“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 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.
Image: Moon Jar, 2007, Park Young-sook, porcelain with clear glaze, 20 x 19 1/2in., Gift of Frank S. Bayley III, in honor of the 75th Anniversary of the Seattle Art Museum, 2007.86 © Young Sook Park
Porcelain, such as this centerpiece, embodied the essence of taste for Europeans of the mid-eighteenth century. At that time, porcelain was costly and a European formula had only recently been attained through scientific and technological struggle. Using the recently devised formula, the white translucent ceramic could be molded or cast in wonderful, light, airy, sculptural forms—such as this basket-shaped bowl supported by a swirl of foliage and cavorting, fanciful putti.
Only two other examples of this form are known; both are in England. Previously unrecorded, this rarest, most beautiful piece of Bow porcelain was recently acquired by SAM. It will be installed in the Porcelain Room this spring.
Centerpiece, 1750, Bow Porcelain Manufactory, London, England, soft-paste porcelain, 7 × 9 ½ in., Kenneth and Priscilla Klepser Fund, 2013.15. On view in spring 2014, Seattle Art Museum, fourth floor, Porcelain Room.