A couple of weeks ago, our neighbors invited us along on their trip down to Yeoju to do some pottery shopping. I have been hearing about this place ever since I got here and it was on my must-do list, so I was very happy to check it out with friends. Domingos and I saw lots of great pottery, but it was pretty overwhelming and we didn’t buy a whole lot. We found plates we loved, but there weren’t as many as we wanted. With ample help from Google Translate, we managed to convey this to the shop owner, and to figure out that they could make more and we could come back for them. So, that’s exactly what we did yesterday, braving the drive by ourselves.
I packed a picnic lunch and we set off, stopping at a rest stop close to Yeoju to eat and get coffee before finally arriving at the first shop, a small pottery shop right next to the famed blue-and-white store, Sambo Ceramics. (More practical details will be at the end of this post.) Our plates were there and ready, and in addition, we bought several other items we liked.
Then we drove a very short distance to another shop we had visited with our friends. This one was enormous, and definitely had the best prices of any shop we visited.
We bought a ridiculous amount of pottery here.
Next, we followed a sign to a more upscale place called Yido, which had a shop, cafe, and gallery.
A friendly man came running up to us from the parking lot and insisted we come upstairs to the gallery, and then he took my phone and kept making us pose for photos in front of this wall of mugs. He had exactly zero English and kept talking at us, despite our confusion and our attempts to get away and just look at the items in the store.
Seven or eight photos later (he kept posing us in different awkward shots), he led us into a room for a media presentation, which was actually pretty interesting. There was a table set up, and different foods and changing colors were digitally projected onto the plates.
There was a random wire sculpture of a cellist outside the gallery for no discernible reason.
The store was a lot more expensive that anything we had seen so far, and the pieces had more of a polish to them. I did end up buying one bowl I fell in love with that was 40% off. It’s rough on the outside and smooth on the inside:
We were pretty burned out by that point, so we decided to head back home.
Here’s a shot of all our purchases, lined up on our table.
Close-up of the plates and bowls:
And a vase we really like:
Now for practical advice if you’re in Korea and want to make your own pilgrimage to Yeoju!
On our first trip, we went to a couple of shops on the main strip in town, and the prices were definitely elevated there. There’s also a strip of shops with a huge parking lot and lots of tour buses, and we didn’t even go there on either of our visits. If you want to visit either of the more out-of-the way shops that we went to, plug the destination “Sambo Pottery Shop” into Waze. Sambo is the blue and white store, which a lot of people really love. Store #1 is right next to it. Store #2 is just a short drive down the road from #1. If Store #1 is on your right, just keep driving and you’ll see Store #2 on your right about five minutes later.
The drive is fairly straightforward for the most part. Waze did a decent job getting us there, though getting home it missed a few things and we drove through more of Seoul than we needed to. Plan on about 2 hours each way, or even a little more. We had a lot of slow-downs due to both construction and congestion. There will be a couple of tolls, so make sure to have some small bills on hand and don’t get in the Hipass lane by mistake.
Bring cash, at least for the smaller, out-of-the-way shops. Bring big bills, as neither store wanted to make change. Our bill at the first shop was ₩209,000, and when I handed over 5 ₩50,000 notes, the woman handed one back to me and waved off the rest owed. At the second shop, our total was ₩157,000, and the same thing happened when I handed over 4 ₩50,000 notes. So we saved ₩16,000 by not having exact change!
Also, I do recommend visiting more than once if you’re able to. The first trip is overwhelming and it’s hard to know for sure what you want. We were glad we had a couple of weeks to think about what we wanted to get on our second trip.