Daeyoung Lee, Icheon Ceramics Cooperative
Medium of Work:
Daeyoung Lee was born in Icheon, a small city in Gyeonggi Province, South Korea, but spent his early years in Seoul. He returned to Icheon in his twenties to continue the legacy of his family’s traditional craft: making some of the most traditional and gorgeous pottery in all of South Korea. Today, Daeyoung’s son, Sungtae Kim He, is a third-generation potter, and together, the father-and-son duo run Icheon Ceramics Collective, an organization that produces distinctively elegant, breathtakingly artistic vessels, dishware, and other items, using ancient techniques. All materials, from clay to glaze to tools, are locally sourced.
Artisans at Icheon produce items of universally appealing elegance and timeless sophistication. Pale, gleaming turquoise glaze offers a subtle and elegant finish to shapely vases and pitchers. Shallow bowls, carefully incised with traditional patterns, are as functional as they are visually commanding.
Pottery-making methods used by Icheon’s artisans date back hundreds, if not thousands of years. With traditional techniques like celadon, Buncheonware, and white porcelain thriving for centuries, Korea enjoyed its status of high-quality ceramic culture until the 19th century, when longstanding artistic practices were largely discontinued due to government shutdowns; in the 20th century, halts to creative endeavors were the result of Japanese colonial rule.
Initiatives to reinvigorate traditional Korean ceramics began in earnest in the latter half of the 20th century. Since the late 1980s, Icheon has become something of a mecca of Korean ceramics. Thanks to the efforts of artisans like Daeyoung Lee, today Icheon, South Korea is home to 300 ceramics studios, a ceramic-art high school, and a national ceramics festival.