Friday, May 29, 2015

Korean traditional flower shoes (Hwahye) ...

Korean traditional  flower shoes are called Hwahye.  Hwa is a generic term for any type of footwear and hye means a short version of shoes that don't cover the ankle.

There were over 20 different types of Hwahye shoes  that were worn during the Joseon dynasty and they indicated a persons status and  varied according to someones age, social class and gender. 

Silk embroidered
They  are traditionally decorated in bright flamboyant colours and patterns and are made in either leather, silk, wood or even rubber.  The rubber version was introduced in the 1920s during the  Japanese colonial period from 1910 to 1945 but these days they're only worn by the monks.

A good use for the old rubber shoes

As the Joseon Dynasty social hierachy crumbled  in the early 1900's and Korea began to become more globalized in their outlook and customs the need for the different varieties of Hwahye  became less necessary and during the 1930's the Hwahye shoes made way for western trends and the Korean people embraced modernisation except for on special occasions such as  weddings and funeral.


'Mituri' is the Hanji version of the 'hwahye' and are they're only made for decoration and as a souvenir of what was an important part of the Korean traditions during the Joseon Dynasty..

Mituri - shoes made of paper

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Portrait of Song Siyeol......

I took the opportunity of having some free time whilst in Korea to visit the National Museum of Seoul over the weekend and was  enthralled by its size, airiness and beautifully displayed items from both Korea and around all of Asia. There was a  special exhibition of paintings by well known Polish Artists on display but I was so engrossed in the Korean paintings and artifacts that I had to forgo that one for another day.

I was however very excited when I stumbled upon a painting, 'Portrait of Song Siyeol' which was painted on silk in the 18th century. It was this portrait that I'd printed on to Hanji paper and put  onto a box that was in my recent Hanji exhibition, so to see the painting up close was amazing.
This painting is considered to be one of the best portraits of Song Siyeol who lived from 1607 - 1689 and he was a dedicated follower of the orthodox Neo- Confucianist doctrine of Zhu Xi.There is more information about him if you follow this link.

In this half length portrait Song is wearing an outer robe (simu) and a black hat (bokgeon), which was the everyday attire of Confucian scholars. The inscription above his head includes an ode by King Jeongjo who lived from 1752 - 1800. and the year it was painted, which was 1778.  This says that this particular painting is an 18th century copy of the original portrait. Even so, it's designated as the 239th National Treasure of Korea which shows the importance of it as a record of  the history of Korea, and it's people.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Lotus Lantern Festival '15 - Seoul

Over this last weekend the annual Seoul Lotus Lantern Festival was held in honour of Buddha's birth. It's typically held the weekend before his birthday which is May 25th so this year it was celebrated between May 15th - 17th.

Seoul Lotus Lantern Festival continues the tradition of making and hanging lanterns as symbolic offerings of light, wisdom and compassion in the Buddhist traditions. About one-quarter of Koreans are Buddhists, and the Jogye Order is Korea’s largest Buddhist sect. As the festival hosts, they  start the annual celebration at Seoul Bongeunsa temple near the COEX Conference and Exhibition Center, with an exhibition of traditional lanterns made from Korea’s traditional paper Hanji.

Since it's inception in 2009 there have been some amazing displays of lanterns made by both Korean and International artists along the famous Cheonggyecheon Stream in downtown Seoul, Jogyesa Temple, Bongeunsa Temple, and the Dongguk University areas. During the festival hundreds of lanterns each with a unique design and story were lit along the waterway, at the temples and along the streets.

As I've been around the streets and alleyways of Seoul over the last few weeks I've seen the lavish preparations being put in place by the various temples, the Seoul Metropolitan Government and other organisers for this massive event. Lanterns  lined the city streets and were lit up at night giving this city of around 25.6 million people, a fun and festive atmosphere in anticipation of the up coming lantern festival.

