Meditation Bowl Bells H. 42cm, D. 59cm
For 60 years, Master Lee Bong-ju worked with a furnace, 1,300-degrees Celsius hot, hammering brass. He is truly a tamer of fire. Large brass containers strewn around Master Lee’s work studio epitomize his imagination and wisdom that has shaped his work philosophy. One hammering session is such a brief moment, only 30 to 50 seconds. Singing bowls beaten to shape by Master Lee, emanating clear and majestic sound, tells the story of his passionate life.
Eighteen singing bowls of Master Lee on display advise to take a break from mundane hustle and bustle of modern life, silently yet forcefully. Master Lee’s brass containers, in their natural and familiar shapes, have become a vessel to the other side, taking the seekers of the truth to the world of eternal awakening.
Born in 1926 in Jeongju-gun, North Pyeongan Province, a region famous for bangjja or handbeaten brassware, he dropped out of Jeongju Middle School in 1945 and defected to South Korea in 1948. Less than two years after entering a high-quality brassware (yangdae ) factory’ in Seoul, he became Chief Artisan. He established his own brass tableware factory in 1957. His works were selected at the Gyeonggido Folk Craft Contest in 1979 and received the Minister of Culture’s Prize at the 7th Traditional Craft Fair in 1982. He was designated in 1983 as Important Intangible Cultural Property 77, Brassware Artisan. Unfortunately, however, in the same year he lost sight of his right eye by an injury suffered during his work. Nevertheless, he never stopped making efforts to nurture his apprentices. He served as President of the Association for the Preservation of Traditional Craft between 1988 and 1993. In 1994, he produced the world’s largest brass gong, 161cm in diameter and 98 kg in weight. He donated 1,480 pieces of hand-beaten brassware that he had collected or personally made to the Daegu Bangjja Yugi Museum, which opened in 2007. He has devoted himself to preserving and handing down traditional techniques for making high quality brassware at his workshop at Gaeun-eup, Mungyeong city, North Gyeongsang Province since 2003. In 2013, he was designated by the government as the Brassware Master Artisan Honor Holder.