Bowled over— South Korea


In a part of South Korea that is so remote it doesn’t even make it on to the map, 84-year-old Lee Bong-ju has been busy reviving the tradition of making beautiful, unique Korean bronzeware.

Bronzeware, Lee Bong-ju, cutlery

Lee Bong-ju makes elegant cutlery and bronze dishes and bowls, likes to drive his silver Hyundai saloon quite fast and, at age 84, is South Korea’s “Intangible Cultural Asset No. 77”. His workshop and showroom is in the pristine rice and grape-growing region of Mungyeong, in the middle of the peninsula, overlooked by rugged mountains. You won’t find Mungyeong on an average map; Lee chose the location for the purity of the air and the absence of neighbours who might complain about noise.

Lee’s spoons are in the Korean style, long-handled and broad…

Six cutlery brands

These cutlery designers have stood the test of time thanks to their focus on classic form and function.

01: Gense (Sweden)
Founded in 1856 by Gustav Eriksson, Gense produces its silverware in Eskilstuna. The Pantry collection, designed by Henning Seidelin in 1968, is popular in Denmark. Its Focus de Luxe stainless-steel cutlery relaunched in 2006.

02: Tsubame Shinko (Japan)
Tsubame Shinko is over 60 years old. One of its latest collaborations is with Osaka-based design studio Graf to produce Sunao, a collection of curved silver cutlery.

03: Pott (Germany)
Pott, which is 106 years old, started producing cutlery in 1932. Inspired by Bauhaus and Werkbund, mid-century designs still define Pott’s outlook today. Produced in Mettmann, Pott cutlery appears in museums worldwide.

04: David Mellor (UK)
Britain’s best-known cutlery brand. Born to a Sheffield toolmaker, Mellor, who died in 2009, found his aesthetic after visiting Sweden and Denmark in 1952.

05: Cutipol (Portugal)
Family business Cutipol dates back to 1919 and produces its cutlery at a factory on Caldas das Taipas-Guimarães. All collections are designed by third generation José Joaquim Ribeiro.

**06: Georg Jensen (Denmark) **
A 1957 collaboration with Arne Jacobsen for the SAS Royal Hotel in Denmark is one of the most innovative cutlery designs, and was featured in films such as 2001: A Space Odyssey, and I, Robot.

On his mettle

01. Raw materials
Lee’s bowls are made of 78 per cent copper and 22 per cent tin. The workshop consumed seven and a half tons of tin ingots last year.

02 Shaping
In semi-darkness, the utensils are fired to a glow to reveal any flaws. Some of the metalworking tools weigh 20kg.

03 Shining
The bowls are buffed by hand in the final stages of production to give a luxurious, white-gold sheen.

04 Decoration
Some of the dishes are engraved with intricate patterns, drawn on by hand, such as Korean symbols. The word for Korean bronzeware is bangjja.


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