Monday, August 17, 2009

Ko Hee Sook 고희숙

We were lucky enough to visit Ko Hee Sook in the crisp ultramodern studio that she shares with her husband Lee Jong Suk in a beautiful rural valley south of Seoul and we were even luckier when Ko Hee Sook brought her radiant porcelain to the Philadelphia Craft Show as an official representatived of the Korean Craft Promotion Council. Because the afternoon in Korea had swept by too quickly to do a full individual interview and gain an in depth understanding of her work we were determined to find some way to spend more time together. so when she arrived in Philadelphia we were undeterred by the hostility of the Craft Show management and we asked Hee Sook to slip outside the restricted showroom before the doors opened. She graciously consented to sit and answer questions for an hour.

Growing up in a large family in Seoul, Hee Sook pursed her early interest in art without a great deal of support from parents or siblings. Yet she persevered and managed to gain admittance to Hongik University, considered to be Korea’s premier art school. She recently asked one of her old ceramic professors if at that time he had considered her one of the students likely to end up with a successful career. He admitted that he had underestimated her ability and determination and said he was happy to be wrong. She attributes some of her success to her relative lack of exposure to the long rigorous art training that many of the other Hongik students had passed through on their way to university. Hee Sook believes that a wide ranging general education at a young age followed by more specialization as an artist matures contributes to a healthy career and avoids early burnout.

After graduating from Hongik, she married fellow ceramic artist Lee Jong Suk and the two of them went to Japan to pursue further education. Before entering grad school, Hee Sook spent a year working in a Japanese factory which designed and produced fine porcelain tableware. This initial year in Japan was followed by 7 more spread between getting a masters degree and working in the ceramic design field while building her own repetoire of forms and surfaces. Working with Japanese masters Koie Uchi and Urie Masahiro gaver her a great deal of insight into the possibilities of casting as a flexible and responsive tool for producing multiples of the crisp and strong vessels that she enjoys designing. She believes that the quality of design in Japan is the highest in the world byt she insists that her own work is essentially Korean deriving from the long Korean tradition of luminous porcelain. Pradoxically, it was being outside Korea that impelled her to think more deeply about what characteristics of her work came from her background growing up surrounded by Korean culture and what influence came from her education and work experience in Japan.

After returning to Korean and setting up a studio, Hee Sook started producing porcelain tableware by casting and hand finishing before glaze firing in a reducing gas kiln. All of the pieces are further finished by hand after they emerge from the kiln. By painstakingly polishing them with diamond abrasive pads, she creates an exquisite satin matte finish which sets off the celadon glow of the glazes. The high quality of the finishes provokes an immediate tactile attraction which compels viewers to pick up and fondle the pots. Besides the multiples which are intended for tableware, Hee Sook also designs and makes one off pieces which are less tied to functionality.

The importance of wide ranging international experience is something that Hee Sook mentions as she explains that she brought many teapots to sell in Philadelphia but they were not moving quickly while the sake sets sold out. As Philadelphians we could have told her that alcohol would outsell caffeine. She intends to continue designing and producing porcelain ware and hopes to find markets outside of Korea and Japan where she already sells well. She admits that juggling life as a wife, mother, and artist is difficult but the determination and ability which have carried her from art school through 8 years in Japan to a rising career in Korean will undoubtably sustain her in years to come.


2000 M.F.A., Aichi Protectoral University of Fine Art and Music, Japan

1997 Completed the Research Course of SETO Ceramic Technology Institute

1994 B.F.A., Hongik University, Seoul, SK


2008 Gallery YIDO, Seoul, SK

2006 Gallery Yamaki, Osaka, Japan

2003 Gallery Nanohana, Odawara, Japan

2001 INAX Gallery Ceramica, Tokyo-Sapporo, Japan

2000 Matsuya Ginza Craft Stage, Tokyo, Japan


2009 Honorable Mention, The 5th World Ceramic Biennale 2009, South Korea

2008 Honorable Mention, The 8th International Ceramics Competition, MINO, Japan

2005 Honorable Mention, The 7th International Ceramics Competition, MINO, Japan

2002 Silver Prize, The 6th International Ceramic Competition, MINO, Japan

2001 Honorable Mention, The 1st World Ceramic Biennale 2009, South Korea

2000 Gold Award, Talente2000, Munchen, Germany

1999 Grand Prix, Japanese Craft Competition, Tokyo

2009 Sommelier of The Light / Clayarch Gimhae Museum
2008 Ceramicists from Korea & UK Vessels / Korean Culture Centre UK
Ceramic Light International Exchange Exhibition / Kepco plaze gallery
2007 Korea-Japan Young Ceramic Artists Exhibition/Korean Craft Promotion Foundation Gallery
The 4th World Ceramic Biennale 2007, Ceramic House/World Ceramic Living ware Gallery, Yeoju


Address: #258 Hu-ri, Sanbuk-myeon, Yeoju-gun, Gyeonggi-do 469-891, South Korea

Tel: +82(country code).(0).31.763.6380 C.P: +82.(0)16.679.6380














Post a Comment