Thursday, January 5, 2017

Hanji Filming Part 6 ....... Suji Kim

 Transformation, creation and longevity ......

Suji Kim
Suji Kim a beautiful, young Korean is a 'Linking Traditional Artist' who embodies a new generation of Koreans who are working with their age old traditions and bringing pieces of Hanji art into the 21st century.

Her background is in fine arts and her interest is in the symbolism of folk paintings which she reproduces onto Hanji

Traditional Korean folk paintings portrayed the simple lives of everyday people  and were far from sophisticated and yet the characters, animals, birds, flowers, nature and  seasons all had symbolic meanings. When adored on screens and as paintings on walls they created pleasant surroundings with constant reminders to their traditions and values. Korean Folk Art is a dying art form because the majority of modern Koreans, as is true all over the world, would rather have minimalist designs adoring their homes.

Suji Kim's interpretations of those paintings onto Hanji paper has won her accolades  and as a 30 something year old she is about to be recognized and awarded as the youngest Hanji Artist in Korea for her outstanding work and contributions to keeping Folk Art paintings alive.  She conducts art classes and has some very talented students that I was able to meet up with during my time in her studio.

Folk painting

She also makes both 2D and 3D Hanji pieces using traditional methods and  incorporates Jiseung, the art of twisting and weaving Hanji paper, using it to make objects, or as an embellishment on her pieces.
Painting on Hanji
Hanji using Jiseung techniques

During filming I met up with her at the Gahoe Museum in the Insadong district. Here she explained to me the symbolism and meanings behind some of the paintings on show and  we met up later in the week to work collaboratively on a piece of Hanji art that was to symbolize my journey around Korea during the filming of the documentary.

Autumn colour inspirations
Dyed papers - drawings by Suji Kim

Working on a 2D project was very different  and one that I found to be  quite challenging as I haven't done much work in this field and I didn't know what materials, tools and supplies were going to be available to me on the day.  It was all very daunting to say the least but I put my faith in the filming team that they would deliver what was needed when the time came, and they certainly did.

I'm use to working alone on my projects and I don't normally have a strict time frame but working alongside Suji Kim was a delight and consequently we thoroughly enjoyed the day together, chatting, laughing and exchanging our Hanji techniques. She even brought along some home made lamingtons, an Australian sweet, for us to share during our session of creativity and collaborationIt was the last thing I was expecting and I was delighted at her thoughtfulness.


The art piece was to be a textured leaf that symbolized the season in and it was to be divided into segments representing a snapshot of different parts of my journey. From this idea made the leaf  and placed it onto dyed hanji paper with the outline and various segments divided up by pieces of Jiseung, which the whole film crew had a hand in making.  

Jin Hee Lim( Director/ Writer) and Yoo Jun Jae(Producer)

Art piece
For the background the colours were carefully chosen to be representative of two different thought processes.   All the papers used were those that I'd made on my journey and they'd been carefully dyed using herbs and bark
Firstly, we used  a deep mustard on the left representing the earth that's turn to gold during Autumn, a mottled yellow and blue in the centre representing  the changing of the seasons and a plain blue on the right to represent the sky.

Secondly, the colours represent Korea and Australia and the mottled centre paper indicates the collaboration of Korean and Australian ideas and techniques which all come together as a backdrop to the leaf.

I wanted to incorporate Korean traditional folk paintings  as well and this is where help from Suji Kim  and her beautifully detailed artwork became an integral part of this project as they merged beautifully with the organic sheets of handmade and hand dyed Hanji. 

I spoke to her about what I wanted and she quickly drew and painted some stunning symbols  to add to this creative endeavor.

Persimmons - transformation
On my journey I saw many persimmons,  or  “gam”, and this fruit is a Buddhist symbol of transformation. Before the persimmon is ripe, it’s green and very bitter. But, it changes its color to a vibrant orange and is very sweet when ripe. It is representative of the autumn season which runs from Sept. to early Dec. and they're plentiful during "Chucheok" Korean Ancestral thanks giving and harvest festivals. 

During my journey I was  taken to the Cheongdo Persimmon Wine Tunnel where an old disused train tunnel of about 1 km in length is now being used to produce and distribute Persimmon Wine. This is the first wine production of its kind in Korea and it's exported to countries all around the region and the world. 

