Sunday, May 27, 2012

Hansangsoo Embroidery museum .... a great find

During my visit to Korea in March I visited the Hansangsoo Embroidery Museum located in Bukchon Hanok Village in Gahoe-dong in Seoul. 

While rapid development in Korea has replaced  much of the old with new, Bukchon Hanok Village   is an area dedicated to preserving Korean traditional houses called ‘hanok’.

Bukchon Hanok  Village is nestled between the two royal palaces, Gyeongbokgung Palace and Changdeokgung Palace.  Many of the little museums that line the narrow streets are  opportunities for visitors to have cultural immersion experiences which include folk painting and doing different  tile rubbings.

The Embroidery Museum has many exhibits of  traditional embroidery including the works of Han Sang-soo, who has been named Intangible Cultural Asset No. 80. It was established to promote Korean embroidery as well as artwork, and to preserve the traditional techniques handed down from generation to generation, in a hope of encouraging a new generation of creations.

The Museum in its traditional setting was small but it did have some amazing pieces  and I was blown away by  seeing the fine handiwork on display. 

But as this blog is about Hanji I really want to tell you about another amazing find that I made that day. 

Sitting outside in the courtyard waiting for my friends to arrive I saw a piece of furniture, that was partially exposed to the elements. It was surrounded by old water bottles and boxes and it'd obviously been there for a very long time. It was dusty and the decorations were peeling off but upon closer inspection I realised that it was a piece of Hanji !! I suspect that the base was wooden but the decorations were definitely done in hanji paper. I have so many questions that I'd love to ask about it.  

How old is it? Who made it? Has it lived somewhere else before finding a home at the museum?  Has it always lived in this traditional home? Why is it not now loved?

It seems such a shame that such a lovely work of art is not being looked after, but if my questions could be answered, then I'm sure I'd understand more. At this point in time I don't know how to get those answers but in the meantime I can just wonder and appreciate the artwork that was.

I'm sure there are many more pieces like this all over Korea where a piece of furniture has been lovingly created in the past, but now, they're out of fashion and  a more modern and  practical replacement has been found. Which leads me to ponder what the future holds for this art form unless we encourage it's use both in Korea and abroad.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Hanji in Toronto ..........

 For those of you who live in Toronto, Canada here's a place to find your Hanji Paper.

 At this BlogTO website a post by Robyn Urback tells about her visit to a new hanji shop,  owned by husband and wife Hyun Suk and Catherine Choi.It sounds wonderful.  All the best for your new venture.

Hanji Toronto

Hanji Toronto 
Photos by Nick Warzin

Monday, May 21, 2012

Technology & worksheets ....

During my time in Korea I attended several weekly hanji workshops that lasted from around 10 weeks up to 6 months in length.

When I went to make anything the instructions were all in Korean and I relied heavily on my Korean friends to translate and to pass on  the directions of the teacher.

Over the past 10 years I've developed a variety of worksheets on how to make a box, lamps and small cupboards. Each was a page or two long with a small picture and some very broad steps for instructions. 

Way back then  was  the time I was resistant to all things 'techie' and very new to using a computer.  I knew very  little about where to start, the software available and it was quite difficult  to produce the results I wanted. 

My, how things have changed !!!

I love technology these days and love to keep up with the latest gadgets and programs, when time permits.

I've received many emails over the last few months asking for more instructions in English so I've been working on putting together some  comprehensive English instructions on how to make different hanji articles. You'll be pleased to know that my computer skills have improved somewhat over the years.

It's been fun working on, constructing, photographing and writing up how I made this 3 D box (3D is just my description of it).  It's one of the easiest things to make with just 5 pieces.  The box was made in the colours and designs that appeal to me but you can be as creative as you like. 

The worksheets now  have about 5 pages and include:

 1) Materials needed for the project
      (once you have these you can do many different projects)
 2)  Instructions and sizes for cutting out the cardboard 
 3) Cutout designs to go on the box 
 4) Step by step instructions with photographs, of how to made it.

Here's a sample:

I'll soon have a place on the blog where you can buy them for a small fee and I'll be expanding the worksheets available over the next few months so if you like the idea of doing Hanji and you're wanting to try your hand at this craft this could be a way of doing it.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Malaysian hanji ?

                            I've been an expat for over 12 years now and time has gone so fast. After living in Korea for 3 years and learning about hanji, my husband and I moved to Malaysia.   I wanted to continue doing Hanji so I thought that I'd make something with a Malaysian flavour. 

I chose the hibiscus flower (bungaraya) to dominate a tea table. It's the National flower of Malaysia and I hadn't seen it used very much in Korean Hanji despite the fact that the cutouts I was using were from a Korean  book..

I knew the techniques of what to do and  I worked for weeks on choosing papers, making cutouts and creating my piece of 'Malaysian Hanji'. 
I was really pleased with the results of the cutouts, colourings and application but unfortunately when I went to varnish it the humid weather in Malaysia reacted to the varnish when applied. 

Consequently I made very few hanji items during my stay there.

Maybe I'll make a piece of UAE hanji and have camels on it !!!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

"Where to get Hanji supplies?"......

I've had many people write and ask me, "Where do I get my Hanji  supplies?". 

Well when I visit Seoul I always head to a shop called Ilsindang in Insadong. I'm not advertising and I don't get any remuneration for this information but it's just a place that I find convenient to get to when I'm visiting Seoul. It's a little difficult to find as it's upstairs and not so visible from the street.  If you can find Starbucks then there's a sign on the building on the opposite side of the road. 

Take the stairs up to the 2nd floor and you'll come to a door that looks like this.

