Friday, October 23, 2015

Bamboo, textures, Korean shapes and a tray .....

What inspires us to make certain Hanji pieces? For me it's often  a dormant idea in my mind and it comes out years later when certain factors all come together.


I took this photo many years ago at Haeinsa Temple just outside Busan. I'm not Buddhist but  when we lived in Busan I use to love going up to this hugely impressive Buddhist temple  because of the serenity of the surrounding hillside and the beautiful gardens. I could sit there for hours and just take in the views, peace and tranquility of the space. The biggest downside for me was that I wasn't always that fit and the Buddhist temples are usually set high up in the mountainside and require a lot of uphill climbing before you get to see the temple and the wonderful views. 

In this photo I was looking back down the long, winding path I'd just climbed and it was lined with a low wall that has the typical upturned Korean roof tiles on top and  tall bamboo mixed in with the other leafy green trees.

I've always loved this photo because it not only reminds me of that wonderful place but also  I see textures in it that incorporate typical Korean lines and yet they flow and they are softened by the bamboo and other leafy trees.

It never occurred to me when this photo was taken that I'd ever use it as an inspiration for a hanji piece but years later it's played a part in a my creative puzzle.

During my recent trip to Seoul I found this amazing Hanji paper that looks like leather.  I've never seen any Hanji paper like it before and I felt so excited to be able to purchase a few sheets of this paper that is so unique.  I then needed to decide what I was going to do with it and as often happens, ideas just evolved.

I wanted to combine organic textures, natural products , Korean shapes and bamboo. I used 3 layers of 3mm thick cardboard and glued them together then I turned up the edges to give it the Korean roof shape.

I then placed 2 thinner cardboard strips of 2 layers of cardboard underneath to make them into a stand for the tray.  I covered the top of the tray with the textured paper,  the ends with a mustard Korean linen to give the handles a good grip and the base in black.

I finished it off with a bamboo cutout and lacquered so there you have it, a unique Hanji tray inspired by nature, bamboo, textures and a photograph.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Korean Art, Craft & Culture books .....

During my recent stay in Korea I found a few books on Korean Crafts, Arts and Culture in English that I'd like to share with you.

The first one is 'Treasures from Korea, Arts and Culture of the Joseon Dynasty, 1392 - 1910'.  

This book was produced to coincide with an exhibition of the same name which started at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, in the US in March 2014 and ended up at the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston in January of this year.

It isn't about Hanji but it does give a good insight into the life and times of this era and I was especially interested in the paintings that  are often incorporated into Hanji pieces.

Here's an example: 

'Tiger under a pine tree' printed onto Hanji paper
Tiger under a pine tree used on a Hanji lamp

Next is 'Korean Handicrafts - Art in Everyday life'  which is jointly published by the Korea Foundation and Seoul Selection to give  international readers a basic understanding of Korean Arts and Culture.  It's a small book, No. 20 in a series entitled, Korea Essentials. It has some good links to Craft Related Organisations in Korea including the Korea Craft and Design Organisation (KCDF) which is a public institution of the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism.

Lastly I was very excited when Ifound a book called, '100 Thimbles in a box - The Spirit and Beauty of Korean Handicrafts' by Debbie Kent and Joan Suwalsky. The authors are both Korean adoptee parents and there wish was for this book to be a resource,  for people around the world, on Korea's unique handicrafts  and for Koreans, as a reminder of their rich heritage.

This is one of the most beautifully produced books I've seen for a long time, the photography is stunning, the colours are rich and the pages just jump out at you urging you to turn to the next page to discover something new.

There's a lovely section on Hanji paper and its uses and lots of references to Hanji throughout the book.

I'll add these to my ever growing collection of books and I've got lots of reading to get on with now as I treasure my new finds.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Art Deco Hanji lamp ......

Last week one of my students came along to class with a lamp where the shade had been broken and wondered what we could do to make a new one for it. She wanted it to look Art Deco, black and white, not too big and something that threw out plenty of light, all of this  using Hanji techniques. 

There's nothing like a new challenge !!

