Friday, July 27, 2012

Appreciation of an Unglazed Grey Teapot by David Louveau and Commentary on Imperfect Beauty

If there is any potter outside of Korea who best embodies the spirit of the Korean potter, perhaps David Louveau could be that potter. Some of his works mirror closely his mentor and Korean master potter, Sel Young Jin. David Louveau fires his pieces in a wood kiln the traditional way, the way of nature, the Korean way. Although David's works are beautiful, they are still a far distance from his master. From a distance his works could certainly be mistaken for Sel Young Jin's.

It is hard to judge imperfect beauty- When is imperfection imperfect and when is it beautiful? This post delves deeper into this question by close examination of a small unglazed teapot which was kindly gifted about one year ago by David Louveau. As you can see it has seen its fair share of use over the past year...

The form of this pot mirrors closely the style of Sel Young Jin. It is nicely porportioned with its sout body that is slightly pulled by outstretching spout and handle. The handle is more thick at the top then tapers down, another characteristic of Sel Young Jin's pots. Of particular beauty is the rugged, cracked finish of the clay here. It creates a subtle texture in the fingers which imparts a nice natural ambiance when pouring. These imperfections make a pot beautiful, so natural. The small almost unnoticeable scratch into the clay surface on the lid is one such beauty mark, giving the pot a certain personality.

The unglazed finish is perhaps the most noticeable quality of this pot. New, the pot looked to crude and sharp but with many uses the oil from the tea has given it a soft, natural, rustic look which cannot be faked. Only from a good year of use can this look and feel be achieved. The oils and water stains cling to the crevices and edges and create an effect as if the pot is dull but glowing.

Unfortunately, it also brings out the aspects of the pot that are too crude and unfinished, which create a certain harshness that cannot be classified as beautiful. These characteristics are not found on master's pots and are an over exaggeration of crudeness, a lack of tasteful subtly, an overly deliberate attempt at imperfect beauty, or a lack of overall refinement or skill of the potter. On this teapot they are small and quite unnoticeable to the untrained eye but nevertheless they are there. These exaggerated characteristics can reveal the thin line of what defines a potter as a master or a student. There are three aspects of this pot which lack this refinement. And only for the sake of learning, shall one point them out.

First, the attachment of the spout and handle to the pots body is too crude and sloppy. The edges are too sharp and defined where they should be more smooth, naturally transitioning and creating harmony, creating a continuity, a whole, from these separate parts. The spout even shows borders of where the scraping to fuse the parts took place and looks unfinished.

Second, the perforated holes inside the pots spout are rough and unfinished. These are usually sanded down in most pots to create harmony and subtly.

Third the chop on the bottom of the pot is very crude and a bit off-putting. Usually calligraphy or a stamp is used which acts harmoniously with the pot, however this pot has etched quality that seems a bit sloppy and distracting.

With all of this said, one must recant. Overall, this pot is a beauty, its use is a testament of this. Think if one were to purchase a pot in the Korean style but did not wish to pay hundreds of dollars, a pot from David Louveau would be a perfect (or an imperfectly perfect) choice.



吉道 Giuseppe said...

nice pot. nice post!
did you see Sel Young Jin's work in Daegu? I haven't paid as much attention to Korean pottery as I should, but now I'd like to search out some of his work!

thank you

Matt said...


Yeah, you can find him in a few shops in Daegu but was told that it may be easier to find his works in Seoul though. Looking forward to reading more of your tea blog:


The Teaist said...

Interesting! I don't know anything about Korean teapots but love the rustic and organic look of the pot and this made for interesting reading.


Matt said...

The Teaist,

"rustic" and "organic" actually describe Korean pots quite well.