Has always lived with a passion for different types of art. At a young age, he began painting, expressing his emotions through the work on the canvas; now he uses clay and his hands to speak volumes. Huh, a world renowned Master Potter from South Korea, began working in the craft 38 years ago and continues to create new pieces every day.
His home serves as a dwelling for himself and family, a work space and a gallery for his handiwork. Each main room of the house has walls lined with pieces varying in size, color and shape, each different, unique and detailed in its own way. A short walk through the kitchen reveals even more work, scattered on shelves, tables and wall units throughout the dining and living room areas of his home. A work studio, situated in his backyard, is where Ki Woon develops his creations and also passes along knowledge of the craft when he teaches eager pottery students. Essentially, Huh never has to leave the comforts of home to do what he loves. Speaking through his daughter, Kong Ju Huh, Ki Woon reflected on his journey of becoming a Master Potter. Ki Woon moved from his native home in South Korea to Sarasota six years ago. The change in surroundings created a chance for Huh to think outside the box. He said that South Korean-style pottery is made using a distinct, accepted tradition. Huh said by moving to the United States, he has gained a freedom to expand on the style of his work. He said that inspiration for his work thrives from a natural style that incorporates elements of nature and the environment. Although each piece is different and unique in style and form, Huh uses some elements more that once. A recurring theme includes the significant use of hands as a symbol. Huh said that he prefers to use objects from life in his work, and hands serve as an intimate connection between himself and his creation. From the birth of an idea to its execution, Huh incorporates his skill of sketching and painting to give life and definition to his work. He explained that the process takes longer than many people may think. It starts with a plan, sketch and design, which takes the most time, he said.
Korean potter blends earth and art
By Alan Dell
Correspondent for Sarasota Herald Tribune
The fire has burned in Ki Woon Huh ever since he took his first breath. Growing up in the town of Inchon, South Korea, Huh always has felt a closeness to nature and a desire to express those feelings through art. As a young boy, he was a skilled painter, whose work drew national attention. But there was something missing and he drifted in a different direction. He felt a strong desire to be closer to his work, which wasn't satisfied through painting. After some soul searching and exploration, he found his niche in pottery making, an art that has captured the imagination of people for more than 5,000 years. It was a God-send and catapulted the young Korean to national fame. In a country where potters are held in esteem, Ki Woon finished his apprenticeship in his teens and quickly ascended the throne. Speaking through his brother Won Huh, in the new studio he recently opened in his brother's Sarasota home, Ki Woon recalled his early days. "I fell in love with the pottery because it enables me to take a hands-on approach. By touching my work, I can express myself more and feel a sense of closeness I could not realize with painting. I love the touching part of it. It's as if I am a part of the work itself," he said. In Korea, Ki Woon won all the top honors. His List of accomplishments and awards included "Golden Medalist" winner and a designated "Master Potter" and "Judge." In 1988 he was awarded 3rd place at the Korean National Competition for the Olympic Games. But what fuels Ki Woon have nothing to do with Awards. He envisions something beautiful and tries to give it life. He has been called a person who can take something simple and turn it into a piece of art because of an ability to see things that others cannot. Ki Woon said there is not a message he wishes to impart to his audience. He wants people draw their own conclusions and generate their own feelings before he discusses his work. "Ordinary people (non-artists) think differently then me. There are all kinds of messages you can get, but my main objective is to bring my pottery to life. I try to show that it is alive. There are a lot of mysteries in color and design and I keep getting deeper and deeper into that." he said. There is a sense if perfection that resides within the 50-year-old Ki Woon, who has been a potter for more than three decades.
"I am never satisfied, even when I am told I am the best," he says. "I still want to do the most-perfect piece of work. And with pottery that can be difficult because you are using clay, which does not always allow for perfection. It can be unyielding at times." Ki Woon left his workshop, located in a village near the outskirts of Inchon, and came to the United States about a month ago with his wife and two children. He feels America offers a greater market for him to create artistic vessels. Ki Woon will exhibit some of his work today at The Sarasota Garden Club, 1131 Boulevard of the Arts. "I came to the United States because I would like to show a lot of my ceramic pottery work and 17th and 18th century Korean pottery. We have a long history of pottery in our country that is second only to China and Japan," Ki Woon said. "I prefer to do pottery for its art and I think I will be able to do that in this country. Eventually, I would like to do exhibits with American pottery makers and share my knowledge with them." This is Huh's second trip to the United States. In 1991, he was invited by Sarasota's Ringling School of Art and Design to exhibit and serve as a special instructor.
