We met Master Kwak Kyung Tae 곽경태 of the Toroo Studio 토루 in Icheon, Korea through local ceramic artist Marco Minetti, who apprenticed at the studio for almost 5 years. Master Kwak has been making ceramic ware for the majority of his life, both large pieces using the Onggi technique as well as smaller delicate thrown work. His mastery of form and surface can be seen in any of his production or one-off pieces. He trained for numerous years under masters in several studios and worked at the Onggi village in Ulsan, Korea where he practiced and eventually mastered this classic Korean technique of coiling and paddling to create large storage jars still used to this day to ferment kimchi and other vegetables and sauces which form the staple of the Korean good culture.
The Toroo Studio is a production studio, meaning pieces are usually made in quantity, which after much repetition begin to gain a sense of playful vitality and spontaneity after a particular form is repeated over and over, letting it become ingrained in the memory of the hands of the maker. The resulting work expresses a certain freedom despite the constraints of repeating the same form, which is the true art of production pottery.
Most of the ceramics are made using an iron-rich burgundy clay dug from the mountains nearby. Some of the pieces are wood fired, where the wood ash collects onto the clay during firing, forming a natural glaze of various textures and intensities. Other pieces are reduction fired, and often a delicate white slip and glaze is applied to provide a beautiful contrast against the dark clay body, a style of pottery is called "buncheong," a 14th century technique that originated in Korea, and later became known as "kohiki" in Japan and beyond.