Friday, December 05, 2014

Reunion by brush

Three years worth of work in one exhibit.
 My favorite piece in the show.
After I rushed away from the lacquer family studio, I met Jeong-In Cha at our calligraphy teacher's first solo exhibit in Insadong in Seoul. I met her in 2008 and she was incredibly helpful and generous from my very first week in the country, a wonderful book artist, designer, artist, mother, and friend. It turned out that this one-week show was up just in time for me to catch it after my trip to Jeju.
The work was wonderful, and the show almost completely sold out! I would have bought something but there's only so much I can take home at once. I settled for buying his new book, the first book that I know of that quotes my own (but in translation).
Mr. Shim signs Jeong-In's book. For mine, he wrote out what he had made in my favorite piece. I felt sad because I couldn't read anything, as it was in classical Chinese and older texts.
But it was so wonderful to be able to see everyone again, including one of the other students from class and her husband. She had given me a book she had written about Korean design in 2009 and it was hard to see her in worse health than last time, now in a wheelchair. But again, this trip has been about seeing everyone age, seeing struggle. We all had dinner together afterwards, and then Mr. Shim and Jeong-In and I went to a lovely traditional tea house afterwards in the neighborhood for sweet and bitter teas, all wonderful. She told me about how Korean books were bound with five sewing stations (I knew this) but that they changed to four during the Japanese occupation (I didn't know this but it is no surprise at all). We talked about an old book that first explained the new language of Korea and where copies might be, and places where I could buy old Korean books—for a friend, for my alma mater, for myself.
[Mr. Shim in a suit, his wife watching me as I talk about how embarrassed I am about not being able to sign in Korean. Mr. Shim said, "I taught you! I taught you!" as I told them I didn't even remember how to hold the brush.] At dinner, we even got the same tiny white tablets that I didn't understand during my last visit (scroll to the middle to see them dry, and then wet: they are wet tissues to cleanse your hands before eating!). It truly felt like no time had passed at all. But of course it had. I had a book published, Mr. Shim had a book published, everyone is five years older, and no one is taking calligraphy lessons anymore. But the heart of the people: no change. It's nice to know for sure that some of the people I met then are very good eggs, and will always be so.


  1. Anonymous12:04 PM

    I can't believe it - from teddy bears and kakishibu dolls to art shows and lacquer ware! I feel like I should pay something for the trip.

  2. i love this, so beautiful the way you write about time passing but the heart of things, people, being the same. being among people who get it is very good for your soul.


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