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KOREAN CELADON POTTERY

We currently have NO KOREAN CELADON IN STOCK due to our no longer being able to source from two of our top producing artisans due to their retirement.  Sometime in 2013 we hope to find new artisans and sources and bring you the same quality of Celadon we've carried in the past.  WE DO CARRY THAI CELADON, Click here for more information...

Zanzibar Trading Company is proud to offer one of the largest selections of authentic, collectable Korean Celadon pottery in the United States.  We currently offer hand crafted vases, pots, tea sets and other items from five master artisans including two living treasures (the highest level and artist can achieve in Korea.)  As our selection is always changing, it is best to visit our gallery to view our selection.  Prices start under $20 and go to over $2,000.00.  Most pieces are in the $50 to $400 range. 

    

   

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The best Korean Celadon is produced in a few small villages where techniques have been handed down through generations for over 1,200 years. 

The crane vases, as the one above, are a traditional design for which each crane figure is hand-carved in the freshly formed clay, then inlaid with white and dark green (appears black) clay before being fired, then glazed and fired again at over 2,000 degrees.

The work is so personal that an experienced eye immediately knows the village, and even artist, that produced a piece.

Lovely, flowing lines. Intricate incised decorations. Sophisticated, bluish-green color. Koryo celadon-glazed ceramics can be described in many ways, but there seems to be no words to adequately describe their beauty. There are many theories on how and when Koryo celadon came into being. The most widely held theory is that the technique for making celadon was introduced to Korea through Owolguk, a Chinese kingdom famous for pottery in the eighth or ninth century during the Unified Shilla period (668-935). Chang Po-Go, maritime ruler of Korea's southwest coast, is known to have brought celadon ceramic wares called woljuyo from China as bartered goods. Pieces of woljuyo celadon have been found in the Kangjin area of Korea, which was the hub of merchant trade at that time.
The making of Celadon, particularly pieces with inlaid decorations, involves many complicated and time consuming steps, from the mixing and shaping of the clay to the final glaze firing.

 

 

Our master throwers first shapes the clay into a vessel, then incises the design on the still leather-hard piece before glazing and firing the piece.


 

  

Visit our gallery in Midtown Sacramento to view our Celadon Collection (just a small fraction you see above)


Koryo potters first made copies of Chinese wares. But with the flourishing of Koryo culture came a flourishing of celadon ceramics. Shapes and ornamental schemes were initially straightforward and subdued, but with time they became increasingly elaborate. By the 12th century, underglazed decoration was prevalent. Toward the middle of the 12th century, an inlay technique called sanggam came into use. Although the technique of celadon glazing came to Korea's Koryo Kingdom from China, it was improved and changed to reflect the artistic sensibilities of the Koryo's people. In the beginning, Koryo craftsmen tried to imitate the green color of Chinese ceramics but with time, they made improvements in glaze-making and firing techniques and created the bluish or gray-green color, which is often described as "kingfisher green." Although ceramists of today have attempted to recreate this color, they are still far from achieving it. Even using modern scientific analysis, they have failed to recreate the exact shade of bluish-green.

Kim Se-ryong, a ceramist who has been making celadon ceramics for 15 years in Inchs;on, Kyonggi-do province, says that the "kingfisher green of Koryo celadon was a reflection of Koryo's spiritual world which was rooted in Buddhism, the national religion of the kingdom." He adds that the kingfisher green is "the color of Nirvana esteemed by the Koryo People."

High quality, decorated celadon ceramics are more complicated and difficult to make than other ceramic wares. The engraving of decorations should be done before a shaped piece reaches a certain degree of dryness. Also if the kiln temperature during firing is off the mark even a fraction, the proper glaze will not be achieved. And a piece drops in value if there is even the tiniest bit of foreign substance stuck on the surface.

Although celadon like glazing originated in China, ancient Korean's made it an art in itself, surpassing the works of its original creators and creating what is called Celadon.. In fact, Koryo's inlaid celadon was even known and greatly admired in China.

