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Jaeok Lee


1953 Born in Seoul, Korea


1995 Harvard Clay Studio, Cambridge, MA
1990 School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA
1985 Massachusetts College of Art, Boston, MA
1977 BA University of Massachusetts, Boston, MA
1972 Korea University, Seoul, Korea 

"My garden is at the center of all my creative work. It provides me with inspiration and also a quiet space where I can regain my energy. My ideal blissful day is a whole day working with clay, alternating with working in the garden. They both meet my needs of working with my hands and being in solitude.

Hand building comes very naturally to me: pinching, coiling and slab building are my favorite hand building techniques. My pieces were fired to cone 10 reduction or soda kiln at Harvard clay studio and are currently fired to cone 6 electric at my home studio.

The healing quality of nature also motivates my work. A few years ago, I developed an illness that doctors could not diagnose. While going through various diagnostic tests, since I did not have much energy, I started working with very small objects. I would go out to my garden for inspiration and would start to pinch small forms of seeds, pods, berries and flowers.  Over the course of one year, I made thousands of small pieces that filled a Chinese medicine cabinet that I bought from an antique shop a few years ago. I named the project, "Making My Own Medicine." The simple act of pinching the forms has been a healing experience that gave me enormous hope for my recovery."


I am very much absorbed in traditional Korean art related to indigenous beliefs and Shamanism that used to be prevalent up to 150 years ago before they were castigated as superstitious and worthless, after the introduction of Christianity. Whenever I visited Korea, I would seek out and get as much exposure to the statues, totems etc. related to the traditional folk beliefs of Korea.

What is astounding is that many of these objects turned out to be true works of art, simple in design but quite elegant in their forms and expressions. Some of them resembled old wooden statues found in Africa or in modern art. It is such a wonder that you can see common threads across the wide span of time, culture and also geography.

The pieces that I currently make are inspired by the old Korean stone figures that were used as guardian statues like tomb guards, fertility and protection guards. I am drawn to their simple yet powerful presence. I feel a deep connection to my Korean culture while I work on them.