Friday, October 17, 2014

My Visit to the Seoul Hanji Culture Festival

Last Saturday (October 11) was another great "Hanji Day" for me. I took the earliest bus from Iksan to Seoul on Saturday morning; I arrived in the Capital City a little before 8am, had a cup of coffee and head over to Dongdaemun Market.

As you know, I cannot go to Seoul without paying a visit to the hundreds of vendors at the Accessory Mall! This time was no exception; I stocked up on wood pieces, plastic disks, barrettes, pins, super glue and other crafty goodies. Fun!

A visit to the Yui Art Gallery

Yui Art Gallery specializes
in fiber art and paper art.
After a nice lunch in the traditional neighborhood of Insadong, I walked over to Bukchon to visit Yui Gallery, a lovely art gallery owned by a couple of Japanese artists and beauty-lovers, whom I met at the Wonju Festival last month.

They visited my booth and we had a nice chat, and they even bought several of my Hanji patchwork coasters.

My HanjiNaty patchwork coasters are for sale
in the Yui Art Gallery, in Seoul.
A few hours later I was thrilled to receive an email from them, asking if I would accept to have them sell my handmade coasters in the gallery up in Seoul. Oh my! I was so excited, and very touched, and I immediately said yes.

They kindly invited me to visit their space, and I made sure to go there on Saturday, before heading to the Hanji Festival. I was delighted to see my Hanji coasters for sale, among other gorgeous handmade items.

The Yui Gallery specializes in fiber art and paper crafts; you can find a nice selection of handcrafted items including jewelry, stationery, framed pieces of art, decorative objects, boxes, etc.

I have never had my work displayed in a shop before, and for it to be in such a lovely and tasteful space, in the heart of Seoul, I couldn't be happier!

Now we just have to wait and see if they find a good home!

The First Edition of the Seoul Hanji Culture Festival 

The Seoul Hanji Culture Festival was held
in front of Seoul City Hall.
As I mentioned in a previous blog article, I was hoping to participate in the first edition of the Seoul Hanji Culture Festival; unfortunately, my work schedule didn't allow me to part take in the event this year.

Even if I couldn't participate as a vendor in the Festival, I absolutely wanted to visit Seoul for the occasion and see what that brand-new event had to offer to visitors and paper enthusiasts.

The Festival was held in front of City Hall, in the heart of Seoul. When I surfaced from the subway station, I wasn't sure I was actually at the right spot; there was no banner for the Hanji Festival, no balloons, and no greeting volunteers. There was a banner announcing a used book fair that was held in the same area, which made me wonder even more.

The Festival offered different hands-on activities,
including paper flower making.
Then I walked around and headed toward the line of white and green booths, and by looking on the overhead banner I realized I was indeed in the right place.

About three dozens tents were installed around the large green area; because of this odd configuration, the atmosphere of the Festival wasn't very festive. Visitors had to walk along the different rows of tents, around the large grassy square; it didn't feel very engaging, and the vendors were very far from each other, on both sides of the square.

A first section was dedicated to hands-on activities: visitors could make Hanji crafts such as dolls, lamps, brooches, and pen holders.

The second section was reserved to the paper vendors: people could purchase high-quality paper from Wonju, Jeonju, Andong and Yeju.

The third section was for the Hanji products vendors, artisans and artists.

High-quality Hanji paper, from Wonju, Andong, Yeju
and Jeonju, was for sale at the Festival.
Visitors had a chance to make Hanji crafts, including these lovely
Korean dolls, made of Hanji paper.

There was also a closed tent, dedicated to "the future of Hanji". Some vendors were installed in that space to introduce their products to the public : a special printer that can print on Hanji paper, traditional beds made of Hanji, and wallpaper and home decor items featuring Hanji paper.

There was also an interesting section called "Hanji Material Library", where people could see different types of paper up close, along with a few Hanji creations.

Meeting "my" Hanji people

I was happy to see some of the Hanji artists and artisans I met in Wonju a few weeks ago: the talented paper makers from Dong Yang Hanji in Yeju, the team from HanArt, and a few other vendors I remember seeing and talking with at the previous festival.

It made me feel great to be welcomed by my fellow "Hanji people", who seemed genuinely pleased to see me, and who remembered me and my work. I fell proud to be a member of this community, even if I am still quite new at it.

Unfortunately, I noticed quickly that their enthusiasm wasn't great, and that they didn't seem to have such a great time here in Seoul. There were only a few dozens of visitors on the site (despite the gorgeous weather on this Saturday afternoon), and the large site looked quite empty.

The Festival site was opened until 5pm on Saturday; some vendors appeared defeated, and packed up their booths as early as 3 o'clock. To see deserted booths, some of them filled with trash, was a little sad.

Nice discoveries

Lamps made by Kang Minji.
There weren't that many booths displaying Hanji items (we were far from the 300 vendors promised in the Festival brochure), but there were still very interesting items that are worth mentioning.

I bought several items for different vendors, and I really enjoyed the conversations I had with them.

Here are some of the most interesting discoveries I have made at the Festival :

  • The Hanji club of Yewon Arts University, called "Dr Hanji", had a booth at the Festival. They had very interesting items on display, including clocks made of Hanji paper.

  • Another vendor, called Kang Minji ( had fantastic lamps for sale. Awesome work!
Visit to see more of
Bok si-yoon's amazing work.

  • An artist and designer named Kim HyunJoo was selling flexible Hanji trays, in the shape of a tree leaf. Beautiful! 

  • EcoCNT was selling Tyvek(R) wallets, with gorgeous designs, including hand drawn city landscapes;

  • SYSCOM was offering wonderful Hanji stationery products, including memo note blocks, notebooks, letter sets and guest books;

  • The Hanji artist Bok si-yoon makes exquisitely detailed Hanji dolls, and the handmade costumes are precise replicas of the traditional outfits of the different eras of Korean history. Outstanding!

See You Next Year!

I was told that the venue might change for next year's Festival. The location was great, but the site itself seems inflexible (as far as hours of operation or use of the space are concerned), which created frustration and disappointment. Hopefully the Festival team will be able to find a location that is more suitable to this type of events (where all the vendors could be closer to each other, in order to generate a positive and festive atmosphere), and that will be available for the whole weekend (this year the Festival was held until Saturday only).

I am looking forward to participating in the Seoul Hanji Festival next year! I think it will be a great occasion to present my work to a large audience. Let's hope that the problems experienced this year serve as lessons, in order to plan and have a more successful event next year.

Gorgeous traditional Hanji dolls.

The Hanji clocks designed by the students
of Yewon Arts University.

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