Sunday, June 14, 2009

Sel Young Jin's Phenomenal Rustic Erabo Style Tea Cups, Part 2: A Mini 'Hal Gu Dae' Style Foot

There is some interesting points about the form of these amazing cups and how they influence the flavour of tea in the comments section of Part 1. Please do check it out.

This petite white cup is a touch smaller than the other, making it the smallest cup one currently uses. In fact it can even be stacked into the other.

It's form is similar to the 'snail foot' but still very individual. It makes up for its size by standing much more pronounced and confident than the other.

This little cup is far from arrogant though. This is partly because of its small stature, but also due to the myriad of interesting imperfections that can be found on this piece.

Its cracks seem finer with greater density than the other. The white glaze barely covers some aspects of this work. We can see the pinkish hues from the clay staring at us from underneath the thin gloss. In one spot on the outside wall of the cup, there is a large blotchy birthmark where the clay almost breaks through. There are so many tinny embedded rocks that stare out at you, only adding to its uniqueness.

But of all these elements, the foot of this piece is the kicker. It is a beauty. This type of foot is usually only found on 'Hal Gu Dae' style tea bowls.

The 'Hal Gu Dae' style, which originated in sixteenth century Korea, is a very difficult style to pull off and, perhaps for this reason, is rarely attempted by the master potters of today. It is characterized by its famous eye-catching foot and the balance that it creates with the main body of the bowl. The original 'Hal Gu Dae' foot has four protruding extensions forming a hollowed-out cross that can be seen on the very bottom of the foot if you flip the bowl over.

This style of foot has a inclination to overwhelm the grace and naturalness of a bowl. The challenge is to make such a monstrous and pompous foot look harmonious, natural, and more modest- not as easy as it sounds.

It is perhaps this very successful attempt at balance and slight standoffishness subdued by such natural imperfections found in Sel Young Jin's favorite 'Hal Gu Dae' style bowl that got Louis Vuitton's attention a few years ago (link doesn't show picture of this 'Hal Gu Dae' bowl but gives the deets on the story).

This mini version, a Sel Young Jin modification, only has three protrusions which seem to properly fit with the size and form of this little guy. The combination of rugged imperfections paired with the slight flashiness of this foot is what one values in the 'Hal Gu Dae' style. It goes without saying that this foot definitely makes a statement.
And as one fashionably sips tea from its innards in a room with old furniture and bare walls, one wonders if Louis Vuitton is doing the same in his big mansion somewhere.



Hobbes said...

Dear Matt,

That little fellow surely is a work of beauty. Is there a place where they can be bought?



Tuo Cha Tea said...

I agree with Hobbes and ask the same question.



Matt said...

Hobbes and Tuo Cha Tea,

There is no place that one knows online or outside of Korea that sells such beautiful works. Perhaps there isn't a market for pieces of art like this in the west as they are quite expensive.

One will attempt to round some up in Korea if you are seriously interested.


Anonymous said...

Hi, this is such a great blog. I live in Seoul and have been studying pottery for a few years. That led me to study tea and I will start, probably, at the Panyaro Institute in Seoul in July. I would very much like to learn more about the pottery on your blog. It is fantastic. I have seen many books, and been to Icheon, but I really like the styles from Jeolla and Kyeongsan provinces. Can you recommend any events, websites, etc? I would love to visit some small organic tea farms and/or potters in August during vacation. Thanks a lot for your blog. If you ever come to Seoul maybe we can meet. Andy

Matt said...


Puncheong style, the natural earthy style featured here on this blog, originated from Jeolla and Kyeongsan provinces. Today it is still the hub of action for Puncheong artists. The art and way of tea in these provinces has a much more natural, spiritual, and unpretentious feeling to it that one truly cherishes.

As far as festivals, almost all of them are finished this year although there is a tea festival in October/November in Pusan. One has not heard to many good things about it as there seemed to be a lot of non-tea stuff there. If you go to Jiri Mountain during the spring tea picking season there are many friendly people that will gladly show you around the tea fields.

One has heard much about the very historic Panyaro Institute. You'll have to touch base and share what you learned on this blog. Looking forward to hearing more from you Andy.


giovdim said...

Exceptional pieces of art, for admiration and use. Wonderful presentation through words and photos, with the respect and the afection of a lover. Thank you for the beauty and for the interesting conversations in the comments.

Matt said...


Your kind words are much appreciated.