The centre of the activities over the weekend were at the Seoul Jogyesa temple, the main temple of Korea’s largest Buddhist sect. During the Seoul Lotus Lantern Festival, the tightly packed compound felt intimate due to the thousands of colorful lanterns which were strung from roof eaves and trees and it felt like they'd created a false ceiling. 

The focal point of the Seoul Lotus Lantern Festival was the Lotus Lantern Parade. It was  very popular with the city’s Korean residents and the parade was also a favorite event for the city’s expat community and tourists as well. At dusk the street revelers gathered for what is said to be Seoul’s largest annual street procession. 
'From Dongguk University Station to Dongdaemun and Jogyesa temple, Seoul’s night sky becomes lit not by office towers, but by thousands of lanterns made in the shapes of dragons, pagodas, phoenixes, and, of course, lotuses. At about 9:30 pm, everything culminates with the Daedong Celebration. Meaning “being together,” the final event of singing and dancing at the Jonggak intersection usually reaches its finale at about 11 pm, when revelers are showered by pink lotus petals.' - Discovering Korea website

The event was colourful, fun filled, and a great cultural  experience. It lasted for 3 days in the middle of this  huge, bustling city and all of the lanterns were made from Hanji paper !!!! 
During the day the lanterns looked amazing but at night they came to life.


Here's a short video taken a few years ago by Evan & Rachel. Unfortunately I ran out of memory on my camera and couldn't take video but I hope the few photos I've been able to post give you an idea of this amazing event.


Thursday, May 14, 2015

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.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Jeonju Hanji Culture Festival 2015 - Fabric

The City of Jeonju  annually holds the Jeonju Hanji Culture Festival along with the National Hanji Craft Contest to promote the excellence of it's paper. In 2015 it's celebrating it's 19th anniversary and I've been fortunate enough to visit  the Festival after an absence of almost 12 years.  The last time I visited was when I was living in Pusan and Teaching English as a Second Language to students at the National University. I was encouraged to make the trip  by my Korean Hanji teacher who was adamant that Jeonju Hanji was the best you could buy. Jeonju is the centre of Hanji production in Korea and the base for 50% of the domestic Hanji manufacturers, and they currently account for 80% of the Hanji production in the country. 

Hanji has always been famous throughout the Orient.  It was one of Korea's top exports during the 11th Century and although it's been used as long-lasting paper for over a thousand years, it's more recently been used for a variety of products, including clothing. 
Mulberry material is unique because it comes from the soft inner skin of the bark. The bark is very strong and after being immersed in water for a year it's cut into very fine strips and twisted to make the paper yarn used for fabric. The natural fibers are wide which makes it breathable, lighter than cotton, it prevents bacteria build-up, and allows air and light to come through the material. Because of Hanji's natural composition, it's a healthy, eco-friendly fabric that is effective for people with skin allergies or sensitive skin. 

Hanji has been reinvented in recent years, with premium denim made from Hanji launching at a number of fashion shows across the world. It was part of Chanel's Pre-Fall Collection 2014 and it's now sold in stores worldwide. It's being launched by Barneys in New York, Beverly Hills and San Francisco and Barneys Japan and Colette in Paris, France.

Hanji fabrics are generally not made 100 percent of Hanji. Instead, Hanji yarn is blended together with other fibers such as cotton and silk. There has been a concern that Hanji fabrics are not washable and tear easily, but on the contrary, they’re more durable and retain form better than other fabrics.  Among other properties, Hanji fabrics are extremely light, about half the weight of cotton fabric, they're beneficial to the body, and friendly to the environment as they are biodegradable. 

At the Hanji Culture Festival this year there was a fashion show with garments made from Hanji fabric.  Here are a few pictures of the more traditional garments that were wore in the  parade. and on display in the Exhibition Hall.

So what does the future look like for Hanji as a fabric? I'd like to think that it will increase in popularity across the world, especially with big fashion labels showcasing what can be made with it but from my observations since I've been back in Korea, it appears to be quite an expensive alternative compared to other more traditional fabrics. If production costs come down I can see it having a bright future.

For more information on Hanji fabrics you may like to visit these websites:

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