1983-1994 Selected every year by the Korean Government National Fine Art Competition
1987 Special Acknowledgement by the Korean Government National Fine Art Competition
1992 Gold Medalist, The Inchon National Fine Art Competition, Korea
1990-1991 Ringling School of Art & Design. Sarasota, Florida
Summer 2002 Seoul Fine Art Exhibition, Korea
Judge, 6th-7th Workers Art & Culture Festival, Korea
Director of Committee, The Inchon National Fine Art Competition, Korea
Vice Chairman, The Committee of Inchon National Invitational Artists, Korea
Judge, Inchon National Fine Arts Department, Korea
Volunteer Teacher, Ringling School of Art and Design, Sarasota, Florida
Volunteer Teacher, Wild Acres Art Workshop/Ringling School of Art & Design, North Carolina
Director of Committee, The Inchon National Amateur & Professional Invitational Artists, Korea
Judge, The Inchon National Invitational Artists, Korea
Director, The Inchon Branch of Korean National Fine Art Association, Korea
Director, The Korean National Fine Arts Association, Korea
Owner/Teacher "Woodbin" Fine Art Studio, Inchon, Korea
1979 Special Recognition by the Kyunggi-do Art Competition, Korea
1981 Selected by the Kyunggi-do National Art Competition, Korea
1983-1984 Bronze Medalist, The KBS National Ceramic Competition, Korea
1985 Selected by the Inchon National Fine Art Competition, Korea
1986 Selected by the Korean National Ceramic Competition, sponsored by the Seoul Sinmun-sa Newspaper, Korea
1986 Bronze Medalist, The Korean National Fine Art Competition for the 1988 Olympic Games, Korea
1986 Silver Medalist, The Kyunggi-do National Art Competition, Korea
1987 Selected by The Kyunggi-do National Art Competition, Korea
1993 Silver Medalist, The Inchon National Fine Art Competition, Korea
1996 Special Recognition by The Inchon National Fine Art Competition, Korea
1997-1998 Selected by The Inchon National Fine Art Competition, Korea
1998 Bronze Medalist, The Korean National Fine Art Competition, Korea
Modernity - Embodiment of Delicate Hands
Crafts should pursue both the aesthetic and functional value. Above all, pottery is the task which requires endless trial and error, and technical perfection, because of it's medium of clay as well as it's modeling form (for example, because of unexpected variances including the limit of raw materials, their function, the difficulty of glaze and color, the use of fire and pottery-baking technique, and the regional quality of the earth etc.) In addition, it is closely associated with the social and economic structure of the day as well as cultural aspect owing to its practical value. Historians have always remembered pottery artists as the flowers of craftsmen since pottery was produced from the Neolithic era to the present. Thinking of that, I find it exciting for me to go in search of Ki Woon Huh's workshop, which is situated at the unfrequented village on the outskirts of InChon. I came to picture the prototype of a true craftsman in my heart, in the course of having a pleasant talk with him, appreciating his works, and seeing his great performance in the workplace where the shrill chirrup of cicada struck the hot air of the late summer. "Craftsman" means the professional who technically produces the industrial arts required by the times with modeling-sense (by social, economic, and cultural demand), and the lives his life by the incomes obtained so. Of course, to receive the title, the high degree of professionalism and affection in the area will have to be premised. Only then can true masterpieces reflecting contemporary trends of art, not mere domestic goods, be ultimately born. In this meaning, Ki Woon Huh is thought of as a pottery artist equipped with the craftsmanship, quality, and disposition. He is the very man who finished apprenticeship (beginning in his teens), in traditional teaching method, which inherited pottery art technique of all ages in search of master hands. That is to say, he is such a pottery artist as finished traditional "rite of passage" necessary to experience in masters' or seniors' workplace, though it was hard work such as cleaning materials, making glaze, and making fire. In fact, the work is a necessary course in pottery art, it is very important because the conditions of material, glaze, and fire decide the destiny of the pottery. Therefore, masterpieces which artists want passionately can be born through the perfect combination between material, instrument, and medium. Of course, it is needless to say that the combination depends on the pottery artist. In this respect, I am sure that Ki Woon Huh realizes the relation of clay, glaze, and fire (he has lived his intense life with clay for thirty years). His works display various forms and originality, equal to his distinction. The beautiful form of the works based on his skill and knowledge is many sided. Some works show how modernistic modeling through traditional life-needed pottery, and others show a stage parting from tradition. Namely after he produces traditional pottery on the wheel like a turtle bottle, a dish, and a bowl, he transforms them into those of modernistic sense. Also, he creates the works of liberal form Modernistic Ceramic Sculpture based on the peculiar beauty. For example, to ornament pottery facet with finger form, to make patterns by pressing wire net, to inlay so as to feel like collage, to form by products of modern society. His experience is moving; he makes complicated forms perfect with circumspect manual dexterity. In other words, he freely and perfectly creates everything with the earth as if Renaissance masters (painters) had done in paintings. Hence, American pottery artists were deeply moved in the early 1990's.
