Oh Hyang Jong at Clayspace Studio

Thursday 3 December 2015

energy is never lost just moved*

Clay is a universal language that enables conversation and connection across cultures. South Korean potter Oh Hyang Jong demonstrated this concept before a capacity crowd at the Clayspace studio on East Street, Daylesford, on 15 and 16 September. 

Mr Oh throwing off the hump using a kick wheel.

Mr Oh preparing slabs by stretching the clay on the floor.

Day one began quietly but over the course of the first day and into the next the energy gathered momentum until the studio was engulfed in a sense of purpose and creativity. It was like a whole-body mediation as people dipped in an out of the action, some watching almost trancelike as he spun bowl after bowl off the kick wheel, others on their haunches on the ground wedging clay snakes for winding into onggi, a traditional Korean vessel dating back to 4000-5000 BC. Some of us had a go at adding the clay snakes to the developing forms with varying degrees of success. 

Mr Oh adding coils.

creating a pot is harnessing the energy

of the clay and uniting it with

the energy of the creator

Mr Oh talked about his work in his native Korean while Ellie Lee Minsoo translated the concepts. The indefatigable Yong Mira provided technical support. Together he/we made voluptuous forms with no base and no purpose other than to give external form to the energy invested. Neville French remarked on their similarity to the trunks of ancient banksias. The forms that survived our ministrations ranged in size from about 80cm to 1.3m each imprinted with evidence of our endeavours. 

Mr Oh and Mira.

 the connection between the clay and the body

 is very important

On day two, Ann Ferguson from Castlemaine brought her gas-powered weed killer to dry out the pots so more coils could be added. The element of fire engenders a primal energy to any situation and this combined with the circular dance required to place the clay generated a thrilling urgency to the process. 

Drying out pots by burning newspaper.

As the finale approached, Neville French and Kim Haughie made slips for Mr Oh while the rest of us were invited to graffiti the largest vessel. The red and white slips were poured into plastic bags before a corner was nipped off in the style of a homemade icing bag. Mr Oh concluded the workshop by squirting slip over the pot with enthusiastic abandon in a final creative outpouring.

Oh Applying slips to the largest of the vessels.

Mr Oh’s workshop was a generous embrace that reignited a gentle fire in me – one that has smouldered ever since. The experience has become a touchstone for my ceramics practice and I have returned to it whenever my own fire has seemed to languish.

By Angie Izard

*All quotes from Mr Oh as translated by Minsoo


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