ART DECO -  'It is an eclectic style that combines traditional craft motifs with Machine Age imagery and materials. The style is often characterized by rich colours, bold geometric shapes and lavish ornamentation ...... 'During its heyday, Art Deco represented luxury, glamour, exuberance and faith in social and technological progress.. - Wikipedia


This was never going to be a traditional Korean Hanji project but I was going to be able to use a lot of  techniques that I'd recently learnt in Korea  and I could also use Hanji paper .

After researching and pondering over photos of Art Deco designs for a few days I remembered that I'd just purchased some perspex sheeting in various thicknesses and thought this would be a good start rather than using cardboard which would block portions of light from the lamp on this small shade. I made a pattern of an uncomplicated shape and started cutting it out.

After ensuring that the shape fitted the frame well I glued it together with contact adhesive. I'd tried using instant glue but it didn't seem to work, but I'm sure there are probably better options than contact adhesive out there so I need to find them before tackling another project similar to this.

I then covered it both inside and out with a very fine white Hanji paper to give maximum output of light to the shade.

The corners were supported with triangular shapes and they were there to act as something the prongs that support the shade could sit on.  I wasn't happy with the fact that they could move a bit so I made small U shaped guides out of plastic for the prongs to sit into and to prevent the shade from moving around.

Next step was to cut out the Art Deco design out of black paper, glued them on and finished it off with a few coats of varnish to protect the paper.

Art Deco Hanji lamp shade

Another successful project.  I'd do a few things differently next time but overall I was pretty happy with the results.

Monday, August 24, 2015

What is Hanji? ............

      Since my return to Australia, I've had so many people ask me    
      'What does Hanji mean and what is this craft?'.  Because I've been doing Hanji for the last 15 years I sometime presume that everybody knows what it is so I've prepared a short explanation as a handout for my students and thought that I'd share it with you.
           HANJI - a traditional Korean Craft   

‘Han’ refers to the Korean people and ‘ji’ means paper.
Hanji is the term used to describe Korean paper and it is also used to describe the art of making objects out of the paper. It’s a paper made from the bark of the mulberry tree ‘dak’ and is one of Korea’s oldest and most durable products, dating back to the Three Kingdoms period around 130 AD.

Mulberry bark produces a low acidity paper. The quality of each sheet depends on the skill of the workers who prepare the depth and complexity of intertwined fibers by swishing the bamboo frames backwards and forwards during its production. The paper has good ventilation due to the fibers not being spread too thickly and because each fiber is long and thin it has flexibility and dexterity, as well as a high resilience to weather and moisture. These qualities have made it one of the longest lasting paper products in the world.
This type of paper is ideal for using in Hanji crafts because when it’s wet it easily molds over cardboard or wooden structures.
Hanji crafts began out of necessity when Korean households needed everyday items that were often unobtainable due to economic reasons so the people made items out of available materials. Hanji paper was already used extensively in Korean households for covering windows, as wallpaper and a thicker version, treated with a varnish for durability, was used on the floors in many homes.  These products can still be seen in traditional Korean homes today. Small and large pieces of furniture were made out of cardboard or wood then covered in Hanji paper and decorated with symbols that were important to Korean society.  They also made bowls, boxes, and sets of drawers and then much later when electricity was introduced, low wattage lanterns.
These days Hanji is having a resurgence in popularity in Korea and the craft is being taught to students in High schools.  Unfortunately not many of the younger generation continue doing it as it takes time and patience to make something worthwhile, and they can buy more modern products in their local stores.
Little is known outside of Korea about this wonderful craft called Hanji and most of the information available is in Korean, therefore I hope this gives you a brief insight into what it’s all about.  

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Hanji Classes in Seoul ...

I've been attempting for years to do some refresher Hanji classes  during one of my usually whirlwind visits to Seoul but,  due to overseas work commitments and a lack of classes that cater for English  speakers, it hasn't been possible. I've had a lot of queries from people wanting to know what classes I took in Seoul earlier this year so I thought that I'd share that information with all of you through my blog. 

