As soon as I returned from Jeju, I knew I had limited time to find someone to lacquer my hanji teapot. My teacher had gone through all of these steps years ago at my hanji teacher's mill when I studied with him, but everything has changed and this time, it was not included with my study. I had a lead from a Fulbright colleague, Carla Stansifer, who had studied Korean lacquer work on her fellowship and created a documentary. I wanted someone local, and this particular studio is right in Hongdae, the neighborhood of the famous art school, Hongik University, and of Korean hipness in food, shopping, etc.
I had also asked someone who works for the national museum but the price was a little high, so when I called this studio and was told to bring my piece, I decided I'd like to visit. Besides, Carla said it was a family studio.
This is where their students set their pieces. "Dry" is misleading because that's not how lacquer works. This is the basement area. The first floor is the gallery, the second and third where the family works.
A lot of the colored pieces require a couple of years for the proper color to emerge, so all of this has to be taken into account when taking orders or preparing work for the future.
I wanted to shoot the dirty places where the hands open and close the room (this is one of the upstairs ones) but the mother had closed it too quickly. I'm still using my very old camera, as you can tell. I was in a rush, too, because I had an other appointment right after this. Also, I had had wine at lunch (delicious!) so I was still feeling that.
The daughter at work. I was shocked that this entire family does lacquer work: the father, Jong-kwan Choi, the mother, the daughter, and the son. AND they have an apprentice (translated as disciple, but I am not as fond of that term) who looks like she's in her 20s!
I wondered aloud how they found such young people to do the work but was in too much of a rush to find out. Plus, everyone was hard at work, doing precision work that should not be interrupted.
Nested bowls! Not paper, but also lovely and I think part of Buddhist culture.
Even the walls of the gallery were fabric coated in lacquer, and the color changes over time. You walk in and smell it and know for sure this are a lacquer place.