Born anew from Korean clay and fire and the spirit of Koryo craftsmen, Koryo celadon is more than a cultural asset - it is a reflection of the "Korean soul," an expression of the Korean spirit and character.
 

MAKING A CELADON VASE

The creation of a celadon pot or vase actually requires at least ten steps.  We've simplified these down to three in the below depiction.  For a more detailed account, click here.

 
 
Stage 1   A terracotta pot is thrown on a wheel.  The pot is allowed to dry somewhat, becoming leather hard.  Using either a metal or bamboo stylus, the artist cuts out various designs into the surface of the pot, leaving depressions.  Sometimes a hand-carved wooden stamp is used. 
Stage 2  Colored clays are inlaid into the depressions.  Usually white clay is first inlaid, then green (looks black) and finally red, if these colors are used. Between each inlay, the pot is re-centered on the wheel and smoothed with sand.  After the pot hardens again, the next details are cut and filled, until the pot is done.  Some pots are done with an overlay instead of inlay
 
Stage 3  Once all the inlays and or overlays are done, the pot is allowed to dry fully which can takes several months depending on the weather.  It is then fired.  A large percentage of pots are lost in this initial firing (a tiny air bubble will cause the pot to explode in the kiln). 
 
Finished Vase  After the first firing, the glaze is added and the pot is re-fired at a higher temperature.  This firing, done in a reduced atmosphere environment is what gives celadon its unique color and crackle glaze.  In actuality there are many steps in making a celadon vase.  To understand the process better, click here.

What is Korean celadon?


Celadon (properly called Cheong-ja in Korea) is a pottery style defined by its signature pale green color, crackled glaze, often with inlaid designs in various colored clays. An esteemed art form for fifteen hundred years, celadon was the porcelain of choice by the Koryo Dynasty (918-1392). Today the craft of Korean Celadon exists as a cottage industry and is concentrated within two villages of central South Korea.

According to Korean tradition, each design has a specific meaning: The cranes represent immortality. Crafted by Master artist Ko-Chung (Jae-Sup Jee) who resides in the famous pottery village of Lee Chong, which is about 1.25 hours from Seoul, South Korea.

Ko-Chung hand crafted this vase using a foot powered wheel. Once the vase air dried for 3 - 4 days in a special room, Ko-Chung carefully cut out each crane using a small bamboo stylus. White clay was then embedded into the crane shapes to fill them. After the new clay hardens, Ko-Chung re-centers the vase on his wheel, and using various grades of sand which he cups in his hands, smoothes the vase and removes any excess of clay. Again after several days of drying, the final details (the legs, feathers, crests and eyes) are again etched out and this time filled with dark green (appears black) clay. Ko-Chung re-smoothes the surface of the vase for a second time.

At this stage the pot is fired. After the initial firing, the famous green crackle glaze is added and the vase is fired a final time. In the complete process, many vases are lost in all stages of its development - some are purposefully destroyed by the artist because they are not perfect in their eyes while pots breaking in the kiln also occur. Overall, even for masters, only a small percentage of pots/vases survive the delicate process start to finish.

Mr. Jae-Sup Jee has been making Celadon for over 40 years.  He is a highly recognized artist in Korea and Japan.  He is even better known by his artisan name of Ko-Chong (also Ko-Chung).

Ko-Chong was born in I-chon, South Korea and has lived there all his life.  I-Chon is one of a few small villages know for the fine quality of their celadon work. I-Chon is famous for supplying the extremely high quality clay that must be used in making Celadon.  Most of Ko-Chong’s ancestors have lived and worked in this same small village as Celadon artists since the first Celadon piece was introduced in Korea during the 10th to 12th centuries.  Since then, his ancestor’s technique has been handed down through the generations of his own family to Ko-Chong himself. 

Ko-Chong first started learning how to make Celadon from his own father and threw his first piece of Celadon when he was just a little boy.  From that day on, he has been fascinated with this form of artwork, so much so, that he has devoted his entire life toward creating beautiful Celadon pieces.

