We have been delighted this summer to feature Jaejun Lee’s beautiful ceramics in our gallery in Clifton. Jaejun’s reputation as an excellent craftsman is growing rapidly. To give a little more insight into his background, inspiration and process, we have written the following article and hope you find it interesting and enjoyable! Jane Reeves
Calm under canvas
We first met Jaejun a little over a year ago, at a busy, noisy and hot craft fair. We were drawn to the work sitting quietly and placed perfectly, maybe it was the air of calm under the canvas setting that allowed his work to stand out. A year later, again we met and spoke to this outstanding craftsman, about his work and process and proposed the idea of showing his work in our Bristol gallery.
So we are delighted to have a collection in our opening summer exhibition and have asked Jaejun a few questions to help us unpack a little more of the motivation and inspiration behind the work he makes.
A pale blue glaze
Attempting to distill that moment in time when becoming a potter became a very real dream, Jaejun talks about a visit to the glaze laboratory of Seoul National University. The beauty of a particular pale blue glaze that conveyed a feel of the ocean captivated him. Was that the beginning of his journey as a craftsman? Or did it begin with a chance conversation with a senior teacher? Discussing how a piece of work can change an environment for the better, bringing happiness to its owner, seemed to be a moment of calling for Jaejun.
A simple motivation
Simple maybe. But the crafting of happiness for another is delivered by way of a disciplined, structured and focused work ethic. Studio hours at the university were 8-11pm with no weekend break. Enjoying this schedule, Jaejun described the studio as a kind of ‘playground’ and, understanding that time was precious, he embraced the time spent there.
Over the next few years travel to Europe filled his vacation time, and a love affair with the UK. began. A Masters degree offered Jaejun opportunities to begin showing his work at Collect and Ceramic Art London and with the application for an Exceptional Talent Visa accepted in 2017, supported by the Craft Council, Jaejun made the move to the UK. The support of several mentors, including Kate Malone and Rosy Greenlees, helped Jaejun during this phase whilst he settled in the United Kingdom.
A small difference makes a big change
Jaejun describes here perfectly, in his own words, the difference a small change might make to a piece of work.
‘I always try to stay and see longer so that I can care for the very small things which normally might be missed. My work is the fruit of those very delicate processes.’
So, although he is not a technician as such, Jaejun does confess to being obsessive with shape and texture in his work. The technique necessary to craft such fine work is particular and precise and yet each piece is relatively quiet, restrained, restful even. When you hold a vase or tall vessel, that’s when the silk-like feel of the form and glaze becomes apparent and there’s a definite echo of it’s history in the potter’s hands. Indeed, Jaejun refers to his genre as not dissimilar to that of the classical musician, the hours spent practicing is notable as he gets a little better every day. So those small differences that are born out of hours of dedicated attention to the details, really do result in a piece that is set apart and special.
The forms themselves
Inspired by an existing form, Jaejun sets about a process of reinterpretation, shaping and remodelling a piece over and again until he is entirely happy with it. And then begins the glazing, fastidiously inventing his own, so that each piece is unique, with each collection retaining a cohesive theme. The time spent in the glaze laboratories at Seoul university paying dividends!
And finally, we asked Jaejun what he hoped to convey to someone who chooses to buy a piece of his work. He answered that he hoped they would feel ‘comfortable and peaceful’ when they looked at, held and used his work. Insightful words, and hopeful too when considering any crafts persons work today. That small pause when a piece is picked up, held, put to use or simply admired, is what the artist has worked so hard for and what we hope to give time for in the gallery.
Striving to craft a kind of joy in his work seems to be the theme, the overflow of which is an easy and uncomplicated sense of peace, in form or colour or texture. It’s all too easy to attach such words to Jaejun’s work, but it’s by no means said lightly. This work is exceptional and reflects a story of a passion for the craft, a deep understanding for the process and material, an admirable work ethic and the nature of a generous craftsman.
© Jane Reeves