Jaejun Lee – The crafting of happiness


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


Jaejun Lee Ceramics

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.

Large Blue Porcelain Jar by Jaejun Lee

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.

Jaejun Lee Ceramics

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

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Keeping Cool

Portside Gallery Front

It’s the hottest day of the year (hottest UK day ever, apparently!). But we are cool, calm and collected here in Clifton. Well mostly.. we’re certainly making the most of the air-conditioning!

We had a great first weekend, opening the doors to our new gallery space in the village. For me, the nicest thing was the reaction of the locals who have been very encouraging and welcoming. Now as we settle in here we are looking forward to showing excellent work from our family of artists, some who have been with us a while like Jane Reeves, and some new, such as talented ceramicist Jaejun Lee.

We would love to see you, show you our space and have a chat. 

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Great new premises for Portside

Portside Gallery moving to Clifton Village in July

We are thrilled to have signed the lease on this lovely shop in the heart of Clifton Village, a thriving part of Bristol – and a place where Jane used to live!

It is in a great location with plenty of footfall and a fab double window frontage. We will enjoy having the space to really do justice to all the lovely work of our talented artists. We will also be welcoming some new artists (such as painter Penny German) who have agreed to join us, which is really exciting.

We are currently repainting it and getting ready for a launch in July. Watch this space for further details about the launch event…

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Declutter and refocus

Jane new studio 1

Work wise it’s been a little quiet here as we have just moved house and studio… an enormous feat but we did it! It’s been an interesting and sometimes complicated process but it’s also had it’s upside… there’s no doubt that clearing out the clutter frees us up, practically but also on many other levels. I’d recommend it if you’ve the time and inclination!

The move has encouraged me to plan ahead, to make sure I’ve enough pieces to tide me over whilst sorting my new but temporary studio. So although it’s been a little quiet here, I’ve not been lying on a beach somewhere, I’ve been squirrelling away new work for such a time as this… soon to be on the website and in the gallery.

Jane, May 2019

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