Friday, October 24, 2014


There are so many mistakes in my teapot! So many. I won't point them out because they are too depressing, and I'm sure my teacher will not be thrilled when he gets home from teaching in Wonju today to see what a mess I've made today. I need to stop here so I can add the top handle, and then of course the side handle, and the spout ... well, we won't talk about the spout.
Yesterday I took another walk because it seemed too beautiful not to. Bum came along and took excellent care of me, staying close and within ear- and eyeshot, not running far off like the previous day. It made me wish I had such a dog for a companion.
Yesterday was also the first of two consecutive (and probably only) days I would get home alone. My teacher and his wife went far away with the boat to forage for acorns. Today, they went to Wonju for his regular teaching schedule.
We only found out a few days ago that he teaches every second and fourth Friday of the month. This means that I have three, not two, weeks before I return to Seoul and the urban life I am so accustomed to. I am a little scared that I might not make it that long without going mad, but have to remind myself to take it one day at a time.
A small grave.
I saw different things in the bright sun, though also the same things, just in a different light. The smell of the pine needles was wonderful.
I should go for another walk right now! But I could tell from stepping outside earlier today that it's too buggy today for that. So I settled for my now nearly daily afternoon nap and will get back to weaving shortly.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014


Today, I took my first real walk here since arriving a week ago. I went with my teacher's wife, and he joined us for a bit here and there but came later and left earlier on the motorbike. The scenery was stunning; I'm so glad I saw the leaves before they all fall down. I had been inside for two days because of rain but hope to make this walk more often, despite fears of wild boars and poisonous snakes (they've been spotted here and today the neighbor came to look at a snake that my teacher's wife saw on a walk. After she told him upon rushing back home, he saw it later and somehow caught it, tied it up, put it in his backpack, came home, and put it into a container outside with a heavy lid on top. That was in August. Today, they lifted the lid and it was STILL alive. The neighbor said it's one of the most dangerous snakes around, and took it away to the man who deals with snakes).
I had started my teapot yesterday but took a break after dinner last night until this afternoon because my hands were killing me. In the interim, I managed to broker a sale of a bunch of Korean woven objects and deal with more Japan trip logistics. Who knew I'd come up here to become an artifact salesperson and travel agent?
By the end of the night, I had gotten even further than this; the spout's inner opening is done. It will be a double-walled vessel. Not as beautifully shaped as my teacher's but good enough in my book for a first learning attempt. The paper is so much easier on my hands than the last batch, and I felt much better after finally moving the rest of my body this morning. The exercise deleted the afternoon nap I had been taking for the last four days!

Monday, October 20, 2014


Done with the first piece!!! Took longer than we expected (five days), but we've learned a lot about the aged paper stock that I've had and used, and other technical issues. After much difficulty trying to shoot it inside on the floor, I realized the best place was in the place it was made. Birds always, always perch on top of that wooden duck that my teacher made! I put out peanuts for the wee ones on the balcony rail.
You can see today was different from yesterday still.
This is a poor image, but it's a real gourd from my teacher's land next to mine. I insisted on making it crooked, which he didn't understand until I managed to get an image of a Japanese hyotan from Susan's book. Then he got very excited.
To mark the first rainy day since I've arrived, we had the traditional rainy day food: noodles,
pancakes, and makgeolli. My teacher's wife joked that the latter was to ensure that we were fully unable to make any more work today. The gourd was complete in the morning, and we spent the rest of the morning admiring it; my teacher insisted that we rest today because one piece was done.
This is what lies in wait tomorrow: the teapot. I've been dreading it (a double-walled vessel with LOTS of extras) but it will make so many things possible. I'll likely do the small white model, but with a hanji handle rather than bamboo. We'll see, as things always change while working. In the meantime, I took a happy nap, have started to re-read excellent articles for my Japanese research trip, and had delicious kozo twig tea!

p.s. - for anyone who wants to help with a mulberry harvest in Canada, look here!

Sunday, October 19, 2014


My teacher's wife said that every morning is different here. So true! Not a trace of water or mountains today, though it eventually cleared.
I'm already feeling cabin fever, so I stepped outside and walked across the lawn and exchanged looks with the dog, and then off we went.
A boat dock waaaaay below.
I finally begged to turn around because I wasn't sure how far we would go. I've never had such a hard time keeping up with a dog, but obviously we're not dealing with leashes and also I am quite out of shape.
I finally learned the technique for tipping this puppy over! Slowly but surely ... as I am at the very far reaches of my abilities and patience (and my hands are aching, especially the left).
Look familiar?
Preparing the cook.
 This one is very me.
We're almost at the end of this piece (this is past halfway), but I should have stopped earlier. I got too anxious to finish late at night and now the top is not shaping properly. I am very sad about this, but knew enough to just finally stop and retire to my room. Tomorrow, I may rip some out to fix it. I was obeying my teacher's instructions, but he never remembers that I don't twine with as much tension as he does, so the instructions need to be altered for my lesser skills. But I have napped two days in a row, and that was great.

