Monday, June 8, 2009

Sel Young Jin's Phenomenal Rustic Erabo Style Tea Cups, Part One: 'Snail Foot'

It was Hobbes from The Half-Dipper that noticed this little guy in action with some young shang puerh a few posts ago. These three pieces were a gift from a close friend before one departed from Korea.
The care that master Sel Young Jin puts into his cups are beyond what most masters put into there pots and tea bowls. Every micro space of these pieces are beautiful.

Both of these cups are quite small (think small Chinese cup), this one is just a bit bigger than the other. It sits staunchly, its form cute and natural. Its white body resembling the white caps of mountains.

The outside and inside of this cup is riddled with cracks, holes, blotches, and other so perfect imperfections. When ones eyes climb over its lip and onto the inside wall, it is met by a latticework of large cracks. These cracks meet a ring of little holes when the inside starts to level out. One especially enjoys the sight of the lonely hole in the middle of the the cups shallow- as if the poor guy was trying to lend some symmetry to this eccentrically wabi-sabi piece.

The outside wall tells a similar story of cracks that reach down toward a spattering of teeny, tinny holes at the base of the foot.

Yes, this cup has a foot much in a way that a tea bowl (chawon) would have. The detail of it is astonishing.

This foots style is 'Dal Paeng E' style. 'Dal Paeng E' translates to 'snail' because of its obvious similarity to the swirling of a snails shell. Traditionally a nail, twig or whatever was with an arms length was used in clear moment of zen to create the swirl. Although never a perfect swirl, the 'snail foot' adds balance, symmetry, and finality as well as an obvious air of natural beauty. The rustic look of this 'snail foot' was probably made by such a device and imbues such a feeling. The foot has an unfinished feel to it with three exposed blotches of unglazed clay, a permanent marking, a badge of honour only eared in the kiln. Most pieces have these imperfections sanded off. One enjoys the fact that Sel Young Jin choose to leave them on. Perhaps an attempt to roughen the effect of the snail swirl, or perhaps a statement on change.

The change this little rugged cup has undergone doesn't stop after it is cooled from the kiln. It's important to note that this cup didn't look like this at all when first made, but acquired its appearance through ware. This cup was completely white like blanketing fresh shimmering snow when first used. Only as tea penetrated its barely viable imperfections did it acquire the look it does in these pictures.

And as one sips tea from it now, change continues. The snow melts from the mountain peeks that one views from big windows, tea penetrating its cracks and hollows. But for a microsecond everything is clear once more.



Wojciech Bońkowski said...

Phenomenal indeed! Thank you for posting this, including the lovely photographs. Better than a tea session in a way.
Best, Nerval

Matt said...


The writeups on Korean teaware seem to be quite popular.

It's a nice change from the pictures of tea.

Hopefully these kinds of posts offer others a chance to learn something new.


Unknown said...

Thanks for sharing all these lovely photos and I really enjoy.

You are right, Matt - a nice change and offer others a chance to learn something new.

geneviève meylan said...

very natural and soft and rough too . The shape is like a white mushroom . The edge of the bowl is quite thick and it must have an influence for the taste of the tea.

terre et feu said...

I had the chance this spring to be invited by Seil Young Jill,at his home in Mungyeong,I had to say the balance of his teabols and cups are realy good, the trimming part of his work is very important.
Thank for those pictures. the cups are very good.

Matt said...

James Oh,

Thanks for coming by, teaching, and learning.


Little White Capped Mushrooms, That's it! Thank you for pointing that out. Love that natural comparison.

You mentioned that these cups are both soft and rough just like a mushroom. Good point, this is just another dichotomy that these brilliant cups reveal to us. It is actually hard to believe that these are just little tiny cups and not tea drinking bowls (chawan).

They influence the taste of tea quite a lot. The course nature of these cups created by the many holes and cracks are epically apt to soften the rough bitter edges of young shang puerh. The thickness and roundness of the side walls throw the liquid on all areas of the tongue simultaneously which creates a wonderful explosion and immediate even distribution of sensation and flavour.

It's kind of like getting splashed with a bucket of water (soft water) as opposed to getting hosed down from top to bottom.

Thank you for your valuable continued contribution to this blog Ginkgo. Always appreciated.

Terre Et Feu,

Yes, this tea master's excessive penchant for fine details is beyond excellent.

Lucky you. How was the teabowl festival this year?

Just out of curiosity, What other Korean tea masters did you meet?


terre et feu said...

This year, the teabol festival was more popular than last year, the place was interesting, a traditional village (where they make movies),
but people had to walk 2 km to look after potters, that was very hard for old bad !!!
(my wife gone make an article with pictures of the festival on french ceramic magazine)

interesting thing is to see the two different way of making teabol.

One is very traditional, like pieces of Kim Jonk Ok,or my friend Kim Jeong Pill, this year he recived the silver price of the teabol contest.His master Chon Han Bong is recognized like the most good traditional potter in Asia by japan Ceramic world

Sorry for my english !!!

the other part is people realy deep in tea way like Mr Seil Young Jin (this year he teatch me a lot about way of making teabols ;secret is: meditation and meditation and... meditation , and the other potter in this way is Ho Soon Taek,good clay good tea pots and something free on tradition

So I have meet Chon Han Bong a 77 "worker" and Kim Jeong Ok, and the future master on this teabol tradition Kim Jeong Pill,( he will come next year at my studio we will firing my kiln together and he will probably make a workshop.)

But for me the two ceramics teamasters i have realy meet are Seil Young Jin and Ho Soon Taek. They can read your heart and give you free, some peace.

Matt said...

Terre et feu,

That sounds pretty interesting that the festival took place in a traditional Korean Village this year. It seems that those old traditional houses would be the perfect backdrop, creating an ambiance of natural harmony between the tea bowls and the environment where they are on display. This is so true to the Korean way of Tea.

That is a good point that you mentioned -there are 2 main branches of tea bowls in Korea. The traditional style and the new free flowing style. Anything that doesn't closely follow the formula for a traditional bowl is considered the new free flowing style. Often the new style is heavily influenced by the old. In Korea, both styles are valued. But in Japan, the free flowing styles seem to be less appreciated. This is due to the differences the tea cultures of each country.

You met some pretty amazing potters. Could you possibly let one know when the magazine article is published? One would love to have a look at it.

Thanks for your enthusiastic comments,

One can feel that you truly experienced the essence of Korean tea culture.