A few years ago I was introduced to Myong Sook OM, an outstanding Korean Hanji Artist who'd studied Fine Arts for 5 years in New York and she was teaching Hanji in English to expats in Korea. She'd held several exhibitions of her work  both Nationally and Internationally and was involved in SIWA (Seoul International Women's Association). Her work is quite unique and I would love to have learnt from her as she was a perfectionist but when I dared to pose the question, " How long would I need to learn ?" I was told that a minimum of 3 months was required and then that wasn't really long enough. Obviously I couldn't have afforded that amount of time from my busy work life and it would have been too expensive to have tried to find somewhere to live for that length of time as well so I put that idea onto my wishlist of what I'd like to do but that was as far as it got.
Myong Sook OM and her giant lamp

Then last year I met up with Catherine at Hanji Doori , she's a Korean but has lived in NZ for 10 years so her English is excellent. She was willing to take me on for classes at the Hanji Doori shop in Insadong for whatever length of time I could afford and she'd help me and pass on any tips she has learnt over the years she's been doing Hanji. 

This turned out to be a very useful exercise and I attended the shop whenever I could for whatever length of time I wanted. There were other students there as well, all Koreans, but they were friendly and we nodded and gestured to one another about what we were doing. I chose a project I wanted to do and selected some techniques I was unsure about and Catherine, very patiently,  helped me through. There were no set classes as such but instead a more relaxed approach to learning traditional hanji techniques.

Working on my project

Catherine from Hanji Doori and myself
 The other classes I took were at Jonginamoo, a contemporary lighting shop near Buchon Hanok (Village). Up until 12 months ago this shop wouldn't take English speaking students unless they had a translator with them but then Min, a Chinese Korean was employed and he speaks very good English so this shop  suddenly became another option. I'd visited it 12 months ago and was blown away with the beautiful work of the shop owner and it was unlike anything I'd seen before as it combines Hanji paper with timber, metal and fabrics. Their classes were held in the back of the shop in a tiny area but I was able to make 5 lamps in the 5 weeks I was there.  

Free form lamp project
Jonginamoo owner, Min and myself

With these 2 classes I was learning pretty well full-time for 5 weeks.  Sometimes I chose to go to just one class and work solidly on my project for hours and other times I'd go to one class in the morning and another in the afternoon.  Luckily the shops weren't too far away from one another and both in the Insadong area.

The experience I had brushing up on my skills were invaluable as I learnt some of the latest techniques but I also realised that I already have a lot of skills that I've taught myself over the years and that I'm doing alright.

The fun part was getting all my projects back home to Australia in what ended up being two very large boxes sent through Korea Post.  I love the post over there it's so reasonably priced and my parcels were here on my doorstep in Australia within 6 days.

A great trip, a great experience and I'm really fired up to try out lots of new and more experimental Hanji projects now that I'm back in my studio.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Hanji poem by Suji Kwock Kim .....

I was doing some  research recently at the Adelaide State library and I was surprised to come  across a poem about Hanji

It was written by Suji Kwock Kim, and published in her collection of poems, "Notes from the Divided country'. She's a Korean American poet and playwright and has won numerous awards for her amazing work.

This particular poem talks about the hardships of the papermaker and she dedicates it to Liu Yoon- Young.

I found it fascinating and I'd like to share it with you along with some photos I took during my visit to Korea earlier this year.

Hanji: Notes for a Papermaker

          Shaped like a slab of granite
          marking a grave, but light,
          airy as "spirit-sheaves" lashed
          from bloodroot or star thistle,

         this sheet is not for burial
         but making and making of:
         a broth of splinters boiled to pith,
         cast then clotted to blank.

         I touch it, feeling grit and slub
         silk, rough as braille. Is it
         enough, is this how you hoped
         to earn a living, making absence

        palpable as pulp, though you laugh,
        seeing I'm shocked at how much work
        it took. Sow and mulch mulberry.
        Slash the trunks down a year later -

        chopping slant to sun so stumps
        regrow-when their wood's still
        tender but strong enough to keep,
        no worms gnawing fleam or burl.

        Soak, hack the black bark off,
        tilt the knife at a sharp angle
        to shave the green underskin
        without cutting away grain.

