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korea wood fire festival

updated sun 15 apr 01


Gary Holt on fri 13 apr 01

I know that information about the upcoming 4th Annual Macsabal
International Wood Fire Festival in Korea was posted on Clayart recently,
but since I took part in it two years ago, I'd like to add a personal note
that may give people on this list a better idea what they can expect if they
The literal meaning of macsabal is 'bowl for everyday use'. My wife Yon
Soon, who was born in Korea, says it has the additional sense of 'nothing
special' or 'nothing fancy'. I wonder if it may not also refer to the
quality of unpretentiousness that originally drew the attention of Japanese
tea masters. It's an apt symbol for the workshop in that certainly no one
stood on ceremony, and there was absolutely no sense of preciousness in
anyone's work.
Ceramic professors with national reputations sat down with everyone else
to give extensive throwing demonstrations on opening day, and the skill
level of the Korean throwers was the best I've ever seen.... I watched a
young university graduate throw about fifty pounds of clay into a tall
tapering cylinder, open it, and then using a rib, spread it downward and
outward into a 30+ inch wide platter. One of the older and better known
professors sat for an hour throwing bowls off the hump, each one flowing,
casual, and unforced, and each taking him no longer than 30 seconds to make
and cut from the wheel. A master maker of traditional storage jars (called
ongi) demonstrated for two days (because we were all so interested) showing
how he and his team construct three and four foot high jars using thick
slabs that they join, then thin and shape by beating with wooden tools.
We were also taken for visits to several national museums, folk villages,
and the large art gallery area in Seoul, called Insadong. The workshop
ended with two firings, and a large exhibit of participants' work at the
Hyundai department store in Apgujongdong, an upscale shopping area of Seoul.
I ate well, drank good beer, made friends with potters from other parts of
the world, learned stuff I'm still processing, and had a hell of a lot of
fun. (I can even relate stories to anyone who wants to contact me off-list
about the performance art couple who liked to dance nude to symbolize the
birth of ceramics, or the slightly mad poet/monk who danced with a
watermelon at a garden party one evening). The nearly two week workshop
costs only $200 US, and includes food, lodging, and admission fees to
museums. This, as anyone used to workshop fees in the US knows, is
UNBELIEVABLY reasonable. Even round trip airfare is down to around $500
from the west coast.
For more information (schedule, addresses, etc.) you can email Suzanna Oh:
(, or me ( This year it begins on May
30th, and ends on June 10th. Participants are advised to arrive no later
that May 29th, and there will be someone to meet and transport all arrivees.
There is a web page: ... assume it's translated into
English, but don't know for sure.
Gary Holt
Berkeley, CA.