of An Old Poor Man And His Unique Spin On Wood Coasters

An old man wearing old clothes came into the tea shop. The rundown man carried a corrugated cardboard box and accompanied an old lady following shortly behind. The box was filled with wood coasters. These coasters aren't the typical wood variety. The bark has been peeled away and the fragrance of pine has been infused into the coaster- the smell was unreal- it captured the feeling of the mountain forest. On each coaster was a hand painted image of a traditional, natural Korean scene.

Perhaps too distracting or complicated for the Korean tea setup, the old man, a true starving artist, walked out of the tea shop after a few cups of tea and a few tea snacks without making a sale.

Smiling with the old lady not far behind, he made his way down the old street to try his luck at the tea shop next door.



Michal Tallo said...

When I first read through this post, I disliked these coasters, finding them somehow unnatural and maybe even kitschy - luckily, I returned to the post today and am starting to like them more and more. Now, I can see how wrong I was; it isn't kitsch at all.
I guess this is that kind of art beauty of which reveals little by little, just in peaces so that there is always something new to find (just as with Korean pottery).

Thank you for your ongoing inspirational posts!

Matt said...


One can relate to your experience with these coasters- you describe it wonderfully! At first they seem very kitschy, then the more time you spend admiring them, you kind of see past the kitsch and start to feel a deeper meaning in them.

Besides that, the arrangement of the painting against the natural features of the wood is brilliant! Specifically the placement of the painted figures around the naturally darker inner centre of the wood.

Look at the second picture of the two black birds resting on the pine branch. In this case the dark inner core of the wood gives a feeling of warmth, it represents the sun, and enhances the warm feelings of the two intimate birds.

Look at the last picture of the monk. In this case the dark inner core gives a feeling of ambiguity and uncertainty, it represents the enso (zen circle) or perhaps the ripples of water in a still pond, and enhances the feeling of letting go of the conceptual mind.

The placement of the drawings is such that you can place a cup on the coaster and still enjoy the image.

Glad you enjoy them.