Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Making Hanji Crafts in Anguk Station

Itaewon Global Village Center advertised a Korean traditional craft making event, "hanji craft class: mini chest of drawers," that particularly interested me. A few years ago I made a colorful hanji pencil holder, which I still have, but that was my only hanji craft experience, odd since I've been in Korea for a long time and very interested in art. So I signed up for the event.

I was a little surprised that all participants were given strips of brightly colored hanji and were to decorate a box to make it "beautiful", but bright gaudy colors do not signify beauty to me. Fortunately another lady had brought a sheet of yellow cream hanji and shared it ... and the yellow cream was a softening contrast to the bright strips and became the background to my box. I didn't put strips on it like everyone was expected to do but rather organized them on the sides to create a fan of color, and also, like I'd seen somewhere, I tore the paper into shapes to create visual art for the top decoration. Then using a glossy brochure from somewhere with scissors I clipped out a couple of gold butterflies to decorate the drawer fronts. Then I could say my unique hanji artform was complete. Well, actually something was missing but I didn't know how to get a glossy finish on the box until I took a more professional hanji class a few weeks later, but once I learned how to gloss it up a bit, the dull dry colors brightened and wiping dust off became easy. Here's my completed glossy hanji box.

My hanji butterfly box - 7"H x 8"W x 7.5"D
And I was addicted! I wanted to create more!

During the winter holiday I saw a hanji craft shop in the first basement of Anguk Station, line 3. There were furniture, lamps, pencil boxes and cases, vases, cosmetic boxes, and so much more, all created from hanji and firm cardboard frames. Then I noticed women inside putting some boxes together ... and I just had to ask about what appeared to be a hanji craft class. She affirmed she taught hanji and I committed right away to taking a class!
For a one-time class, typically two hours - W30,000 (rather expensive). 
For a one-month class, four times a week, two hours a day (M/T/TH/F) - W100,000 (this includes her expertise—she is a confident perfectionist and none of her movements are wasted, and she's great at anticipating what you need next—glues and pastes, stains if needed, use of her tools). 
Her hours are 11am-6pm M/T/TH/F, but she takes 30 minutes or so for lunch, the time could vary day-to-day depending on if she has people in her shop or not. 
Basically, the W100,000 is the fee for use of everything and her skills as a teacher. In addition, the person must pay the cost of whatever he or she makes. I made a simple hexagonal pencil case for W4,000, a rather large vase with painstakingly cut out cranes (took an hour to cut out a single detailed crane and had to cut six ... but the end result was nice) W18,000, an octagonal candy dish - W8,000, and a bamboo-stripped pencil box - W4,000, and finally the one I am most proud of and which was really quite simple to make, the fan-shaped hanji lamp - W60,000.

I had seen a hanji lamp the previous year in an Insadong shop. The lamp took my breath away and was so elegant in its simplicity I took a picture and would have bought the lamp on spot (W118,000) but had no place to put it. Even the lamp I made I'm still scratching my head with what to do with it. Was going to send it to a cousin but it's 28" wide and so far haven't found a suitable box to airmail it in. Anyway, here's the picture of the lamp that initially made me gasp.

Looking around her shop I just was delighted ... and inspired. I didn't quite complete my one-month with her because of the flight I had previously booked, but that's OK. She empowered me on knowledge of how to mix the glue-paste to the proper thickness, depending on what I was doing, how to bleach the craft causing the least damage to the hanji fibers, how to stain, cut, measure exactly (ugh I hate math but hanji craft requires careful measurements so that the cardboard forms fit properly together or so the hanji doesn't bulk up in corners and seams). She helped me measure and cut out the hexagonal pencil holder frame but all other forms were pre-cut, particularly the 18" vase form below; otherwise, making the vase would have taken several more hours. 

I snapped some other creations of hers from around her shop. She was delighted that I was delighted with her work. She's made lamps and furniture for many enterprises, one she was particularly happy about was a Korean restaurant in New Jersey. She made all of the delicate hanji lampshades throughout the guest seating area for this restaurant—she showed me some pictures—and the effect was a tasteful and classy Korean ambience. Unfortunately, I have no picture of the restaurant but I do have picts of beautiful things from around her shop.

large vases and very durable pieces of traditional-style furniture

various kinds of soft lighting
cosmetic chests!
Although my hanji sunsaengnim doesn't hardly know a word of English, she is stellar at body language and providing examples. I asked a lot of questions and she was very good about breaking her answer down (never baby-talking, she always spoke in full sentences like I could understand ... and I loved her for it!). When I didn't understand a particular word, she'd pick up something she had made around her shop and show me what she meant. Wow, my Korean vocabulary and comprehension really increased!

A collage of hanji crafts that I or my sunsaengnim made. The cranes are images I painstakingly cut out with an exacto-knife. They looked really cool on my large glossy hanji vase and even some people as they passed through the shop took pictures of it ... very complimentary!
If anyone likes working with hanji and wants to learn correctness plus tasteful elegance, then this lady can help the person achieve his/her artistic goals. I so highly recommend taking a month-long lesson from her. She really knows her stuff!

Her hanji craft shop is in Anguk Station (line 3), 1st basement, and easy to find -- just look for a shop with big glass windows displaying many kinds of beautiful hanji craft items.

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