Feat of Clay
On a quiet street near Lockwood Ridge Road is a mid-size bungalow in a large shady lot, much like its neighbors. But come a little closer, and you'll see the intricately carved wooden gate that leads to a small courtyard. Step indoors (take off your shoes and slip into a pair of slippers), and prepare to be dazzled. The house belongs to master potter Ki Woon Huh, and is filled with his ethereal pieces of pottery. A cluster of hands fringes the rim of one pot; in another piece, violet ceramic tendrils seem to flutter from above a coppery base, so delicate they almost transcend their bodies of clay and float. The pots, vases and sculptures fill two front rooms that have been converted into a gallery of sorts and overflow onto shelves lining the dining room and sitting room also. This is where Huh, a two-year Sarasota resident, creates and shows his work, and teaches small groups of students his craft. His studio is one of the stops for the Fine Arts Society of Sarasota's Creators and Collectors Studio Tour (March 21 to 23), and is well worth a visit, its immaculate, minimal decor providing the perfect backdrop for his pottery. Huh's work has an organic feel to it-the pieces are like glimpses of nature within their abstract forms. One, simply titled "lady," is a lavender ode to a woman's body: there's the smooth curve of a hip, pride implicit in the upward tilt of the abstract star-like "head." A piece called "whisper" is a glass-smooth cylinder that gently draws the eye to a dimple just above the base, a shy, seductive belly button. Interlocking tendrils scar the surface of one piece, which is crowned by a wounded, open hole. The piece is called "shameful." To the untrained eye, the pieces look so effortlessly graceful that you'd think Huh churned them out in the grips of creative bursts of energy. But Carole Kearney, Huh's agent, explains that each is the result of painstaking hours of design. "He never keeps anything that's not perfect," says Kearney, who, many a time, has watched horrified as Huh tossed exquisite pieces he deemed imperfect on to the floor. Kearney met Huh when she was looking for a pottery teacher for her teenage son, Matthew, who had begun showing an aptitude for the craft at school. Kearney's son and Huh's children were classmates at Booker High, and Kearney said that the minute she walked into Huh's living room, she was ready to write him a check for any amount to take her son on. As a teacher, Kearney says Huh is quietly forceful, communicating, despite his lack of English, all that he holds dear: good design, the gradual building of knowledge upon layers of perfected techniques, practice and perfectionism. These are lessons Huh learned during the grueling rise to the position of master potter in South Korea, which entails undergoing annual rounds of competition and becoming licensed by the government. Huh grew up in the South Korean town of Inchon, with his parents and three siblings. He and his brother, Won (a personal trainer at the downtown Sarasota YMCA), inherited their father's creative genes, but it was Huh who pursued the arts as a profession. He actually studied painting before he switched to pottery and many feel that his painterly eye is evident in the visual appeal of his pieces. Huh won his first award in 1979, nine years after graduating from high school, and from then until today, his resume is a list of numerous awards and exhibitions. He's served on several Korean art committees and as an art judge, and in 1991, had a solo exhibition here at the Ringling School of Art and Design. Connoisseurs recognize the artistry implicit in the bone-thin walls of even his largest pieces, possible because of the high temperatures at which Huh can work the clay, enabling him to create feather-light cups and saucers that he says can safely be put in the dishwasher or microwave. Now, so much of Huh's mastery of technique has become internalized that he can focus on what he loves the most: pure creation, fueled by equal parts emotion and intellectual design. He is inspired by nature, and many of his pieces look like corals or plants. Moving to America, Huh says (speaking through his brother, who often serves as his interpreter) has freed him up to be more creative and push the boundaries of his imagination even further. America has also introduced him to a new passion: garage sales. Won Huh points to the disparate objects that his brother took a fancy to at area garage sales and brought home for inspiration-a $10 sketch that is now framed and hung in the studio, and part of a Mercedes engine, hung between two trees. Huh made the move to America partly because he wanted to show his art to a wider audience. Although Korea has one of the noblest and most ancient traditions of pottery, Huh said he felt as though there was not enough appreciation for pottery as an art form there. Here, he teaches a wide range of students-from teens to retirees, beginners to experienced artisans-in the studio at the bottom of his garden. And while he teaches to make a living, Huh says he also wants to transfer decades of knowledge, technique and passion to a worthy successor. "The time has come to pass it on," says Won of his brother. "To carry on the traditions."