Doo-Seun Kim (Korea)

Doo-Seun Kim

Doo-Seun Kim is a well-known Korean ceramic artist and held many overseas exhibitions, including in the United States and Canada. She was born in Hiroshima, Japan; she was 8 when an atomic bomb was dropped in 1945. Her father, a potter, led the family back to Korea and continued to make potteries there. When her father died at 42, Kim Doo took up the burden to support the whole family and carried on her father's pottery work. Using her father's techniques, her potteries began attracting many buyers. During this time, she opened a private school to teach children about making potteries; however, her endeavour stopped because of lack of government approval.

Her early works were imitation of masterpieces of ancient artists, but soon started her own style. When she was about 29, she opened her own kiln Seorabeol Pottery)in Gyeongju. Seorabeol is the ancient name of Gyeongju of ancient Silla (Unified Shilla era, 668-935 AD). The stonewares celadon was plain in color and design and was not richly glazed. Then, in Goguryeo dynasty 918-1392, Korean pottery reached the highest level. With Chinese influence, Koreans also produced the green-glazed caledon as early as the 10th century. Despite a high degree of imitation, their celadons still exhibited an appealing style of individuality and unconventionality. The inlay and copper oxide glaze techniques were perfected in Korea. However, this flourishing pottery industry declined with the Mongol invasion about 1231 AD. The delicate skills of making celadon wares were lost. In Joseon Dynasty(1392-1910, because of inadequate supply of cobalt, the production of blue-and-white Ming style porcelains were limited for the use of royals and aristocrats until 1546. In that period, the brown porcelain(Bun-Chung or folklore appeared and became the popular daily wares for all classes in Korean society.

In 1590 and 1636, the pottery production were set back by invasions of Japanese to Korea. Many potters were conscripted to work in Japan. By the end of the 19th century, the loss of celadon techniques was complete. When Japan occupied Korea after the Sino-Japanese war, Korean potters were ordered to mass produced second-rate wares for Japan Empire. After the Second War, a group of Korean artisans including Doo-Seun Kim re-discovered the great tradition of Goguryeo porcelain.

Her standards of quality are very high. She uses her own clay and bakes her works slowly for days using temperate wood fire for the kiln. For large and important pieces the process will not take several months; also any imperfect pieces are destroyed in the long production.

With her philosophy of bringing artistic value to ceramic products used by ordinary people in daily life, she wants to introduce a simple, healthy and enjoyable lifestyle to the world. She opened her first overseas exhibition in Osaka, Japan, in 1968. At the age of 73, she was still holding public exhibition in 2010.

Celadon jars Korean celadon wares
              Left:Korean celadon wares   Right: Bunchung vases

Bunchung vases

A brief encounter with the artist in person

I met Doo-Seun Kim in an exhibition in Ontario in 2005. The exhibition displayed her daily stonewares and some masterpieces and the paintings of two younger artists in a Chinese supermarket. Most of the stonewares were available for sale. Doo-Seun Kim greeted me in a plain Korean traditional clothes. After I selected a kettle and a dish, she invited me to squat down at the floor with her and proceeded to wrap my purchases personally. One of two classy dressed lady companions seemed to be reluctant to allow her to finish the packaging; however, she continued to finish the packaging for me. No much conversation between us, but she pointed out that the stonewares could be used directly over fire.

This quiet unpretentious image has impressed me greatly. After years at the present global competitive environment, she reminds me of how a down-to-earth culture propels its practical hardworking people to innovate and produce world-class goods.

by Gordon Li, 19 Feb 2011

1. Gallery/ceramics
2. Two of Kim's vases on eBay auction, Feb 2011