Ko, Heesook is a ceramist who creates white porcelain vessels. Her work retains mysterious beauty which comes from the duality in methods and techniques she applies. First of all, one can notice that she always uses two colors – white and pale blue. The opaque white part is unglazed while the clear-pale-blue part, glazed. It works as some kind of code indicating that we should place food and drink on pale blue side so they do not permeate through the unglazed white part.
How about the shape? It evokes even more curious feelings since all of her pieces look hard yet soft, cold yet warm. Heesook achieved this unique aesthetics by incorporating two different techniques – slip casting and wheel throwing – into a work. She won the Grand Prize at the 1999 Japanese Crafts Exhibition receiving high praises from the head of the jury, Takahashi Toshihiko. He mentioned “she combines the merits of both slip casting and wheel throwing. The mysterious allure of her work comes from this – the fusion of the cast’s hardness with the softness of her handicraft.”
I had a pleasure of visiting her studio in Yeoju, Gyeonggido Province several times last year. The first thing that impressed me was the strangely shaped concrete building, which was very modern, masculine and bold showing a complete contrast with the owner, who is a petite sweet young woman. Heesook informed me that the designer of her studio is architect Jang, Yoon Gyoo* of Woon Saeng Dong Architects and she met him through her student.
The studio building is divided into two parts – one is used as the clay workshop and office, and the other houses gas kilns. One side of the workshop and office building is clad mostly in glass windows, which I guess is the architect’s intention to bring the light into every corner of the room. I particularly like the deep, sturdy concrete eaves which would keep the windows dry on a rainy day and create nice shade for the room on a sunny day.
I am well aware of her devotion to her work, but her studio was another testament to her devotion and passion towards her practice.
*Jang, Yoon Gyoo is a Korean born architect based in Seoul. Renowned for his experimental design, his recent works, such as Yeh Gallery and Kring Creative Culture Space (www.kring.co.kr), received attention from the architectural community both home and abroad.
Jang Yoon Gyoo(Unsangdong) website: http://www.usdspace.com/