Because of his talent, technique, and hard work he has earned significant recognition and won numerous awards in Korea.  His own technique is indeed so personal that an experienced eye immediately knows his work.  Should you ever go to visit the well-known galleries in In-Sa Dong, the major antique street in Seoul, it is easy to spot his work.  He is highly collected in Japan and there you can find his Celadon pieces in many prestigious galleries and boutiques.

Years of dedication and artistry have made Ko-Chong into the acclaimed artist he is today.  He has persevered and handed down to us beautiful and alluring works of art whose timeless quality gives us a respite against the bustle and technology of the modern world.


Ko-Chung (better known by his “artist name of Jae-Sup Jee) is from the village of I-Chon. He crafts a variety of pots, including thousand cranes, bamboo, chrysanthemum and others – all based on pieces in the Seoul National Museum or a few select private collections. Considered to be one of the top, if not the best Celadon artist in South Korea, he is in his late 60’s. He learned the art from his father starting at the age of six years old. Along with his brother in law (and best friend growing up), he was responsible for resurrecting the nearly lost art of creating high quality Celadon.

In 1910 Korea was forcibly colonized by the Japanese bringing to an end the Chosun Dynasty. During the Japanese colonial period (1910-1945) Korean pottery as an art form, all but died out. To be sure, white porcelain and some brown porcelain were still produced but it was of a lower quality for daily use and not considered art in itself.

After Korea’s liberation from Japanese rule at the end of WWII and through the Korean War (1950-1953) survival, and not art, was the order of the day. But in the mid-1950s a group of Korean artisans, including Ko-Chung and Chon Jin set out to discover the lost art of Koryo celadon. Since that time they have made great progress in re-discovering the lost art and today are nearly able to reproduce the stunning beauty of the original Koryo celadon.

During the Koryo era (918-1392), Koreans potters developed the art of making celadon, produced by firing clay at reduced temperatures while using a specific oxidation process. What results from this method is a unique gray-green, or “kingfisher” color, shining through an exquisite glaze on the ceramic ware. As celadon production advanced in quality throughout the various kilns of the Korean peninsula where ceramic clays were readily available, a distinctively Korean style of celadon surfaced that was unmatchable in quality. In the 12th century, Korean celadon became the most sophisticated of its class, incorporating pioneering techniques and exquisite artistry that stand out in the history of ceramics. Certainly while early Chinese glazed ceramics predate Celadon, what we now know and call celadon was invented in Korea. “Celadon” is now produced in many countries, including Korea, China, Singapore and Japan, however only true celadon comes from South Korea.

Green-glazed ceramic ware from China was regularly found in Korea as early as the ninth century (and while colors may be similar, this is not and was not considered “Celadon”, influencing Korean potters who integrated the firing conditions necessary to produce celadon in their own kilns. Resembling jade in color and shine, celadon was highly prized among the Chinese. Korean potters practiced the craft of making celadon in the Chinese style; their efforts ranged from glazes that were a brownish-yellow color to glazes that achieved the highly-coveted, kingfisher color. Because celadon of the latter quality required precisely maintained temperatures to attain, Korean potters worked on mastering smooth, even tones of the gray-green variety in their ceramic ware through the eleventh century.

Sometime in the twelfth century, Korean celadon production reached a pinnacle of craftsmanship admired by many cultures to this day. A new type of celadon emerged that was strictly Korean, introducing innovative results that were masterfully crafted and almost impossible to imitate. It is believed that a single potter discovered the techniques specific to Korean celadon, which is distinguishable from the Chinese product in a number of ways.

To begin with, Korean celadon was baked and fired on heaps of sand, resulting in the presence of sand particles on the base of each piece. The glaze was characteristic in that it extended to the foot-ring and base of each piece. Because the foot-ring and base were glazed, three or more spur marks left by the stilts upon which the vessels rested made for another unique attribute. The most impressive aspects of Korean celadon, however, are found in the quality of the glazes, the various shapes, and the use of decorations, each truly distinguishing Korean celadon among others.