I spent a very pleasant visit meeting the Managing Director of the Wine tunnel, Kap-Soo-Lee who showed me how they were using the persimmons to make this wine.  I must admit I don't think it'll replace my grape wine drinking but it is certainly different and definitely innovative and the taste obviously appeals to quite a wide audience. 

Maybe it's an acquired taste.

Water lilies - creation

Another thing that I loved about the Korean countryside, and wanted to incorporate into this project, were the beautiful water lilies(lotus) in the large ponds. Some of the leaves were turning up and changing colours which contrasted against the beautiful, almost perfect looking flowers.

The lotus flower symbolizes creation, birth, livability and reproduction and therefore it's one of the most  important symbols in both Korean culture and its traditional religions. 

In both Confucianism and Buddhism the lotus flower is seen as a symbol of honest poverty and virtue associated with an aloofness. Poverty and virtue come from the fact that lotus flowers grow in muddy and dirty waters and yet it still has such beauty. It makes no pretense of being better than it is and yet it's naturally beautiful.

Turtle - longevity

Finally there was the turtle which stood proudly looking across the pond at the traditional Korean home. In Korean symbolism  the dragon was considered the ruler of all animals but the turtle ruled over the insects and because turtles live longer than other animals, they symbolize longevity.  

The flat underside of the turtle represents the earth whilst the top represents the heaven. It is believed to unite heaven and earth. Turtle images often form the base of steles or monuments to famous people, especially Buddhism monks.

The turtle is widely used throughout China, Japan and Korea as a symbol of good fortune and longevity and a positive omen that will bring 10,000 years of happiness.  

I feel that this had to be an included symbol to round off this project.

Transformation, creation and longevity is what my journey and this collaborative piece is all about.  

This journey has altered my perceptions of what Hanji Art is and it's created many new and exciting ideas of what I want to achieve in the future. It's certainly transformed my thinking about my art on so many different levels through exposure during the filming of this documentary to a wide variety of  artists and places as well as giving me the opportunity to exchange knowledge at a practically, creative level. Through experiencing the work of Jang Ji Bang (Hanji paper maker), Jeong Hyun Ja (Natural dyeing expert), Jeong Yu Suk (Boudoir crafts), Young Dam (Hanji paper maker and artist) and Suji Kim I was able to put all those ideas together and produce a piece of 2D Hanji art through my new and shared knowledge. This experience and its influence will stay with me for many years to come. I'm not sure if it'll be 10,000 years but the representation is one that it'll last a lifetime.

It's an important piece that not only incorporates my journey and the Korean traditional values through symbolism but also the ability for two cultures to be able to truly appreciate, work with  and value one another through their creative spirits.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Merry Christmas and a Happy Hanji New Year ....

Well where has the year gone!!


I'd just like to wish you all a wonderfully blessed Christmas with your family and friends and a Happy and fabulous Hanji New Year in 2017.  At the beginning of this year I couldn't have dreamt that I would have had such a fabulous year of creating and spreading the word about my Hanji passion to others.

Sadly one of my dear hanji students, Necia Magain, passed away this year from an aggresive form of Cancer  but her spirit and love for all things paper continues to inspire me to make the most of every day that I have as life is so fragile and indeterminate.

Thank you  one and all for your continuing support  by your kind comments, as well as following my blog and Facebook page and I hope I've inspired you just a little to continue your creative passions whatever they may be.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

ArTravel(Ep.9) Hanji, The Palette of Korea's Colors – Jan Coveney _ Full...

My documentary  on  Hanji has now been aired in Korea on Arirang TV, an English broadcasting channel, and here it is for you to view. 

It was the most  amazing experience and one that I'll never forget.  I met so many wonderful people who will form a large part of my Korean Hanji experiences.

I have so many new ideas to work on now that my head is literally spinning with new creative thoughts but with Christmas looming I'm going to have to put them aside for a few more weeks and focus on the family.

My Hanji book is the next area that I intend working on more intently in the New Year and with my new found knowledge of Hanji paper, dyes and construction techniques, I have so much more to add.

So grab a cuppa, sit back and share my recent Hanji journey with me .......

Monday, November 21, 2016

Hanji Filming part 5 ..... Young Dam Museum

My twin sister, a Buddhist nun ………
My twin
Young Dam when she was younger
One of the many highlights of my journey was a visit to the Youngdam Hanji Museum to meet the director Young Dam, a Buddhist Nun who's spent decades making Hanji paper and doing 2D and 3 D Hanji art. 