Saturday, October 18, 2014


Progress is slower than we hoped; my teacher said this had to be done by today (I've been here for just about four days but there were some interruptions). I begged him to help me make a crooked gourd. Crooked is NOT his thing but he is humoring me for now. I'm almost at the neck; it came up not quite the way we wanted, but it's still very good practice for gradual slopes—my usual shapes rise and fall too suddenly.
One morning. Every morning the mountains are shrouded in this fog, which also dances on the water. But these days I don't get up quite early enough to shoot it before the sun takes over.
My teacher planted paper mulberry plants, from Wonju, along the road leaving the house! It's like seeing friendly faces.

This morning. Late waking again, but I just am not cut out for 5am or 6am rising.
Lots of drama in the household today, lots of internal drama for me as I face the reality of taking care of a couple on a research trip to another country. But I still did a bunch of weaving and watched this hilarious show where Korean singers sing songs made popular by American stars. Tonight, as you can see, Michael Bolton visited to see the young Koreans go through some of his most famous tunes. I found this highly entertaining; helped distract from the sore hands and raw fingers. Tonight I stepped outside for the first time after dark to see the sky full of stars. The dog is lovely and came up to sit next to me as I talked on the phone, until it was time to run over to hunt some small animal in the darkness. Glad to know someone is out there!

Thursday, October 16, 2014


Each day is so packed that I feel like 24 hours is more like an entire week. Yesterday, I made a very long trip to my teacher's house (left at 9am, arrived past 5pm) that involved car, subway, and bus just to meet my teacher and his wife. The timing was just right so that I made it right when they sat down to eat, so I was able to have a proper lunch. Then there were market errands, retying gasoline cans in the back of the truck so they stopped leaking, windy mountain driving, unlocking the gate to the private road so that we wouldn't need to deal with the boat, and a very bumpy ride. My teacher insisted his wife and I climb up to this tree for pictures.
These neighbors (miles and miles away from home) insisted that we come down for coffee while they talked about soybean grinding machines. By this part of the drive, my teacher had already invited himself and his wife on my trip to Japan. So I'll stay here for a month until two days before my trip. In the meantime, I have to book their flights and lodging, and figure out how to do my research at the same time. Should be an interesting juggling act.
We stopped by the water for more fall color pictures. By the time we got home, I was completely worn out and my back had been hurting from the morning because my bags were entirely too heavy for me to carry on my own (and yet I had no choice). But then there was dinner and catching up with my teacher at night, AND starting instruction already! I don't know how I made it but I was so happy to get to bed. A real mattress! Such a treat after sleeping on a bed frame.
I noticed flashing lights when I was in bed and wondered what they were, considering there were no cars or planes or city lights to do that. I heard the dog barking, too. It turns out that 1. there were shooting stars and 2. the dog fought off animal intruders but got scratched eyes in the process (apparently there are wild boars and very mean badgers). There was thunder and lightning and rain, but when I woke up, the sun was rising behind the mountains and fog lifting from them as well.
I had brought pine nuts as gifts for my teacher, and it turns out they had the real thing, dried and ready to shell. Tonight, they were straining honey from the combs from their bees. Forgot to get the eggs from the chicken this morning. I had seaweed soup for breakfast (traditional for birthdays) and noodles at dinner (traditional also for birthdays, to have a long life—like the long noodles!).
I was alone in the morning because there was a shipping mixup and my teacher and his wife had to go BACK to town to get the right package. Once they returned, his old elementary school friend surprised them with a visit. Out came the grill for the meat, and it was the perfect amount of people to share the birthday cake!
Very, very well behaved dog but camera shy.
On the other side of the house.
Green tea and delicious!
The friend posing with a pine cone (full of pine nuts) and his wife trying to capture the smell of it. We had delicious Korean rice liquor as well and I got scolded for not drinking it with the proper manners. Later tonight, I got scolded some more about my poor cording and weaving skills. I already have a blister on my finger (evidence that I was gripping improperly) and was told to take a break. Apparently, my teacher's heart and teeth have suffered from too much jiseung all at once!
The wind blew out the candles before I could. Funny, because it's the first year that I ever planned my wish a day early (I decided while on the back road to home). I hope it still comes true!