Jeonju Hanji Culture Festival 2015 - Reflections

Entrance to the Festival
On the first weekend in May  for the last 19 years (except for last year due to the Korean ferry disaster period of mourning) they've held the Hanji Culture Festival in Jeonju, the Capital of Jeollabuk-do Province. This city 240 kms south of Seoul is not only renown as the centre of paper making in Korea but it's also the ancestral home of the descendants of Yi Seonggye, founder of the Joseon dynasty and it's famous for the Korean rice and vegetable dish called Bibimbap. My journey south from Seoul on the fast train, along with my 2 sisters Pam & Heather and my sister in law Pauline, took only 1hr and 20mins. 

 Hanji Industry Support Center
During my Hanji Exhibition in April of this year I met a lovely Korean lady named Sue who happened to come from Jeonju so when I told her I was to visit the Hanji Festival this year she said she'd see what she could do.  Before I knew it she'd been in contact with the Festival organisers and had details for me about where to go, who to contact and what to do. I was astonished to think Sue would go to all that effort as I'd never met her before the Exhibition but, as she said, when she arrived in Australia so many people helped her settle in and she wanted to do the same for me. Thank you so much.

On our arrival in Jeonju my sisters and I grabbed a taxi to the designated place and were soon met by a nice young man called Dillon who was to be our 'minder' and translator for the day.  On the short drive to the venue he soon admitted that he'd learnt his broken English in Australia where he was sent for a year by his parents but he'd spent most of his time misbehaving whilst he was there so he didn't learn much because he kept skipping classes. He told us he'd mended his ways now so we just smiled and took him at his word.

Festival Support area

Firstly he took us to a Korean restaurant for lunch then in the afternoon he escorted us around the Festival grounds and exhibitions, introducing us to the participants, filling us in on information about the festival and answering our many and varied questions.  His help was invaluable and his English was streaks ahead of my Korean.

Activities board
Sculpture at the entrance

At the Festival the brochures were freely available in Korean but  I was  handed an English version which I think may have been especially printed because when I asked for more copies I was told there weren't any. In the exhibition hall we were treated like honoured guests and everyone we spoke to was surprised that an Australian was so interested in Hanji crafts and even more so, that I did it myself. I was very excited at being there so I asked if we could take photos ( my sisters are all keen photographers) and they said yes but, I think there was something lost in translation because  very soon we were all  told that it wasn't allowed and given a booklet with photos of all the exhibits in it, because of this, what I  share with you is limited but at least it's a taste.

One of the highlights was meeting up with my Canadian friend and fellow Hanji-er (I'm not sure that's really a word but I'm sure you know what I mean) Natalie Thibault at her stall.  She's the first westerner to have a Hanji stall at the Jeonju Festival so it was very exciting and her stall looked amazing. It was so nice to meet up with her in person instead of only being in contact through social media.

Natalie and I at her stall

Some of Natalie's jewellery

Exhibition Hall

Traditional Hanji with a modern twist

Modern Hanji lamp designs

Painting on thick Hanji

A traditional Hanji piece of furniture

Some helpful guys from HanjiPark stall

Samples of Hanji flooring

On reflection of the day I was impressed by the diversity of the Festival but a little disappointed that Hanji crafts themselves weren't a bigger part of it.  There were many hands on activities for children, bands playing, fashion parades using Hanji fabrics,  a tug of war with a Hanji rope and other  events using paper but not a lot to take away to be able to say you've learnt something new in Hanji crafting by going. The place was busy with fun fair activities rather than educational ideas and new innovations, which was more what I was expecting but, I was told  by one of my teachers, that some years are better than others and that it just wasn't as good as it has been in the past and possibly it will be in the future.

All that being said, I'm really glad I visited the Festival and it certainly wasn't a waste of time as I will take away many happy memories of the generosity and helpfulness of the Korean people both in Australia and here in Korea, meeting up with a dear Hanji friend, Natalie and  lastly, enjoying it with my sisters. It was special.


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