Published Sep 30 2013, by

Covered jar with faceted sides

Covered jars such as this one stand at the opposite pole in the 19th- century Korean hierarchy from the official blue-and-white porcelains. They were plebian wares, mass-produced by small communities of potters usually working cooperatively to meet the demands of nearly every household in Korea. From palaces to ordinary homes, they were used in kitchens and backyards to store honey, pickles (kimchi), and other foods. They were entirely utilitarian in form and function. The thick walls were sturdy and strong, as was the lid. The faceted sides made it easier to bind the jar with straw ropes to hold the lid on tight, so as to better preserve the food inside.

These pieces might never have graced the shelves of museums if they had not been noticed by modern-day potters, such as the 20th-century Japanese potter Hamada Shoji (1894–1977), who so admired the cut facets on these jars that he began imitating them in his own work. Other potters in the West saw his Korean-style faceted jars and, as they say, the rest is history. In time, of course, ceramic collectors and art connoisseurs in Korea began to collect them, and today they are considered among some of the finest Korean folk art ever made.