you're reading...
Ceramics, Weekly Photo Challenge

Weekly Photo Challenge: The Sign Says

I am going to share a few signs with you from my trip to Korea in 2011 : basically they illustrate the importance and esteem that ceramics and ceramic artists, or potters, are held within this society.

Why are they held in such esteem? To answer this we need to explore a little history (in a nutshell) …

Korea was invaded by the Mongols in the 13th century, and the Japanese in the 16th century, causing the production of ceramics and specilised glazes, such as celadon, to be severely hampered. During the Japanese invasion many potters were abducted and forcefully relocated to Japan to produce porcelains and Celadons. Eventually, this resulted in the development of both the porcelain and tea industries of Japan. Since these earlier invasions Korea was then invaded by Japan in 1910: political freedom was restricted and cultural assimilation was attempted. Since independence in 1948, there has been an emphasis in Korea on revitalising cultural identity: this has been achieved through a variety of different cultural festivals AND the  passing on of specific ceramic techniques and traditions within families. Usually, due to patriarchal tradition, this is passed on to the male members of the family, however, during my trip to Korea I did come across two families who were passing the knowledge onto female members – how times have changed! This break in tradition was either due to no sons being born within the family, or the sons not being interested in working in the ceramics industry (mind you, in times past the boys would have had no choice).

cultural treasure number 105

cultural treasure number 105



Kim Jong Ok: cultural treasure number 105 – This is the cultural treasure marker outside his home. I was lucky enough to visit his home and studio. Images of this visit can be seen in my Facebook album here.

Why is this sign, and what it says, so fascinating to me? Well as an artist and ceramic artist, it is so intriguing when the arts are viewed as reverent by other cultures, rather than threatening or challenging, or hippy artists sitting around doing nothing… Mind you, one could assert that this concept is being used to enforce national pride and patriotism – which is also not a good thing (look at how artists were used during the Russian revolution and other movements, and/or excluded from it : Nazi Germany), however, from what I observed the South Korean government initiative seems to be a passive (not aggressive) attempt to rediscover cultural identity, and I think this is what makes the difference.
















Another sign I found intriguing in South Korea was a framed pamphlet I couldn’t help but see mounted on the inside of a toilet door. Now in Australia – well alot of Australia – what you will see inside toilet doors is adverts/ campaigns educating people about drug use, safe sex, environmental issues, etc. However, in South Korea it’s all about ceramics exhibitions or festivals!! Another sign of the value that is placed on ceramics and the arts in general. Yay!!

Toilet Sign

Toilet Sign


Now, this image is a bit blurry…. BUT cut me some slack: I was sitting on the toilet!!

The final image I would like to share with you is an image of the banner my partner and kids made for me when I got home from Korea after a two week tour – it was the longest I had been away from them all, so it was very cute!!

Welcome Home

Welcome Home

More entries to this WordPress Photo Challenge can be viewed here:


8 thoughts on “Weekly Photo Challenge: The Sign Says

  1. Dawn, I had no idea re: Korean potters in past history being forcefully sent to Japan. This certainly was an interesting read. And you can bet here in the US – even in ‘high-culture’ neighborhoods, that advertisement would never be on a bathroom door! Great to see how valued ceramics and applied arts are in South Korea.

    Posted by artdoesmatter | June 12, 2013, 11:07 pm


  1. Pingback: Weekly Photo Challenge: The Sign Says (bicycles go where?) | What's (in) the picture? - June 2, 2013

  2. Pingback: Weekly Photo Challenge: The Signs Say (My Name! Well, almost) | What's (in) the picture? - June 2, 2013

  3. Pingback: The sign is very clear | studio Nem - June 3, 2013

  4. Pingback: Weekly Photo Challenge: The Sign Says (What happened to faith?) | What's (in) the picture? - June 3, 2013

  5. Pingback: Weekly Photo Challenge: The Sign Says (Puerto de las Palomas) | What's (in) the picture? - June 4, 2013

  6. Pingback: Weekly Photo Challenge: The Sign Says (Sign Revisited) | What's (in) the picture? - June 4, 2013

Leave a Reply

Follow Blog via Email

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Blog Archives

Blog Stats

  • 63,491 hits
Creative Commons License
This work by Dawn Whitehand is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.