We all have people who inspire us, some closer to us than others but some, you just can't forget.
A dear Korean friend of mine, Monica, gave me this tiny paper replica of a Korean Hanbok, delicately made by her out of scraps of Hanji paper many years ago and to this day it sits proudly on my pin board in my Hanji Studio as a special reminder of a lady who first helped me discover Hanji.
It's just one of those little things you can't throw away.
When Ron and I first arrived in Korea in the year 2000 it was a time filled with excitement for us both and especially for me as an Australian who'd been brought up in a country with a mere 250 year history and who was now being given the opportunity to live and work in this rich culture with traditions dating back many thousands of years.
Once the initial excitement of our move overseas had died down and the reality set in we initially found it quite challenging living and working in Andong, the cultural centre of South Korea and having to live our lives many thousands of miles away from family & friends in Adelaide, South Australia. Seoul and Pusan had just hosted the Olympic Games and many measures had been put in place to accommodate the foreigners there but at that time there was little or no English spoken in Andong so life was full of challenges.
There were at that time around 20 English professors employed at Andong University and they and their families were close to the total no. of foreigners in that relatively small Korean City of just 182,000 people. These were our expat friends and when living in such a small community you soon made friends with everyone no matter your age nor nationality and you supported one another, passed new information on about things you discovered, dined out together and found your own entertainment.
Monica and her husband were our neighbours in an apartment block in our rather dreary, small and sparsely furnished University professors' accommodation in Andong. Her Canadian husband worked at the University and Monica was a young, unemployed newlywed but one of those lovely ladies who used her time constructively by taking people under her wings and helping to support many of us foreigners during those early days of arriving in her country.
Our days were filled with discoveries and new adventures and on one such day Monica asked a group of us ladies if we were interested in making a Hanji lamp. We jumped at the opportunity because it was going to be something useful to put into our apartments, something to keep us busy and it was so very different to anything any of us had done before. It was an opportunity to embrace a centuries old craft that is so much a part of Korean traditional history.
Monica sourced out the supplies, translated materials, gave us instructions in English and if we had any problems she couldn't solve she contacted her sister in Wonju who seemed to have all the answers and contacts in the Hanji industry in her city. We met every week in her small apartment, spread out our things all over her floor and I'd soon put together a reasonable version of a Hanji lamp that I could use in my home.
Over the months I got excited when new boxes of kits and paper arrived from Wonju and time soon past when I progressed from one project to another. One thing led to another and soon I'd made more pieces than I had room for so I started having to sell them off to the other expats so as to declutter our small apartment and make room for more creating. I was hooked !!!
Sometimes we just need to be reminded of where we started from on our journey of discoveries. I haven't been in contact with Monica now for many years but I know that she's living in Canada with her husband and her lovely young family. If you're reading this Monica I'd just like to say thank you for giving me this little Korean Hanbok and for introducing me to this wonderful craft, a part of your traditional heritage, called Hanji.