I was impressed that she’d done her research about me before I arrived and knew what work I’d  want to see on this visit but what surprised me the most was that she realized we were the same age and decided that because we both love Hanji and have similar interests we must be ‘Hanji twins’.

At first I was a little apprehensive to meet her as my image of a Buddhist nun was of a person who was quiet, genteel and almost ethereal, who obediently went about her daily rituals, never questioning, demanding nor being confronting.  I’m not saying any of those traits are undesirable; in fact I admire them and those that have the willpower to be devotionally serene and obedient but I was surprised when this jovial lady came out to greet us and starting ordering her female helpers around to get us drinks and snacks.  The ladies soon scurried around and ushered us into a large, somewhat bare looking room with comfortable IKEA chairs set up for us to sit on.  Shoes were taken off at the door in true Asian style and we positioned ourselves in the chairs and Young Dam sat herself down on the floor in front of us.  

Being a wonderful host
She was immediately engaging, telling funny stories and making us feel at home as well as being very interested in hearing from me about my Hanji and where I was on my journey. She wanted to know what inspired me to work with Hanji, especially from outside of Korea, and how I kept going with my passion on a daily basis.

When it was time to leave her home I was having trouble putting my shoes back on and Young Dam quietly bent down and put them on for me. I felt so humbled by this lovely lady.

We then moved to her Museum, a testament to all the work she’s been doing with Hanji.

Everything in there she's made herself. She began at an early age growing mulberry trees, stripping the bark, making the pulp and making her own papers.  The Museum had two large cabinets full of her paper  and I was totally awestruck at the amount she’d made and what she'd done with the papers over the last 40 years or so.  I felt very overwhelmed by her achievements, especially when compared to mine. 

She was so full of enthusiasm to show and tell me things that she got straight into it on entering the Museum which I was delighted with but, it created a lot of frustration for the filming crew as they tried to capture scenes which they weren’t quite ready for. We took lots of takes, as she was determined that this visit was all about sharing her passion with me in the short time that we had available and not necessarily one for making a documentary.

Papers were quickly whisked out of her neatly stacked piles and my lap was inundated with beautiful papers which enabled me to see the great range she had made from the finest see through sheets with a wonderful sheen on them (indicates that wholly organic methods were used in their production) to marbled papers that looked like leather right through to quite thick sheets used for the coverings of handmade books. I was particularly pleased to see the marbled papers as I’ve only every seen them once before and my source has now dried up so to know she has some was very exciting. 

Which one shall I choose?

It doesn’t take much for me to get excited when it comes to beautiful papers as I can then dream of what I can make out of them!!

3D hanji art by Young Dam
We moved on to her 3 D Hanji art and the details were amazing.  She’d used fine pieces of Jiseung (string made out of paper) to make designs on her pieces and most of them were in the earthy colours, which I personally prefer rather than bright colours. 

Her 2 D art was also great to see, as she’d experimented with different designs when making her papers then added pieces to them as well. I feel very inspired to try more of this type of artwork.

2D Hanji art by Young Dam
Over on the side was a full set of Hanji dolls that she’d made depicting a country scene with children and adults, some with ailments and others flushed with colour and over to the side was a woman mixing up some herbs for the sick.  I’ve seen quite a few of these before but Young Dam’s were beautifully made with fine features and each with a very realistic composure.
Hanji dolls

We bonded very quickly and I could have spent days chatting with her about her work as I felt a great connection with her passion for Hanji as well as her as a person.

Young Dam's Buddhist temple
 Next we headed up to her temple to see where she spends a lot of her time in devotions and in writing out Buddhist scripts onto Hanji books that she’s made.  Two of her friends were in the temple doing very intricate drawings with gold paint on Hanji. They drew lines without anything to follow, just from what inspires them, and when completed these were to be placed inside the temple as an offering to Buddha.

Writing Buddhist sayings in Hanji books
Fine drawings in gold paint
It was a beautifully serene place and inside and outside the building it had intricately carved and brightly painted architecture and inside there was a huge gold Buddha taking centre stage. There were two rows of low tables in front of the Buddha statue and this is where they worked, sometimes for hours at a time doing what they love, in devotion to their God. 

I’m sure time wasn’t an issue when entranced in their sacred place.