Inlaid designs in Korean celadon were the first of their kind and opened up the possibilities for glazing and designing pottery as a thing of beauty rather than simply functional. An inlaid design consisted of an image or figure made by hand or mold, imprinted beneath the surface of the clay, and evenly filled with the body of the piece using white, black, or red clay mixed with water. The piece was then baked, glazed, and baked for a second time, resulting in inlaid patterns and decorations of sparkling colors that enhanced the shimmering quality of the celadon glaze. In combination with incised and carved designs, inlaying became the most frequent type of decoration in use for celadon during the celebrated Koryo period. While many of the designs that are still recognizable today were functional, in most cases they were simply decorative and bowls, vases; rice wine containers and other vessels would never be actually used to hold anything or eat out of.

Korean refinement of celadon resulted in glazes that were semitransparent and lighter. The emerald color of the glaze, at times likened to a stunning bluish-gray, was consistently executed with unmatchable perfection during this peak period. During this period, the Korean celadon glaze further evolved to include the iron glaze and the copper under-glaze. For the first time ever, the smooth ocean green tone of celadon was interrupted by beautiful undertones of red. (Some scholars attest that this technique was used in China during earlier centuries, but it is widely accepted that the Korean potter developed the technique independent of foreign influence). Decorative techniques expanded to incorporate such novelties as painted celadon, celadon with raised patterns, celadon painting in iron under-glazes, painted iron designs on celadon, and celadon painted with striking gold. In addition, sculptured celadon pieces were perfected during the Koryo period and are also regarded as a Korean development.

Though painted designs included both the playful and formal, the artistry itself was far from frivolous. Executed with precision were expressive images ranging from delicate to bold and refined to casual. Birds, fish, melons, bamboo and lotus flowers were among the favorite motifs of Korean potters, as were cranes in flight, willows and waterfowls, and chrysanthemums and peonies. Depictions of nature in general make a charming attribute of Korean pottery, as a myriad of animals and plants are consistently portrayed with simplicity and grace.

Korean celadon also stood out for the range of shapes in which the pottery could be found. Nobles of Koryo times highly treasured celadon wares. Though potters were not then considered artists, the fruits of their labor were considered luxury goods for aristocrats and members of the royal family to possess. Kilns were regularly supervised by court officials. Celadon items made for their convenience and enjoyment include bowls, cups, ewers, teapots, wine jugs, wine pots, and food and water storage jars.

Subtly incised decorations were highly favored among the aristocratic elite. For example, a bowl dating from 1100 to 1150 carries a bird and flower design. Etched within the inside of the bowl, the light, flowing design is visible but barely perceptible.

Flower vases and bottles were also popular vessels, as were boxes for jewelry and round cosmetic boxes. Cosmetic boxes were made for the court and aristocrats and commonly had inlaid designs of the most popular motifs such as those described above.

Though less common, other widely held shapes include boxes fitted with trays, incense burners, water droppers used for making black ink, and water sprinklers used in Buddhist ceremonies that were highly prevalent during the Koryo period. Therefore, celadon-glazed ceramics were not only prized by the nobility, they were also used for temple ceremonies.

By Koryo custom, special objects were buried with the dead. This enabled the preservation of hundreds of magnificent examples of Korean celadon to remain intact through the present century. Japanese collectors were among the first to examine celadon specimens of the Koryo period, and their present-day pottery is highly influenced by Korea’s art of making celadon. In fact, over the last three centuries, the Japanese invaded Korea many times and kidnapped entire villages of potters and took them back to Japan – thus many people mistakenly believe that Celadon is of Japanese origin. During the Japanese occupation of Korea from 1910 – 1945, Celadon making was suppressed, with only functional pieces being allowed – anything decorative was forbidden and punishable by imprisonment or death.

Following the Mongol invasion in the thirteenth century and a subsequent history that was equally turbulent, Korean celadon production has never revived to its twelfth century vigor and vitality. Revival is however, in progress in Ich’on, a village near Seoul where Korean potters have lived for about 600 years. Few modern-day Korean potters achieve the perfection of Koryo celadon, though the essence of its spirit and artistry lives on through contemporary collections that incorporate cultural values and lasting technique.

