Monday, December 15, 2014

Wet cold happy

I walked up the hill to take a peek at the Gana Art Center, which I had visited the last time I was here. I've done this in several places, just checking to see what remains, and how my memory compares to the present. This is a beautiful and quiet but very steep neighborhood with some of my fondest and also difficult memories. I met Jin Youngsun, professor emeritus of Korea University, who taught Korean art history and fresco making at Duke on a Fulbright grant just this past year. We had a delicious lunch, with local food, and then went to her amazing studio. I thought it would be rude to photograph, but someday in the future I'll return. She said to come back and make art! She is set up not only for fresco work but for encaustic.

She also had an amazing catalog from a Seoul show in 1990 that exhibited work by famous western artists (basically, all from the canon) who were mailed big sheets of hanji from my hanji teacher's mill to make new art. Why didn't I know about this before?! I had met people last time who said things like, "We need to mail hanji to famous people so they can help spread the use and knowledge of hanji." Hello, it already happened! But I guess it wasn't enough.
The other gift she had for me was introducing me to one of the disciples of Mr. Lee, whom I had met at his Nakwon shop last week. Mr. Do Young-sik trained for 18 years under Mr. Lee and now has his own business in Insadong. He also happened to be the BEST person to ask to help me saw off the excess wood on my latest basket. Perfect tools, perfect precision. Thank goodness I brought my woven pieces: when Prof. Jin first explained that I wanted to see the step-by-step process before I leave next week, Mr. Do he said I couldn't learn that quickly.
[Paste mixed with just the right amount of water.] After I pulled out my jiseung work, he changed his mind!
Measuring and slicing the backing paper for the first paste up.
The hanji (at front) has been dampened and brushed flat onto the table surface. He's pasting up the backing sheet with a wide brush.
He insisted at many steps that I come closer and watch (sans camera) so we've missed the part where he puts the pasted paper on a rod and lifts it and folds it to make it easier to transport. Now he's placing it onto the damp hanji.
And it has to be just so! After that, it's brushed flat and flush, then flipped over to add paste to the edges so that it sticks to the drying board.
Again, there was a lot of exhortation about coming close as if I've never carried a damp sheet over to a drying board with a brush in hand. Lots of details about where the brush goes and which fingers go where and what never to do. He moves very, very quickly.
So I missed shooting my favorite part where he opens an edge slightly and blows air in to prevent the hanji from sticking to the board. The only parts glued to the board are the edges. I have to go back another day to see more. But I do love watching experts work.
I didn't have pictures of today's pretty meal and snowy view, but here's the freshly chopped octopus squirming on the plate from a family friend dinner last week (I don't eat this kind of thing, gives me the squirmies).
This was one of the bigger platters. So many other things on the table that night, plus lots of stories and blowing off steam. Tonight after dinner eating fruit with my aunt, I realized that I'm leaving next week and that this is my last full week. How did that happen?! Hoping for more of the same as today: happy encounters, skilled work, delicious food, warm family time, and hopefully an early bedtime.

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