Lacquered Brass Tableware set
7 cm / 8 cm / 9 cm / 10.5 cm / 13 cm
(in association with Yeol)

Brassware, made from an alloy of copper and tin, was widely used for presents to the king, Buddhist items such as statues and bells, and items for everyday use. Serving dishes made of brass were preferred because brass does not contaminate food with color or odor. It was thought that food etiquette of the historical Korean gentry was reflected in the tableware, and taking care of the brass tableware was one of the important tasks of Korean women.

Brassware is heavy and easily discolored, and it is not easy to handle. For these reasons, it started to disappear beginning in the 1960s and was replaced with stainless steel and plastic vessels. However, its firmness, uncomplicated beauty, and useful functions have attracted people’s attention in recent times.

Korea’s traditional brassware is ordinarily made in three different ways. Jumul brassware is formed by shaping molten brass in a mold, Bangjja brassware is formed by beating, and Banbangjja brassware is formed by both molding and beating. Anseong in Gyeonggi Province is famous as the home of Jumul brassware. Since brass is antibacterial and it becomes discolored by toxins such as agricultural chemicals, brassware was usually used at the Royal Court, and was also used for rituals including the Jongmyojerye (a representative ritual), Sajig-daeje (a grand ritual for the deities of earth and grain), and private family rituals. The gentry and local plutocrats ordered custom-made tableware and ceremonial vessels from brassware studios at Anseong. Anseong Brassware was traditionally well known for all three styles of traditional brassware, namely Jumul and Banbangjja, and the word “anseong-machum” (meaning custom-made to suit the client) comes from this tradition.

Kim Soo Young, Holder of the Important Intangible Cultural Treasure no. 77, continues the tradition of Anseong brassware. Like his father, Kim Geun Su (1916-2009), who was among the earlier holders of the title Important Intangible Cultural Treasure, Kim Soo Young became a masterful artisan. Now his three sons are continuing the legacy as the third generation in the family business.

Kim Soo Young was familiar with brassware from an early age. His father established the Anseong Brassware Industry Co. in 1946. When brassware went out of fashion in the 1960’s, many brassware studios closed, and brassware makers went away. Even then, Kim Geun Su continued to carry on the tradition of brassware. As a result of this effort, he was officially acknowledged as an artisan of Jumul brassware in 1983. When he earned a series of awards at the annual Traditional Korean Handicraft Art Exhibition, that helped to publicly promote the beauty of the brassware tradition. In addition, he attempted to keep the tradition alive by teaching his son, Kim Soo Young, the hammering technique of Bangjja and by showing him how to control the temperature of the boiling metal. Kim Soo Young is presently handing over to his sons what he learned from his father.

After Kim Soo Young restored the ceremonial vessels of Jongmyo at the National Palace Museum of Korea, and the ceremonial vessels of Jangneung in Yeongwol, he reproduced traditional ceremonial vessels at Hyeonchung-sa, the Geoncheong Palace in the Gyeongbok palace, Donam-Seowon, and the Hwanggan-Seowon Confucian Academy, and also for the Hyoryeong clan of Jeonju Lee. He is also aware that traditional craft cannot survive unless it stays in tune with modern trends and sensibilities. Thus, while he is working to preserve the tradition, he champions the modernization and popularization of brassware and seeks to put it to practical use. In 2009, he opened the five-story Anseong Brassware Museum at his long-standing birthplace in Bongnamdong, Anseong, Gyeonggi-do Province. The museum provides a compact overview of the history of Korean brassware. He believes that after three generations the family business is no longer private, but has become public, and he does not think that the tradition he has preserved is his alone.

He was selected as the Artisan of the Year in 2013 by Yeol, a non-profit organization that was founded in 2002 under the supervision of the Cultural Heritage Administration in order to preserve, support and augment Korea’s cultural heritage, and to encourage better understanding of traditional culture. Upon receiving the award, he produced brass tableware in collaboration with designer Cho Ki Sang.

Biography

Kim Soo Young

The son of late Master Kim Geun Soo (1916.7.12 ~2009.3.6, designated the Important Intangible Cultural Treasure no. 77 in Brassware), Kim Soo Young was born in Anseong in 1949. Carrying on his father’s legacy, he has worked to produce Brassware for the last forty years. Despite the difficult and lengthy process needed for its production, he has endeavored to preserve the beauty of brassware and the tradition of Anseong brassware. He specializes in cast brassware (Jumul), which is produced by one of three methods in-cluding ‘Bangjja,’ and ‘Banbangjja’. He received the Prime Minister’s Award at the Fourth Craft Art Exhibition of Human Cultural Treasures in 1979, and was appointed as a brassware artisan of Important Intangible Cultural Property no. 77 in 2008, in cast brassware. As part of the projects to restore and revive ritual vessels, he produced Jongmyo ritual vessels at the National Palace Museum of Korea in 2008. Also in 2009, he produced ritual vessels at Hyeonchung-sa and everyday items at the Geoncheong Palace, located in the Gyeongbok palace. His major exhibitions include the exhibitions to commemorate the visit of the Crown Princess of Denmark in 2012, and the inauguration of the Korean Cultural Center in Sao Paulo, Brazil, in 2013. As the Artisan of the Year (designated by Yeol, Korean Heritage Preservation Society) in 2013, he presented his work in collaboration with designer Cho Ki Sang. He is currently running a brassware studio, ‘Anseong-machum’. Following in their father’s footsteps, his three sons are working to inherit and enhance the traditional craft of brassware.

Cho Ki Sang

He graduated from Kookmin University with a bachelor’s degree in Industrial Design at the College of Design, and from IED (Istituto Europeo di Design) Italy in Yacht Design. As a designer, he collaborated with brassware artisan Kim Soo Young in a project organized by Yeol, the Korean Heritage Preservation Society. He focused on moderating and simplifying the shapes of brassware in order to enhance those durable, functional features that are useful in daily life. In addition, he researched the production process and materials, and conducted numerous experiments to find arrangements of materials suitable for the look of the brassware. The inside of brassware was finished with a shiny surface in order to highlight the food inside, and the outside was finished in four different styles – shiny, matte, rough, and lacquered – to give rich feeling to the brassware, and to appeal to modern people’s sensibilities.