Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Hanji filming Part 3 ....... Natural dyeing of Hanji

Experimenting with the natural dyeing of Hanji paper, with traditional herbs.

The next part of our journey took us to Jeong Hyun Ja’s Natural Indigo dyeing factory in Yeongcheong district. Hyun Ja was a very welcoming lady who opened up her premises for the filming of this documentary and was very happy to share her techniques for dyeing.  She started her business called I.N.D.T (Indigo Natural Dyeing Therapy) around 19 years ago and is hoping to pass it on to her only son, who was ably assisting her on the day.

Jeong Hyun Ja is reportedly the first person in South Korea to discover the benefits of environmentally - friendly Indigo Natural dyeing products and has been an ambassador for the natural dyeing of fabrics in her country and overseas.

She’s been widely quoted in the local and international media on the subject and talks extensively about POSTECH, the ergonomics Design and Technology laboratories as well as Kyunhee University where the experimentation of her products take place.

The claims are that some of the benefits of using naturally dyed fabrics are:

1.     Increases energy in your body

2.     Prevents cell damage and the development of cancerous cells

3.     Improves circulation in your hands and feet

4.     A detox diet for the body

5.     Strengthen and improves sexual function

6.     Prevents diseases

7.     Improves skin condition

8.     Prevents brain disease

They’re certainly very bold health claims and ones, which I’m not qualified to dispute.  I can only say that I had cold hands when I visited and she put some indigo fabric wristbands on me and within a short length of time, my hands had warmed up.

Bedding and accessories

Beautifully dyed bolts of fabric

Fabric hanging from the ceiling
My interest was in the dyeing processes for hanji so we arrived early in the morning to her beautiful home and huge factory, showroom and classrooms and the crew soon set up for the filming and we were ready to go. During my time with her I learnt such a lot about the types of plants to use and the boiling of the plants to get them to a certain temperature to achieve the maximum benefit from the dyes.
Her classroom space

There are many plants that produce a huge variety of colours but we chose to work with these:
 ‘chija’ - gardenia flowers - yellow

‘somok – chips of sappan wood/ Indian redwood common in SE Asia - caesalpinia sappan – deep maroon


‘hwang yeon’ – no English translation – roots – coptis chinensis franch – deep mustard yellow

Front to back - somok, chija, hwang yeon
‘jjock’ – indigo – plants grown locally - blue

Indigo plant

The Hanji papers soon soaked up the beautiful natural colours and they took on a transformative glow as the sheets turned into the shades of autumn that I planned to use in a special piece of Hanji art that I was  to  complete at the end of my journey around Korea.

We left the sheets to dry.

After the filming and during takes, I spent a lot of my time looking at the beautiful clothes, linen ware, curtains and handbags that had been made out of the naturally dyed fabrics.  The subtle colours were stunning and the handwork was exquisite.
Dyed fabric used in a handbag with delicate embroidery
A jacket out of linen which has been dyed with indigo
A leaf coaster dyed with persimmon and indigo
Beautiful details on a jacket
A collection of products
She was an extremely talented lady who is highly respected for her work in this field.  I had so many questions I'd have liked to have asked her but time was of the essense and we were on a mission and needed to stay focused on our goal of finishing the documentary in a set length of time.

 I felt honoured to have met her and I hope we can meet again sometime in the future.


  1. Dear JC, I started following your blog right after you left Korea. Was disappointed to find that out. And then a couple weeks ago realized you had just been in Korea but seemed to have already left. Sad again. It would have been nice to meet.

    Last winter I took a month-long hanji craft class (https://ethnoscopes.blogspot.kr/2016/02/making-hanji-crafts-in-anguk-station.html) and absolutely loved it! Over the years I've learned quite a bit about the making process, but have never done anything hands on but would like to, or at least see it done (not just the museum in Jeonju's hanok village).

    I'm also a member of the RAS (Royal Asiatic Society - www.raskb.com) and many of our members are very knowledgable as well about hanji, but again, not so much about the hands on processes. Anyway, the RAS has a lot of tours around Korea and I was thinking about creating a tour to go to one/some of the places you talked about recently in your blog -- the family run hanji mill, the indigo hanji dyeing location, and any others you could recommend as traditional. I think these destinations would not only benefit our members but also stimulate more interest in traditional products. Would it be possible to share some of these locations? I would so appreciate it!

  2. Hi Cheryl. Yes sorry to have missed you it would have been lovely to have met another foreigner with the same passion as mine. I'll definitely try to catch up with you next time I'm there.
    I'd be happy to pass on the names and addresses of the people I've been fortunate enough to meet. If you send me your email address I'll pass the information on to you. The Hanji film will be airing on Arirang TV on Monday, Nov. 28th as part of their ArTravel series if you're interested in seeing more. Kind regards, jan


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