Onggi lids.Old onggi photographOnggi is a Korean pottery tradition of making large and small storage jars for every day use. Until recently Onggi kilns littered the country side of Korea, which were used for making water jars, storage jars, bottles, bowls, basins etc.

Because pickled and fermented food is such an important part of the Korean diet, the Onggi potters had to develop fast and efficient ways of making storage jars. In the Cholla province of South Korea the Onggi potters developed an especially inovative technique for making large jars. Instead of using the coil building technique that was common in the rest of Korea and Asia the Cholla potters build their pots  using long slabs of clay placed on edge (see Onggi slide show for more images).  The pots are then formed using a paddle and anvil, stretching and shaping the pot while it spins on a kick wheel  that is set in a pit in the floor. No water is used so they can make giant jars very quickly without them collapsing

Michael Hunt Finger wiping onggi jar


The first time I saw an Onggi potter make a  large jar I was mesmerized. It was at a workshop with potter Oh Hyang Jong at the NC pottery Center in Seagrove NC. After seeing him work, I realized that I had to learn how to make pots like that. I asked if I could come work with him and he agreed, so I went to Korea  and began learning Onggi. I helped out by glazing pots, making clay, and loading kilns while I practiced making large jars. For the first four months I smashed everything that I made until I could make the standard shapes well enough to keep them. I was then able to make jars to help fill the potterys’ orders. It was an invaluable experience to be able to learn such  a ancient and beautiful tradition. It was an invaluable experience to be able to learn such  a ancient and beautiful