Working Potter: Hyu-Jin Jo, Seoul, South Korea

1 Milk jugs, to 4½ in. (11 cm) in height, slip-cast porcelain.

Career Snapshot

Years as a professional potter
7

Number of pots made in a year
1000 (on average)

Education
Masters in Ceramic Design, Staffordshire University, United Kingdom

The time it takes (percentages)
Making work (including firing): 70%
Promotions/Selling: 25%
Office/Bookkeeping: 5%

Favorite Tool
My favorite tool is one that I modified from a caving tool I bought. I altered it to use for carving textures, as texture is very important in my work. I slip cast a basic form and apply texture to it by hand, using the altered tool.

Process
To save time and energy, I do one round of slip casting first, and when the forms are leather hard and ready for carving, I take them out of the molds, then reassemble the molds and start another round of slip casting while I am carving the first batch of forms.

Where it Goes
Retail Stores: 25%
Galleries: 30%
Craft/Art Fairs: 30%
Studio/Home Sales: 10%
Online: 5% (I don’t sell online directly, but shops sell my work online.)

Where to See More
Ceramic Art London: http://ceramicartlondon.com
Flow Gallery: www.flowgallery.co.uk
New Ashgate Gallery: www.newashgate.org.uk
Gallerymeme: www.gallerymeme.com
Korea Craft and Arts Design Foundation: www.kcdf.kr

Learn More
Instagram: @hyu_ceramics_studio
Facebook: hyujin.jo

2 Bowls, to 6¾ in. (17 cm) in diameter, hand-textured stoneware, hand-textured terra cotta, glaze. Photo: Catherine Dineley.

3 Vases, to 6¾ in. (17 cm) in height, slip-cast porcelain. Photo: Catherine Dineley.

Originally, I only wanted to use the potter’s wheel and sculpt pieces in clay using handbuilding techniques, but after graduation from Staffordshire University in the UK, I wanted to learn more about industrial ceramic production. I wanted to learn different techniques to make a variety of things, so I pursued that goal. I was lucky enough to eventually have the opportunity to show my work in many different exhibitions, which is where I started receiving lots of positive feedback, and people were asking to buy my work. I met one woman who bought a piece from me and explained that it was going to be a gift for her friend. I was so happy to hear how much they both really liked my work. This experience, interacting with people who were engaged by my pieces, led me to make the decision to start selling my work. I decided on a price list and started selling my work at galleries, and it took off from there. My prices are based on past sales; however, when I first decided on a price list for the UK, the owner of Flow Gallery helped me determine appropriate prices for my work, as she has a lot of experience. I considered the cost of materials, thought about how long each piece took to make, and how much time went into the whole process from making to firing.

Now, in addition to gallery sales, I have people send messages to me after seeing my work online, giving me feedback as well as asking to buy pieces.

A Changing Perception

Now that people are getting more familiar with my work, I’m gaining visibility and interest, and when I display at an exhibition like Ceramic Art London, I have noticed more people are coming to see me. I am having to make more work, so it is more readily available to accommodate growing interest. I also use these big exhibitions to see what other potters are making, and look for trends, inspiration, and new directions to take my own work as my career progresses. I’m also looking more at magazines and talking to other ceramic artists to understand how they work and to compare our practices.

My journey to becoming a working potter has been hard work, but luckily I haven’t experienced too many difficult decisions. The biggest problem I’ve had to solve is when researching and experimenting with different glazes to use on my work.

4 Hyu-Jin Jo slip casting in her studio.

I mixed many different glaze recipes to test on my work, which was a time consuming process. I was unsure which pigments to use, and which percentages to use them in to get the results I was interested in. I tried many different temperatures, clays, and pigments, then repeated the same process many times. It took some time, but in the end I achieved the glaze I was working toward.

Pursuing Modes of Making and Selling

Digital media is easily accessible and it’s everywhere, so naturally it plays an important role in all aspects of design, creation, and marketing of my work. Social media—specifically images from architecture or design exhibitions—is also where a lot of my inspiration comes from. I enjoy seeing architecture when I’m traveling. There are millions of images on the Internet of anything you want to look at, so I can always revisit things I’ve seen and places I’ve been. Social media also makes it much easier to get your work seen, and I can talk to people who are interested in my work by simply clicking a couple of buttons. Sometimes, I even gain inspiration from the interested parties, and from there I can learn what they like or what they need from my work.

It has been easier to make a name for myself after exhibiting at festivals, so I do value their importance. Many galleries have contacted me after seeing my work at exhibitions, and I’ve gotten a few magazine interviews as a result of this exposure as well. I have found that exhibitions are not just about selling, but showing your work to the public. As far as my business model, this is still forming as I’m still learning, but I would say that festivals and exhibitions are very important in terms of gaining exposure and generating sales.

5 Teapots, to 4½ in. (11 cm) in height, slip-cast porcelain. Photo: Catherine Dineley.

6 Bowls, to 5 in. (13 cm) in height, hand-textured stoneware, glaze. Photo: Catherine Dineley.

7 Milk jugs, to 4½ in. (11 cm) in height, slip-cast porcelain. Photo: Catherine Dineley.

A Wealth of Experience

When I was studying at university, the teachers were very straightforward with me. When I would draw something, I received lots of valuable feedback and information from them, in order to improve my techniques or to better communicate ideas. Their lessons taught me that if you want to be a professional, it is important to listen to what others think. They have a wealth of experience that you can tap into. I would always talk to the other students, too; we had conversations about our work, we shared feedback about what the teachers were thinking, as well as what ideas were good for our work.

My studio is in Seoul, South Korea; it’s where I was born, and it made sense for me to work here. It is a big modern city with good transport links and many companies. This is also the location of Seoul National University of Science and Technology and Hanyang Women’s University, where I teach (about 50% of my time per year is spent teaching), so it’s easy to arrange for interested students to come to my studio to work. I want to teach ceramic art to anyone who wants to learn, and I feel a city location is ideal to do this.

I’m always saying to my students that when they are struggling with ideas, they should have a look at other artists’ work, not only ceramic artists, but also a wide range of media in contemporary exhibitions. When looking at new work, it’s helpful to make notes of what you like and why you like it, and sketch everything. This will lead to inspiration for your work.

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