OBITUARY: Mi-won McGhee, skilled ceramicist, has died aged 62

On Saturday June 17, at just past 10pm local time, our family lost Mi-won McGhee, a wonderful wife and mother. It was supposed to be a new chapter in our lives here in South Korea, but that dream was shattered earlier this year when Mi-won was diagnosed with Stage Four stomach cancer. Although the odds were stacked against her, Mi-won’s determination to beat this horrible disease never wavered until it finally snatched her from us at the weekend, aged just 62. Our family and Mi-won’s extended family in Korea are heartbroken. Mi-won won’t just be remembered as a beautiful human being who brought joy to all our lives, but as a talented and successful ceramic artist whose work shows in galleries in the UK and Germany. Mi-won’s funeral is being held in Tongyeong, where she and I moved just last August. Jim McGhee

Mi-Won McGhee – “I like to make things right from the beginning to the end.” Picture by Elaine Johnstone

This is Mi-Won’s own story:

“I lived in Helensburgh for 20 years. Both my kids where born and grew up there. I moved to Prague about twelve years ago and lived there for ten years. I came back to Scotland to live in Glasgow sixteen months ago.

“I really like Maryhill. I live and have my studio here. I can see this area changing very quickly in the time I’ve been here. I hope that the community won’t disappear because of that.

“When I’m working in my studio I have lots of different characters popping in which I think makes a place special. I really want to stay in this area, I also love living beside the River Kelvin.

“I like to make things right from the beginning to the end. I design the shape of my ceramic vases right down to precise millimetres so that they suit my drawings that go on them.

“I’m a control freak so I buy powdered porcelain to mix it myself, then I make the form, fire it, draw on it and glaze it to finish. If I have that control, then I know exactly what the final outcome will be.

“I make plaster models of the vases before I make the moulds. I like making big pieces, I only work with porcelain which is quite a tricky material to work with but it provides a very good and versatile ‘canvas’ for my drawings.

“Galleries or people who buy my work like that; that’s the way I work and every piece has been made entirely by me.

“I sell in several galleries in the world, and occasionally people will contact me to commission a vase to ship to them if they have seen my work in a gallery. I also make the wooden boxes to transport my vases. I was asked to make a vase for Apple’s chief design officer, Jonathan Ive’s 50th birthday a couple of years ago through my work being seen in a London gallery.

“I got a lovely message telling me he was thrilled with it, maybe that was a lie and he didn’t like it and chucked it in the bin, but it doesn’t matter, I thought that was nice.

“People ask if I draw a lot of flowers for my vase designs but that’s not my style. My drawings are contemporary rather than traditional.

“I love drawing more than anything else. I get some ideas and I begin outlining with black ink and then add the colour in. That process is the most wonderful thing to me, drawing is when I’m happiest and when I think how I’m so lucky. I know a lot of people who do what they do just to make a living, that’s not me, I love what I do.

“My children don’t get it. They ask me why I spend so much time and effort, that I don’t make a lot of money as a result, but it’s not about money.

“I take such great joy and comfort out of my work.

“My sister died a few years back when she was only 49, she was a couple of years old than me and she was my best friend, we did so much together.

“I was struggling to get out of my grief for my sister and an old friend, who is also a ceramicist, told me to make something to help me. I made one special piece about my sister that is not for sale, it’s for myself only. That really helped me to process my feelings.

“So I don’t need anything else. I don’t need a therapist when things go wrong in life. I just need my clay.”

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