Whether you are shopping for Korean celadon at Zanzibar or elsewhere, keep in mind the indications of superior quality you deserve to have in your personal collection. The right color and shine are essential, as demonstrated by the diligent efforts of Korean celadon potters who pioneered their techniques. Look for a gray-green or gray-blue shine with a crackle glaze and attempt to avoid pottery tinged in brownish-yellow. Also important are inlaid designs that are masterfully molded with clarity, body, and precision. The most minute of details must be executed with utmost care, in every aspect of the shaping, coloration, or decoration of a Korean celadon vessel. Only thus can a product gain inclusion in this highly distinguished form of ceramic ware.

How Celadon is made

Today, Celadon is made using a potter’s wheel. Historical pieces may also have been created using the rope and coil method. Most of our artists collect their own clays, while a few purchase their clays. The foot-powered kick wheel is usually preferred over an electric wheel as it gives the artists more control and many of the artists live without electricity. Once a pot is thrown, it is allowed to dry in a special room for several days. At this stage, the pot is ready to have decorations added – cutout designs, overlays and inlays.

To create the inlaid designs, the artisan carves the images from the hand thrown green ware vessel. Different clays (white, red/orange or green/black) are then inlaid to fill the carvings. At this stage, the pot is placed back on the wheel, centered and smoothed. Once again the pot is allowed to dry for several days before these last steps are repeated with other colored clays, finalizing the design(s), and before the glazing and firings are done.

Thus, the intricate designs you see on the pieces are not simply paint or glaze, they are intricately hand cut out designs cut into the leather-hard clay using a metal or bamboo stylus. If you look carefully, each design (i.e. the crane pattern) is unique – no stamps are used. After removing the excess clay, the remaining indentations are filled in with colored clay. If more details are required, more cuts are made and more colored clay is added. The piece is then gently smoothed before the first glaze. A second glazing and firing then follow this first glaze and firing.

Though the term "celadon" is somewhat misleading in that it means green, it has become widely accepted as the Western term for the Korean pottery, called Cheong-ja in Korean, with the distinctive jade-green color. Below are the Korean names for the various types of pottery and their Western equivalents:

Cheong-ja - This is the name of the jade green pottery and is called either "celadon" as we have called it here, or "green celadon" to distinguish it from other types of Korean pottery. The literal meaning of the word Cheong-Ja is blue/green porcelain.

Bun-Cheong - This is the name of the brown or light brown pottery and, although a misnomer since celadon literally means green, it is sometimes called "brown celadon". For lack of a proper western term for this unique Korean pottery we have called it by its true name, Bun-Cheong, or "brown porcelain" to help distinguish it from the other colors of pottery.

Baek-ja - Although it is sometimes, incorrectly, called white celadon, Baek-Ja literally means white porcelain and is the name for the white pottery made by Korean artisans. White porcelain is the name we have used here.

The History of Korean Celadon
Celadon (Cheong-Ja) - the Stuff of Kings

Though the history of Korean pottery stretches back to the Neolithic age, and the rough "Black Comb Pottery" produced by early tribes, the pinnacle of Korean pottery was the development and perfection of celadon (Cheong-Ja) during Korea's Koryo Dynasty.

The Koryo Dynasty, which lasted from 918 to 1392 AD, had a strong Buddhist influence which shaped many of its cultural achievements. Buddhist temples flourished during the Koryo period, and with them grew a need for fine vessels to be used during the many ritual ceremonies. In the middle of the 10th century Korean artists, some who had been schooled in China began creating celadon by using inlay and copper glazing techniques which were developed first in China but only fully developed and perfected by Korean artisans. The Korean use of these techniques was unique in the history of pottery. The level of fine quality and beauty they were able to achieve in their work surpassed that of other countries and came to be revered by even the Chinese for its elegant, yet simple beauty. The Koryo Royal Court also used some of the finest examples of celadon pottery in their palaces both as vessels for daily use and as objects of fine art.

