Friday, January 30, 2009

Final weekend

I dried paper all morning while documenting and my teacher turned on the radio, which initially was distracting, but you will all LOVE it once I get back to Seoul and upload the video. Though documenting really slows me down, it's okay since I glued up the big books in the morning and they are drying under weights. After looking at the footage I shot yesterday, I had to give myself a break, b/c it takes 100% of me to do the living and learning, and it would take a whole other person to do the documentation. Maybe sometime later before I leave Korea I'll hire someone and pay the mill to let me do it all over but w/an eye not embedded into my own head so that it can be done and good and over with. OR, this is going to be as good as it gets.

Turns out that I have one day more than I thought at the motel, so I'll leave on Wed and my teacher will drive us up to Seoul to meet his jiseung (spinning/weaving paper craft) teacher (the story on this is a "it's a small world" + utter devastating tragedy one, and it came together while talking to my teacher in front of a fire). Thank goodness, b/c I will have a lot of paper to bring back. I finished up all of the books I started but I'll do one more binding for them (I'm leaving samples in thanks) since I'll have plenty of time next week. Then again, my teacher always has extra up his sleeve. Like spinning thread from mulberry bark by hand. I thought I'd have an easy afternoon today but I was back at the big sink in an apron, knife in hand, scraping bark to prep for thread.

Yesterday, one of the women said that she'll be sad when I go and will wonder what I'm doing w/my life, if I've gotten married, and to whom. She said, marry a Korean man! I told her that Korean men aren't interested in Korean American women (I'm also not interested in settling down in Korea). She asked if I was going to marry a tall man w/yellow hair and then another woman said, "but she's tall! So she should marry someone tall, not someone short." I love being the tallest woman here. I'm 5'5" and have never existed in a place where people considered me tall, and I don't think it will happen again. For that alone, this apprenticeship has rocked hard.

What I also love here (goes for most of Korea) is that my name is of no consequence. No one knows it except for my teacher and no one calls me anything but the term you use for young unmarried women. I've gotten used to it since it's the same word that my cousins' wives are supposed to use when talking to or referring to me. Today, my teacher's mother asked what my name was and then said, "I never knew until now! But I'm just going to keep calling you 아가씨" Which is fine with me. I'm happy to be the girl from America who came to learn about hanji in the coldest month of the year.

I was thinking while walking yesterday that I did it! I had spent SO MUCH time and energy psyching myself out, like I wouldn't survive, or that it would be a bad experience. I really had no idea what to expect besides the cold. But last night, talking to the people at the motel, I realized that this has all been just what I needed, when I needed it. I dread returning to Seoul, but I'm also ready to be done here. It's amazing to find that I had so much to learn, and so much to give and share. I went through some old bookbinding notes from grad school b/c I was stuck on the "halve the number of signatures and add one" rule, or maybe it was how to make straps, but I found something that Dolph Smith said in a visiting artist lecture: "If we knew what we were going to find, it wouldn't be called research."

Last night in the beautiful Paper Across Continents book, I read Naoaki Sakamoto's reason for opening a paper shop, besides how it gave him peace: "I had met with paper that I felt was paper." I am pretty convinced that I had the papermaking equivalent of mind-blowing sex last week, and can definitely relate to meeting paper that is really paper.

So, everything I thought that my research year would look like happened this month. Maybe this will be it, and everything before and after just getting there. It was so worth it. Even if just for the fresh air to clear my head.

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