Inside is an Alladdin's cave of hanji papers, hardware, glues, varnishes, lamps, kits, paint brushes, and calligraphy brushes.  I usually need about 3 visits before I'm satisfied that I've checked everything out and bought more than I immediately need. 



As I don't live in Korea anymore I have to rely on doing online shopping for my Hanji supplies. There are a couple of websites where you can buy papers and kits, they are all in Korean so unless your Korean is good you'll need to get a Korean friend to translate and do the ordering for you..

I've successfully bought supplies through these websites.

Yesarang -  Paper and kits (cut out paper in the kits)
 Ilsindang  - Paper & Kits (no paper in the kits)
 Alrong -     Paper only



Sunday, May 13, 2012

Making pictures ......

One of the many things I like about doing Hanji is choosing designs, and cutouts in particular, to decorate it. You can see in this picture above, some Hanji products where they've added several different cutouts to each piece. I like the idea as it certainly adds interest to the little pot.

I've also discovered that you can use torn pieces of paper put together to make a picture. Here are some examples of how effective it can be. 

I haven't tried this technique myself yet but I'll put it onto my  'To do' list for when I have time!! I think they look stunning.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Is creativity inherent or learnt over time?

I think if we have a desire to be creative, which could be inherited or just from curiosity or need, then great things can be achieved. But, time and exposure are important factors.

I remember when my children were younger  I had little or no time to explore creativity as much as my mother who seemed to be good at everything but I do believe it was always there waiting for the right time. Since my children have all grown up I find I can now explore different arts and crafts and extend myself as far, or as little as I like.

Looking at the next generation; to my delight my daughter Laura, with two very young children, is finding time to be creative by sewing, painting and cooking  as well as being a mother and a wife.  She works part time as well but, many of her friends are working from home making things  then selling them at the markets, once or twice a month, in and around Adelaide. It seems that home made products are very much appreciated by the next generation as well as by mine. It's not only practical to make things but it can also bring in some much needed extra revenue if needed. Did Laura and her friends inherent their creativity or has it come out of a need to fill the gap between a busy life style and a sense of homeliness?.

Hanji by Monica Sturgess
Here in the UAE I work with a small group of people who meet every week and share ideas on what we're doing, show what we've made and are enriched by the inspiration that we can give one another. 

In this photo we have a six sided and a four sided lamp and a small box that Monica Sturgess, one of the ladies in our Hanji group has made.  She's only been in the group for a few months and yet she's been able to produce some amazingly beautiful and useful items.

Once you learn the basics of doing Hanji then you can make just about anything you want from small boxes, chests of drawers, lamps and even large  pieces of furniture.

One of the things that appeals to me in doing this craft is that by deciding on an item to make, choosing a particular colour scheme, selecting your different papers and cutouts, each piece then becomes a unique piece based on that person's sense of creativity, time and skills.

Anna, one of the ladies in our group is selling her Hanji at the ARTE souk in Dubai every few months.  She enjoys mixing and matching papers and colours to produce items that she and other people may like and in doing so, she has an outlet for her creative talents.  Others in the group are happy to make things for themselves to enjoy and would be reluctant to let them go after all the thought and work that's gone into them. Personally I put my heart into every piece I make and am collecting so many  things  that I'm going to need to build on a spare room before long !!  I've sold many pieces in the past but for now, I'm happy having them around me.

We all have a reason for doing what we do dependent on a variety of factors, and in so doing, we are all creative in our own ways and to varying degrees.  I don't know that I've answered the questions above but it's certainly made me think about some of the reasons why creativity comes to the fore or gets pushed back at varying times in our lives.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Religion and culture intertwined

Inside Jogye-sa temple
Korean Rice Chest
Continuing on from my earlier posting on Korean Rice chests I came across this photo I had taken in  Jogye-sa Buddhist Temple near Insadong in Seoul. Inside the temple was a traditional Korean rice chest but with glass sides where people could place offereings of bags of rice for the monks.
Prayer accessories laid out carefully on the floor of the temple
In a sacred place such as a temple you can see the intertwining of religion and culture as they utilize an ancient everyday piece of furniture in a modern day religious setting.

Buddhist lanterns

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Being creative .........

Tray with relief work
This week I've been working on a different, very simple technique that I haven't used for many years.  It's adding texture to an article by using cutout cardboard shapes.  

Now these are really impossible to cutout by hand so you'd need to buy the ones that have been laser cut already from a Hanji shop.  I picked up a few on my recent visits and I just felt that I wanted to experiment a little.

Closeup of tray
I made a tray to best display the cutout in a smaller article then covered it in mottled paper to give the effect of wood.  I placed one of the lighter sections of the paper in the middle then, when the paper was quite wet and mold-able with the glue I began pushing it into the shape. This took quite a long time and then I wasn't happy with the overall effect.

Because of the markings of the paper the shapes beneath the relief didn't stand out so I carefully bleached the paper on top.  This then achieved the desired effect I was looking for and above is the final result.

When an article is finished there are two things you can do to seal the paper and make it stronger.

1) Make up a mixture of 50% white craft glue and 50% water and give it 2 or 3 coats to get the desired finish.

2) Or, you can buy a commercial water based varnish in either a matte or a gloss finish and coat as directed on the label.

I use a varnish from Korea which I label in English in case I grab one quickly and get them mixed up.
Two trays, before and after.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Jeonju Hanji

Here's an interesting video about Jeonju Hanji and it's uitilization in the past. And now in the 21st century, the technical applications that it is used for in so many different fields. 

It's especially interesting to hear how it's used  for making materials for clothing and bedding and that it's around 80% as strong as cotton, plus it has additional qualities.

It's been a while but I just have to share this ...... Bali paper making

Whilst on a holiday in Bali last week I began to wonder if anyone there did paper making.   After a lot of research I came u...