Beautiful details inside the temple
After the wander around we were invited to share a meal with Young Dam, so whilst the film crew kept filming in the museum and temple, we headed into a very basic kitchen and shared mountain herbs and vegetables with our host. Her wonderful helpers had prepared everything for us before we arrived and when we’d finish a particular vegetable, with the flick of her hand, Young Dam ushered for more to be served to complete our meal. Such generosity is common in Buddhist temples but this was particularly special.

To end our visit, and whilst the film crew ate, we were shown back into the room we’d started in and gestured to sit down.  Before I knew it my feet were up in the air and a footstool was underneath them, soothing music had been put on and Young dam slipped out of the room to entertain the other guests whilst eating their meal. I sat back, smiled to myself and chatted to Hayley, my interpreter, and mused over the whole experience.


It's a part of Korean culture to be hospitable and invite strangers into their homes and temples, it's a part of Korean culture for paper artists to make and enjoy Hanji, it's a part of Korean culture to want to share their traditions, and this Australian was left feeling thankful, exhilarated and humbled to have had this amazing experience.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Hanji filming Part 4 ...... Korean boudoir crafts

Korean traditional boudoir crafts …… 

As the week was progressing I was brimming with new ideas to incorporate into my Hanji craft and visiting this studio was  no exception. Initially I wondered why they were taking me to see a lady who does sewing but I soon came to realize that we can take ideas from many different directions and adapt them to what we do. I was to visit  the studio of Jeong Yun Suk, a lady who does Korean boudoir crafts gyubang.
Jeong Yun Suk sitting at a hanji table
Jeong Yun Suk's studio
Jeong Yun Suk was a beautifully gentle soul who spoke softly but with an infectious hint of enthusiasm in her voice.  Her studio was full of many beautiful pieces that she was keen to show me and each piece was obviously made with  lots of love and attention to fine details.  Her interests include bojagi (quilting) and chasu (embroidery) and she also works with Jeong Hyun Ja using naturally dyed fabrics and making them into clothes and accessories.

Boudoir is derived from the French verb bouder, and was a woman’s private sitting room where she could chat to other women in the household and while away time by doing hand sewing, tapestry, quilting, painting or playing cards. They were common in the upper class households in Europe and  the homes of the nobility in the Far East including China, Japan and Korea.

When staying in the traditional house one of the rooms I visited would have been just for this purpose.

A Korean boudoir
 A square piece of Bojagi was originally created for everyday use, made out of the scraps of fabric left over from sewing and its purpose was as a wrapping cloth because there was a belief that wrapping something up to give as a gift was necessary to bring good fortune.  The use of bojagi flourished during the Joseon dynasty (1392-1910) but the earliest bojagi dates back to the 12th Century. The craft has grown into making all different household pieces now including curtains for windows, quilts, cushions and bags.

Jeong Yun Suk  showed me, and told the lovely story of a piece of bojagi that her grandmother had made over 100 years ago. The fabric was made of a course fibre, probably ramie, in different shades of cream and it was originally an under garment which her mother had delicately undone and made into a hanging. It was obvious that the hand stitching talent has been handed down from generation to generation.  

100 year old bojagi
It was lovely to hear  some stories  about her family's sewing  history and for me to share  the talents of my mother  in  many similar  crafts.

Different countries similar experiences.

Unfortunately I didn’t get to know my grandmother on my mother’s side, as she passed away when I was only 15 months old, but I’ve heard that she was also very handy with a needle. I haven’t thought much about my grandmother in the past as I wasn't fortunate enough to have a personal connection with her but I’d now love to know more about what hand sewing she did and if any of it has survived. I have two elderly aunts who are 95 and 97 , they should be able to give me a  insight into their mother's creative talents.

Beautiful sheer curtains
Embroidered cover for food
I was interested to see compare Korean and western patchwork styles.  Western patchwork is normally symmetrical and using solid fabrics whereas Korean patchwork can either be symmetrical or non-symmetrical, depending on the scraps of fabric available, and often in a sheer fabric.

Irregular and sheer Korean bojagi
A more modern silk patchwork piece
Learning more about bojagi will no doubt assist me in my Hanji as the technique of patching fabrics can be used just as well with patching pieces of Hanji. I always have scraps of paper left over !!

This was my first attempt at making a bojagi  style lamp out of hanji. I had seen some in Korea on previous visits and was interested to try it out myself.

There's so much more I'd like to explore in this area and my trip around Korea has give me a wealth of ideas to work with in the future.

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.