The finest examples of celadon were produced during the middle and latter part of the 11th century by artisans who remain unknown today. With the Mongol Invasions which started in 1231 AD the flourishing culture began to decline, and along with it, the quality of the pottery being produced. By the beginning of the Chosun Dynasty (1392-1910) most of the delicate manufacturing techniques for celadon had been lost.

During the middle 15th Century in the Chosun Dynasty, brown porcelain, Bun-Cheong, appeared and became the standard for daily use by the people of the period. It was used by all classes of society unlike celadon, which had been used only by Buddhist monks, royalty, and aristocrats. It was somewhat rougher in finish than the celadon had been, and did not possess such delicate beauty.

White porcelain appeared in the early 16th Century and like the earlier brown porcelain, was widely manufactured and used by the common people throughout Korea.
During the late 16th century the Japanese launched a series of invasions into Korea (Im Jin Wae Ran) and forcibly relocated many of the Korean artisans to Japan. These transplanted artisans helped to influence the direction and style of Japanese pottery and arts and account for the great similarity between the Korean and Japanese arts.

Celadon Today

In 1910 the Japanese brought to an end the Chosun Dynasty by forcibly colonized Korea. During the Japanese colonial period (1910-1945) Korean pottery as an art form all but died out. To be sure, white porcelain and some brown porcelain were still produced but it was of a lower quality for daily use and not considered art in itself.

After Korea's liberation from Japanese rule at the end of WWII and through the Korean War (1950-1953) survival, and not art, was the order of the day. But in the mid-1950s a group of Korean artisans set out to discover the lost art of Koryo celadon. Since that time they have made great progress in re-discovering the lost art and today are nearly able to reproduce the stunning beauty of the original Koryo celadon. This group includes Master Jae-Sup-Jee, a Living Treasure in South Korea and one of our favorite artists. It was Jae-Sup-Jee who revived what is today a booming renaissance in pottery in Korea. Many of the thirteen masters that we represent were trained or influenced by Jae-Sup-Jee and several use his hand mixed glazes.

The aesthetic beauty of Korean celadon

The aesthetic beauty of the early Koryo celadon lies in its subtle beauty and elegant simplicity. So impressed were the Chinese scholars that they called Koryo celadon one of the 10 treasures of the world, while the Chinese artisans described its color as "beyond description". Though its beauty can hardly be described to someone who has not seen or experienced it in person, the following descriptions by early 20th Century scholars come close.

On seeing Korean celadon for the first time, many find little to attract them, or are even somewhat repelled by the subdued bluish or grayish green tones, which they consider monotonous and far removed from the brightly colored porcelains with which they are more familiar... Chinese wares shine brightly. For guests it is well to have Ming blue-and-white, for it stimulates the appetite. But if we wish to hold quiet colloquy with them or have them in our room for a long time, such wares are too strong... The quietness and subtlety of Korean pottery are said to show the quintessence of the Oriental spirit: its quiet elegance, simplicity of form and style of make has been compared with the profound and exalted spirit of Zen Buddhism.... The forms of these wares have an instant appeal to one's heart; their colors have unique transparent depth, and their freely carved decoration is no less affecting... they exude quietness of spirit...

Modern celadon maintains the same beauty. It can be seen in the delicate latticework of cracks visible under its glaze, called crazing, and in the deep jade-green color. The shapes derived from nature such as those representing the human form further enhance its appeal. It is somewhat difficult to appreciate the beauty of celadon from a picture - one must look closely at the fine pattern of crazing under the deep azure-green glaze. The longer one looks at its rich color the more beautiful it appears.

