Well, I’ve been looking at the Onggi videos that Adam Field has posted to youtube (go to youtube.com and search with the word “agfield2000” to get his videos) and decided to have a go at it. When you see the video, Kim Young-Ho, the guy making the onggi jars, really makes it look easy. Well we all know when it looks easy, it’s usually just the opposite, and this is no exception.
I should mention that I do a lot of coil and paddle work, but that my Karatsu style coil and paddle uses coils that are about as big around as my little finger. The Korean Onggi work uses coils that are probably 2″ or so in diameter. After watching the video a couple of times I decided to give it a shot. The pictures below are of my third attempt. The first two were failures, to say the least. Lots of problems with keeping the pot round and centered, and keeping every successive coil from flaring out wider and wider.
Another thing I should mention is that although I don’t know for sure, Mr. Field edited out a lot of video, and I think there are some important things not shown in the video, for example what type of clay is being used, and also how long the pot sits to firm up before each paddling.
During the video, a roaring sound in the background starts at one point, and I suspect this is a torch or burner of some sort to help dry the pots to get them firm enough to paddle. During much of the video, you can hear paddling, and it has a sort of echoing metallic ring to it, which tells me that the clay has gotten quite firm, because wet clay just gives a sort of soft thud when you paddle it.
Anyway, all the details aside, I decided to play around and here is the pot I’m going to use for holding glaze, it has a thick, wide rim for grabbing and carrying, and the body is thick enough to stop bullets. This characteristic was unintentional, but what can I say? Did I mention it’s my third attempt? I put it on the scale so you can see the weight. The bat is about 750 grams, but even after subtracting that, the pot still weighs in at just under 10 kg, that’s about 25 lbs, for a pot that’s only about 20 inches tall.
This second pot is one that I built using the Karatsu coil and paddle method, with the thinner coils, building a thinner pot. This type of pot would not hold up to heavy use like a regular onggi style pot. It’s too thin to take much abuse, the walls are about 4mm thick. Normally, a pot like this would be used for tea storage, but the mouth would be smaller in diameter and there would be 4 lugs on the shoulder to allow for a cord tie down to keep the wooden lid in place. Although I’m more comfortable with this method of coil and paddle, I plan to keep practicing with the onggi style, because I think that once I get used to it, it will be very useful and quick for making large, sturdy jars that will hold up to abuse.
Notice that the second pot weighs in at just over 4 kgs and is more uniform in shape. The onggi form is a bit lopsided because I was having trouble putting those fat coils on without deforming the profile of the pot. The last pic shows both pots side by side. All in all, they both took about the same amount of time to make, but I suspect that with practice the onggi method is much faster.
With all of the pinching, rolling, slapping, and squeezing I’ve done today, my forearms are toast…. Until next time.