Interview with Vancouver-based ceramic artist, Haejin Lee

In this video, Haejin hand paints a 16oz mug in Blue, featured below. Once the painting is complete, a clear glaze is applied to the painted portion of the piece and a white glaze is applied to the remaining parts. This is a delicate step in the process as the glazes can not mix. Once glazed, the piece then goes back into the kiln for its final stage of firing. During this process the piece shrinks up to 15% to its final size.

Who are you?
My name is Haejin Lee. I was born and raised in Seoul, Korea where I studied ceramics in university and began working as a ceramic artist. Three years ago I immigrated to Vancouver, Canada, and am now actively working as a ceramic artist in beautiful Vancouver.

What do you create?
I create anything using clay. In the past, I created ceramic sculptures for the purpose of fine arts. Now I create functional items such as decorative interior items and practical table wares. 

What inspires you?
Like many artists I am inspired by nature. Some of my latest collections draw from the color combinations I see around Vancouver.

I also am inspired by Korean traditional porcelains called ‘Joseon Beakja’. Through studying the simple yet elegant and detailed shapes of these porcelains, I can understand their lines, ratio and shapes of their lips and foots. These delicately made porcelains, throughout history, are like my teachers.

Where is your studio? 
My studio is located in Mount Pleasant in Vancouver, BC.

When are you the most productive?
I enjoy working at night. When it gets dark, my senses are sharper, my mind gets clearer and my emotions get richer and I can better concentrate on my work. I take a pleasure in creating something in secret in my own world.

Why ceramics?
There is a sense of accomplishment, expectation and life-long lessons in ceramics. There are many reasons, but these are the most important and are what keeps me going. 

What are your tools and processes?
For the functional ceramic, I use the potter's wheel. To create a piece of ceramic, many steps are required: making, drying, bisque firing, glazing and second firing. Despite my best efforts, I can still get undesirable results if I miss a tiny little touch in the process. Before the final step of firing, I carefully go over all the steps in my mind. I think about the thickness of the glaze, how different color combinations will turn out, if any errors are fixed this time.

After thinking for a while, I begin firing and it takes 24 hours until they cool down. During these 24 hours, I go through an emotional rollercoaster of excitement and uneasiness.

When I unload the kiln, and I see successful results, I feel like I have mastered the art of ceramics! On the other hand, when I see unsuccessful results, I feel like I am in an endless pit. Personally I truly enjoy this emotional rollercoaster. The work of ceramics constantly provides me the exciting anticipation and the sense of accomplishment from my work. Is there anything like ceramics?

How did you get your start?
Since I was young, and as a food lover, I liked pretty tableware. The first time I showed an interest in ceramics was in high school while visiting a museum. I was amazed to see porcelains from hundreds of years ago where, unless items are broken into pieces, ceramics can last throughout the ages. This unchanging nature of ceramics was attractive to me as a fine arts student.

During this time I experimented with different materials, and came to choose ceramics. I became more interested in ceramics as it can be used for both fine arts and practical home wares. Ceramic art has become my lifelong career, for better or for worse.

Shop Haejin's full collection of bowls, mugs, vases, teapots and more online. 

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