▲ Colorful scenes await visitors at the Jeju Glass Castle. Photos by Jessica Sicard
Off the beaten tourist path is a glass wonderland greeting visitors with a glass seabed amongst rocks and a retro-colored building that can only be described as groovy. Upon entering the building, a glass blower works in his workshop to the left, and Jack’s gleaming bean stock catches the attention of all as it reaches for the sky. Welcome to the Jeju Glass Castle.
Visitors can expect a variety of colorful and beautiful exhibits providing fun for the entire family. Notable are the glass rooms with mind-boggling perspectives, gigantic glass diamonds, multicolored glass instruments, and a glimmering glass beaded passageway, optimal on sunny days. Even small details are impressive like the glass fish handles on all doors and the countless glass flowers and trees lining the park.
The Jeju Glass Castle’s pride and joy is their Italian exhibit, featuring the work of world renowned Italian glass artist Pino Signoretti. Signoretti was present at the grand opening of the glass art theme park on Oct. 23, 2008, and the Italian exhibit showcases one of his glass clowns valued at approximately 100 million won. The tools Signoretti used to make the clown are also on display.
One of the most well-known exhibits features famous orchestra figurines by Czech glass artist Jiří Mareš, the same artist that was contracted to create the Jeju Glass Castle’s mascots, Yuri (glass) and Guseul (bead). Due to the popularity of this exhibit, Mareš’ work is now available in the gift shop.
The gift shop at the Jeju Glass Castle includes predominantly Chinese, Korean, Italian (Murano), and Czech glass as well as glass from their resident artists, some of which produce their work right in the store. On a typical day, visitors can observe Chinese artist Si Zhi Jiao doing “inside painting,” an ancient Chinese art where the inside of a glass ball is painted. Jiao mentioned that it can take up to two days to paint a single ball depending on the design, and her ancestors have specialized in inside painting for more than 400 years.
Hong Ki Taek, resident glass blower, Hallim native, and Tokyo Glass Art Institute graduate, has been with the Jeju Glass Castle since its opening. Originally an industrial designer, Hong became inspired to become a glass artist when he was exposed to glass art for the first time during a trip to Japan. Hong said that he was “shocked” when he first saw glass art. “There is no other material that can express clearness like glass. It’s also very colorful. Those are the parts that impressed me,” he said.
Hong mentioned that Japan and Korea are the same in many ways, but glass making is not widely known here. He hopes that this will gradually change starting with places like the Jeju Glass Castle. Also, one of his favorite moments in his career was when he met Signoretti and received tips from him at the grand opening in 2008.
Since then, the park has periodically added to its collection. For example, several glass trees have been added over the years and this March they anticipate opening a sports themed exhibit.
It should be noted that transportation to the theme park is not cheap. As there are no public buses that travel by the castle, the only method of transport is by taxi.
While it is a grand journey to reach the Jeju Glass Castle, it will surely dazzle the glass lover in you.
ⓒ Jeju Weekly 2009 (http://www.jejuweekly.com)
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