        Scald the peeled rods with cotton-ash
        so acid softens gnurl and knot.
        Pound for hours until they're ground
        to shreds, skeins of unlikely thread.

        You show me your blistered hands.
        Poor hands. When you strike a match
        to fire, I almost feel the skin sting,
        Kerosene flaming yontan - coal.

         I don't know what it costs you to love
         this work. More than sulfur fumes
         tasting of slag, flintsparks cracking,
         engine-shunt as your cauldron simmers

         hollyhock root to solder all
         the elements in a strange solution,
         an ecstacy, flecks shapeshifting,
         hissing milk, spit, quicksilver.
         While it smolders you drag
         slung mold and bamboo grille,
         sieving with steady arms, long strokes
         so fiber won't snarl at the heart.

         You wring water, strip your grid,
          letting grume clot to the hue
          of skull-rot. It'll bleach in sun
          to snow, tusk-tallow, peroxide-

         depending how long it's left out,
         on weather-or you'll dye it
          with beets, indigo, sweet potato,
         all the colours you have in mind.

          In my mind you've become stern.
         "For what you want to be, nothing
          is something from another slant,
          a slate, a plot to engrave spirit

          in flesh, mirror or window or O,
          Now you know how hard the labor is.
          If your words aren't worth
          my work, keep your mouth shut."

Suji Kwock Kim

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Environmentally friendly interiors using Hanji ........

' Hanji is used in limitless applications, including  wallpaper and an array of household goods made with traditional craftsmanship. The official residences of the Korean Mission to the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Mun are good examples of the esthetic qualities of hanji interiors.'
Cha Jong-sun
Professor at Yewon Arts University, Hanji Formative Arts Department

Ban Ki-Mun, Secretary General of the United Nations

Hanji has been showing a resurgence in popularity of late as people are turning to more environmentally friendly lifestyles where the importance of a good quality of life is paramount.  

One of the ambassadors for this is General Ban Ki-Mun and his wife who have recently worked in collaboration with he Hanji Formative Arts Department of Yewon Arts University in decorating the Guest Room of the UN Secretary General’s official residence in New York and the official residence of the Korean Mission to the UN with hanji. It's believed that the current Pope is also looking at having his residence decorated using hanji.

The room was decorated based on the concept of “Modest but not shabby, splendid but not extravagant,” which  expresses the esthetic quality of Korea’s ancient Baekje Dynasty, well known for its temperance and dignity. During the hottest months of the year in New York, many UN officials were surprised by the changes made in the building spaces using hanji materials.

The room was decorated with Hanji wallpaper containing wormwood, charcoal and elven  with a traditional Dangcho pattern.

Dangcho Pattern

Household Items Made of Hanji

Cloth made with hanji was used for the bedding, sofa cover, and curtains. A bandaji (chest with a hinged front flap) and a two-tiered wardrobe made with  traditional hanji-making technique were also placed in the home.  Hanji-made furniture displays a uniquely Korean color combination and pattern. 
Bandagi Chest

Along with Hanji being used at the Secretary General's residence there were also fourteen 3 metre long lighting fixtures installed into the main hall of the Korean Mission to the UN across from the UN Headquarters.  These were put in place to signify Korea's wish that they may light the way to humankind's everlasting peace and happiness.
Household Items Made of Hanji
Hanji interiors with the handmade mulberry paper made from the bark of the Korean 'dak' tree is lightweight and it has durability and ventilation qualities. It's  also extremely functional as it repels bacteria and insects, eliminates odours, adjusts humidity and absorbs noise. Research has  shown that it creates long wave infrared rays which are good for the human body.

Hanji is not only great for using in craft projects but it's also  good for your health and environmentally friendly as well.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Korean symbols and meanings .....

I found these  at the National Museum of Korea in Seoul. It's an interesting explanation of some of the symbols and meanings of items we put onto our hanji pieces.  There are other explanations as well but this collection seems to be quite succinct. 

I love the explanations of the butterfly and the cat and I'm sure there must be reasons behind these meanings. I'd love to know more.

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...