“Initially I was asked to make a piece that responded to the room but that also looked at the human cost of the porcelain trade.” – Claire Partington
Get a new perspective on SAM’s popular Porcelain Room through the site-specific work of contemporary British ceramic artist Claire Partington. Claire Partington: Taking Tea features an installation referencing Baroque painting and European porcelain factories, as well as a panel mounted with fragments from 17th- and 18th-century shipwrecks. The Porcelain Room is a SAM favorite for visitors with more than 1,000 European and Asian porcelain pieces from SAM’s collection grouped to evoke porcelain as a treasured commodity between the East and the West. See it on view through December 2020.
In honor of Women’s Herstory Month, I would like to give a shout out to two awesome Asian women. First is 34-year-old Marie Kondo, an entrepreneur who turned her passion for tidying into a consulting business starting at age 19. Her method of organizing is known as KonMari method. After watching Tidying Up with Marie Kondo on Netflix, I appreciated her philosophy that everything from a container to a t-shirt has a purpose if it sparks joy.
This idea of everyday objects having purpose and sparking joy reminds me of the folk art movement, mingei 民芸. Mingei celebrates beauty in everyday ordinary and utilitarian objects. A few criteria of mingei are that the objects are produced by hand, used by the masses, functional in daily life, and representative of the regions in which they were produced.
To me, this square bowl, ca. 2000, is mingei.
The second awesome Asian woman is Kim Yik Yung 김익영. At 84 years old, she is one of Korea’s most celebrated and respected ceramic artists, and a pioneer in the ceramic arts. In the museum, this bowl is art, and it certainly is—it’s beautiful, flawless, made with ancient techniques, but with modern sensibilities. However, if I brought this home to my mom, this bowl would be a banchan 반찬 (small side dish) dish. I love that that’s the first thing that came to mind when I saw this object. It brings wonderful, tasty memories of eating at home with my family, or eating at Korean BBQ restaurants with my friends. In our culture, all dishes are served at once to share, rather than in courses. So the table is filled to the edges with lots of simple and flawless small dishes and bowls!
In an interview with Seoul Magazine on the future of Korean ceramics, Kim Yik Yung said Koreans need to protect and develop this culture. “We don’t need to protect and preserve things just because they are old. We need to protect and develop things because they have value. This Korean culture is a global idea we can share with all humanity.”
I think Kim and Kondo and I should go out for KBBQ and soju.
In honor of Women’s History Month, Object of the Week will—throughout the month of March—highlight works by women artists in the SAM Collection.
Though its surface appears to be seamless, Park Young-sook’s Moon Jar is actually made from joining two halves in the heat of the kiln. The process dates back to the Choson period (1392–1910) in Korea, when spherical porcelain moon jars decorated the imperial court and the homes of the nobility. In alignment with the Choson royalty’s Confucian practices, the simplicity of these jars symbolized purity and austerity. Through integrating the techniques of this period, Park has created her own moon jars, which infuse the traditional ceramic form with her own contemporary artistic vision.
In addition to referencing imperial tradition, Moon Jar also reflects Park’s upbringing. She grew up near Bulguksa, a historic Buddhist temple. “If you dig just inches into the ground, the earth was full of ancient ceramics,” she discusses in a 2016 interview. “Bulguksa was my childhood playground. As a child, I’d explore all the ancient histories that surrounded me, which had an enormous impact on who I was to become.” While studying those histories and experimenting with materials as an emerging ceramicist, she connected with mentors in the field. She cites their guidance as essential to the creation of her world-renowned moon jars.
Though Park honors the Choson vessels of the past, Moon Jar is not an exact recreation. She spent years developing her practice and choice of materials in order to produce jars that are more elongated with thinner walls. Drawn from specific deposits to produce the desired white hue of her jars, the clay she uses takes six to 10 years to mature. She is also highly attentive to conditions in the kiln, monitoring aspects such as air flow and variations in temperature. Owning and operating her own kiln since 1982, Park has carefully perfected her methods.
However, she speaks frankly about the precarious undertaking of creating a single moon jar, even when everything is done correctly. Nine out of ten jars will not survive in the high temperatures of the kiln due to splitting or collapsing. As a finished product, Moon Jar appears effortless in its resemblance to the full moon. Though unseen, the immense amount of labor and history that undergirds the work only adds to its luminosity. This work is not currently on view but it will be exhibited when the Seattle Asian Art Museum reopens in late 2019.
– Yaoyao Liu, Museum Educator
 Lee, Soyoung, “In Pursuit of White: Porcelain in the Joseon Dynasty, 1392–1910,” Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History, October 2004, http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/chpo/hd_chpo.htm.
 Kim, Hong Nam. “A Conversation With the Artist Young Sook Park in Her Studio, A White Porcelain Story,” July 29, 2016, http://www.yspceramicart.com/interview/2016/7/29/u8ic37xwa0djfi2qvct8jic2hs51h6.
The days are officially getting darker and the work on view the current SAM Gallery show is embracing it. Hanging in the ground floor SAM Gallery is Darks and Lights, featuring Enid Smith Becker, Deborah Bell, Nick Brown, Nichole DeMent, and Barbara Shaiman. The artists in this show contrast darks and lights as autumn turns to winter. Nature’s cycles, retreating to our roots, and finding home are all explored by our premier Northwest artists. Hear from two of the featured artists on what living and working in Seattle means to them and see the show yourself before it closes on November 19. SAM Gallery represents many local artists whose work you can rent or buy. This is one of the numerous ways that Seattle Art Museum supports the arts—by supporting artists.
Enid Smith Becker
My work explores our relationship with the land, time, and space. Despite the different ways each of us approach a place, the land and its beauty is always there. As I paint, I begin with the natural space and into that I layer the rectilinear forms that represent human impact on nature and the different ways that each of us sees the world. One of the things that draws people to Seattle is its natural beauty. As a Northwest native I spend a lot of time outdoors. The paintings in the show Darks and Lights are inspired by places in Washington that we visit on the weekend.
In my work, I am inspired the colors and textures of the natural world. I work in acrylic, but I also build real texture through the inclusion of art paper, junk mail, plant matter, loose-weave cloth, and thread. The constructive nature of combining paint and collage appeals to me. The layering of paint, natural and man-made materials becomes a kind of a metaphorical rebuilding of the land.
As a ceramic artist whose work references our natural environment and the affect of human activity on it, living in the Northwest plays a pivotal role in my imagery and ideas. Memories of the rock forms, arches, and cave entrances found in La Push and other areas of the Northwest coastline greatly influence my work.
Our relatively easy access to the ocean and mountains is a major part of my love of Seattle, but I also value the intellectual and artistic stimulation of the city. Environmental justice issues are important to me, as are climate change and sustainability. While being at the coast inspires my awe and my imagery, an evening talking with friends in the city reminds me that we have a lot of work to do to conserve the beauty of our area and enable our neighbors and future generations to enjoy it as well.
While referencing issues such as climate change and the intersection of natural and human-made environments, I prefer the work to be enigmatic, not to try to supply answers but to encourage us to think about our relationship to the environment with a somewhat altered vision.
Image: Planes, Enid Smith Becker, acrylic on canvas, 36 x 48 in. Transition Arch, Barbara Shaiman, glazed stoneware, 15.5 x 16 X 5 in. Photo: Hernan Celis