By: Kim Jae-heun

Yi Yoon-shin, a ceramic artist and founder of Yido Pottery, stressed the special value of handcraft and the beauty of Korean traditional pottery during a Korea Culture Quotient event hosted by Corea Image Communication Institute (CICI) at Yido in Jongno-gu, Seoul, on Oct. 27.

The president of CICI, Choi Jung-wha, invited some 20 foreign and local opinion leaders to the event, including Kuwaiti Ambassador to Korea Jasem Albudaiwi, Vice Chairman of Doosan Corporation James Bemowski and CEO of Renault Samsung Motors Francois Provost.

Yi, who recently held a solo exhibition of ceramics in Paris, talked about her experience with ceramics and the establishment of Yido Pottery, as well as the history of world ceramics during her hour-long speech.

The artist emphasized that people should use handcrafted porcelains instead of mass-produced pottery.

“Handcrafted porcelains are weak on impact compared to the normal pottery at home and they absorb water, so it can easily break if you leave water inside for a long time,” said Yi during her speech. “However, the handmade ceramics breath through the soil it’s made out of and it makes food, such as kimchi, taste better. They are good for health and you can experience the slow life through handcrafted porcelains.”

Yi also shared her story of traveling to Japan to learn how to craft pottery for four years. She found out that most of the Japanese restaurants and individuals at home were using handcrafted pottery when stainless steel and plastic was dominant materials used for tableware in Korea. She felt it was her calling to produce Korean handcrafted pottery and promote it worldwide.

“I started making pottery 38 years ago. Every day, I made 20 to 30 potteries alone at a workshop. Now, I have 160 craftsmen working for me and my business is successful, but handmade potteries are still not widely used in Korea. I have a long way to go,” said Yi.

The pottery artist also explained how the Chinese first invented the technology to use its special soil “kaolin” to produce white porcelain, which was baked inside a kiln that is 1,300 degrees Celsius. The people during the The Goryeo Kingdom (918-1392) were successful making handcrafted pottery for the second time in the world under the influence of the Song Dynasty.

The decoration used on white porcelain from China use cobalt imported from the Islamic world, which later spread to Goryeo, Japan and Europe.

Yi is now Korea’s leading pottery designer and world star chefs like Jean George use her dishes. She also sponsored a Korean exhibition hall at the 2015 Milano Expo.

“It’s my wish to put handcraft potteries on people’s dinner tables like Steve Jobs wanted to put a personal computer on people’s desks,” Yi said.