Modern celadon can be roughly grouped into three different categories - those pieces with inlaid designs, pieces with incised, molded designs or overlaid designs, and those with no design (plain). Although we love all three styles, we particularly love the inlaid crane motifs, which represent prosperity, longevity, harmony, wisdom and peace. Perhaps the most famous pottery “village” in Korea is the Ich’on (also Icheon) Pottery Village outside Seoul which is best known for its white pottery and over 80 “factories” that produce celadon and other ceramics. We bypass this very touristy and modern community to purchase our Celadon from small, individual artisans in two other, remote, traditional pottery villages: the village of Lee Chong and You Juu (also spelled Yeoju), home to the 13 master potters we represent. When you purchase a piece of Celadon from us, we will generally include a biography of the artist along with a detailed information sheet describing the meaning(s) of the various designs and how the piece was made.

 

The best Korean Celadon is produced in a few small villages where techniques have been handed down through generations since their introduction by the Chinese over 1,200 years ago.

The crane vases, shown below, are a traditional design for which each crane figure is hand-carved in the freshly formed clay, then inlaid with white and black clay before being fired and glazed at over 2,000 degrees.  "The work is so personal that an experienced eye immediately knows the village, and even artist, that produced a piece," says Chan-Shin Jung, co-owner of Asian Style.
 

Lovely, flowing lines. Intricate incised decorations. Sophisticated, bluish-green color. Koryo celadon-glazed ceramics can be described in many ways, but there seems to be no words to adequately describe their beauty. There are many theories on how and when Koryo celadon came into being. The most widely held theory is that the technique for making celadon was introduced to Korea through Owolguk, a Chinese kingdom famous for pottery in the eighth or ninth century during the Unified Shilla period (668-935). Chang Po-Go, maritime ruler of Korea's southwest coast, is known to have brought celadon ceramic wares called woljuyo from China as bartered goods. Pieces of woljuyo celadon have been found in the Kangjin area of Korea, which was the hub of merchant trade at that time.
 

The making of Celadon, particularly pieces with inlaid decorations, involves many complicated and time consuming steps, from the mixing and shaping of the clay to the final glaze firing. Kim Seryong, who has been making only celadon for the past 15 years first shapes the clay into a vessel, then incises the design on the still leather-hard piece before glazing and firing the piece.
 

Although Koryo was a mere importer of Chinese celadon wares in the ninth century, some Chinese ceramists came to Koryo and taught the celadon technique to Koryo craftsmen. This became the foundation for the Koryo celadon which flourished during the mid 10th century.

Koryo potters first made copies of Chinese wares. But with the flourishing of Koryo culture came a flourishing of celadon ceramics. Shapes and ornamental schemes were initially straightforward and subdued, but with time they became increasingly elaborate. By the 12th century, underglazed decoration was prevalent. Toward the middle of the 12th century, an inlay technique called sanggam came into use. Although the technique of celadon glazing came to Korea's Koryo Kingdom from China, it was improved and changed to reflect the artistic sensibilities of the Koryo's people. In the beginning, Koryo craftsmen tried to imitate the green color of Chinese ceramics but with time, they made improvements in glaze-making and firing techniques and created the bluish or gray-green color, which is often described as "kingfisher green." Although ceramists of today have attempted to recreate this color, they are still far from achieving it. Even using modern scientific analysis, they have failed to recreate the exact shade of bluish-green. Kim Se-ryong, a ceramist who has been making celadon ceramics for 15 years in Inchson, Kyonggi-do province, says that the "kingfisher green of Koryo celadon was a reflection of Koryo's spiritual world which was rooted in Buddhism, the national religion of the kingdom." He adds that the kingfisher green is "the color of Nirvana esteemed by the Koryo People."

High quality, decorated celadon ceramics are more complicated and difficult to make than other ceramic wares. The engraving of decorations should be done before a shaped piece reaches a certain degree of dryness. Also if the kiln temperature during firing is off the mark even a fraction, the proper glaze will not be achieved. And a piece drops in value if there is even the tiniest bit of foreign substance stuck on the surface.

Although celadon glazing originated in another country, ancient Korean's made it an art in itself, surpassing the works of its original creators. In fact, Koryo's inlaid celadon was even known and greatly admired in China.

Born anew from Korean clay and fire and the spirit of Koryo craftsmen, Koryo celadon is more than a cultural asset - it is a reflection of the "Korean soul," an expression of the Korean spirit and character.