Tuesday, March 31, 2009

"You're wearing a size too small"

I tried to see two exhibits today but was only able to find one of the galleries. I got close to the other one, but it was so cold and I was so sleepy that I gave up quickly and rushed home instead, desperate for a nap. This is a piece by Jihyun Lee called "009FE2401 Dreaming Books" and the medium is "Books - Pluck off."

This was on the same floor as the one before, at Gallery Hyundai. The exhibit title is translated badly, to "Great Hands," but you get the idea. The pieces were quite typical of Korean contemporary art, in that they are composed of a nearly unfathomable sum of tiny parts, and wildly labor intensive. This one is a detail of what looks like traditional landscape paintings, but are actually pen and rubber stamps on mulberry paper, by Seungho Yoo. Of course I loved them b/c they're all language - Korean characters that create images.

I was supposed to meet with a professor leading a government-funded hanji project today, but he wasn't able to make the date, so I had lunch and tea with B.K. Kim from FIDES, and got a lot of good information. It was sad info, but important to know, about the current state of hanji and its makers.

After my nap, I somehow managed to get myself out the door to meet Stephanie for dinner. We had Korean comfort food (rice porridge) and then gorged ourselves on a waffle/ice cream dessert. She and I are the only Fulbrighters crazy enough to have signed up for the Korean language proficiency test in a few weeks, but I guess it would make sense; we were talking about the hotness level of people based on their grasp of grammar. She also told me that in Korea, there's no spring fever, but more of a spring malaise. This helps me understand my current slump. But at least small things still excite me: I got new mechanical pencils today so that I can use my new 0.7mm colored lead.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Boys and girls

I took a bus straight to my Korean class this morning (at a different location than usual) but of course got off and started walking in the wrong direction, figured it out a while later and called my teacher to let her know I was running late, grabbed a citron tea at GS25, almost got hit by a car rolling backwards on a hill, dropped my beverage and scraped my hand leaning down to get it on a cement wall (the last few incidents complete w/commentary by Koreans walking behind me), and then RAN to class w/a bleeding hand. But at least I'm making headway on my practice tests, and I got to see a girl I have a huge crush on. Michael had class at the same time, so he waited until I got out and we pushed up our meeting time a few hours so that he could hit the gym and then we could meet for lunch.

It was YUM and then we hit a cafe to meet his colleagues for Korea Uncovered, which was a huge mess of books, DVDs, his ubiquitous iBook, sketches, my Korean homework, drawings, cookies, iced mochas, library research, and ambitious talk of huge waterproof paper structures. I was distracted most of the afternoon and evening (we eventually gravitated to the same restaurant for dinner, but it was completely different from lunchtime) b/c I realized that I am one day away from Hell Month and not as prepared as I had hoped. Also, I am quite consumed by an overseas romance that blazed up unexpectedly, which has alternately focused and distracted me. All in all, I am still thankful for all the goodies that have been strewn along my path lately, and just have to kick myself back into better time management. I know it's possible, but then I read depress-o things like the demise of small farms in Japan, similar to what is going on here.

My hope is that since my week is booked solid, it will force me to become more efficient. And by definition, since I am an artist, I must still have some hope left.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Applications are boring

I still have yet to figure out the English translation for this dye (which makes a luscious red), but I was excited to use it again today, this time in conjunction with gardenia seeds (which make a deep yellow). My teacher had me tie dye, which I kind of hate, so my orange scarf is all weird looking.

But I dyed four big sheets of hanji, which was satisfying. Now I have a respectable pile, respectable enough for me not to freak out for the rest of the week as I turn my focus to slide shows, video editing, writing, weaving lids, appointments, and Korean language study. To avoid all of that, I'm working on a few applications, but they are so tedious that I find myself drowsy and leaning towards my bed like a green plant to the sun.

Saturday, March 28, 2009


Finally. Though I did a pretty shoddy job dyeing my paper samples today, at least the silk came out nicely. This is a silk scarf and cotton pouches in vinegar water.

The green one is indigo, then dyed with cassia seeds. I went to the bookstore afterwards and was finally able to use the computers on my own to search for an art history text but it wasn't there. Then I looked at Chinese character books and almost got a couple but then realized that if I can't even keep up on my workload now, no need to add things that I will just not do.

One more dyeing lesson tomorrow, and then I'm going to take the week off from colors since come Monday, I will have less than two weeks before I fly to the big island to present and do more research.

Friday, March 27, 2009

NASA hanji

Back to the dyebaths today: cassia seeds. I started to dye big sheets of paper, too. I figured, why just do tiny test sheets when I can do huge test sheets? Tonight before the Fulbright Forum, I scoped out the conference room quickly and it looks like rigging is going to be a challenge. Good thing I have a whole day before to install.

I talked briefly with two other researchers about how I'm presenting twice in the same month and both said it would likely be fine to just do the same thing, instead of trying to make two completely different talks. This is kind of a relief, because the outline I did for the shorter talk is actually really solid, whereas the outline for the longer talk is kind of all over the place. So...back to the drawing board. Literally, since I am in the midst of drawing diagrams of papermaking equipment. I'm missing some basic measurements while having very obscure ones in great detail. I always miss the simple things.

I got to talk to Ken tonight at the reception, who has been incredibly helpful ever since before I left the US. His wife and sister have also been indispensable in my research, but I see them so rarely, so it was nice to see him. We will be leaving Korea around the same time, only he has been here about 30x longer than me. I was able to catch tea and a few donuts with Michael and meet his colleague Chorok tonight, which is always a treat. The best part of the day was picking up the book that Frank left in my mailbox. Not only was there info on hanji being used in NASA-funded research for protective clothing and hopefully later for robots for space probes, but there was some info on hanji in speaker systems, which I had been trying to track down!! As much as I try to steer clear of recording engineering, it looks like I have to get acquainted with the whole tweeter, mid-range driver, woofer, and subwoofer talk. Yikes.

Thursday, March 26, 2009


the final products would look like these. The black one is lacquered, the others coated in sticky rice paste. My teacher wants me to lacquer mine before I leave this summer, but it might be hard to get enough coats done before then b/c of the weather - lacquer dries in hot and humid environments. Plus, I don't want to be the one doing it b/c I suspect I will react badly to it. I've never gotten poison ivy but I'm not interested in finding out if I WOULD (lacquer comes from a similar species).

I took today at home, hoping to get a lot of writing done for my presentations. Instead, I ended up writing a lot in a wildly veering-off-track manner and turned into something completely inappropriate for either lecture. So. I started drawing diagrams and also plugged in vocab and grammar into flashcard software. THEN the internet went out at home so now I'm having ginger tea in a nearby cafe, not wanting to do any work. And staring at the tart menu...dangerous.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009


After another 7-hour lesson (or was it longer? I can't keep track of how long they go anymore), we are FINALLY finished w/the pot part of the chamber pot. Next week I start the lid, which is even harder, since I can't do any on my own; I have to be at my teacher's side for the whole thing, which means extra lessons. It's far from perfect, but I'm glad I took the 14 hours yesterday to get it to the point where we could finish it tonight. It will be done and covered in sticky rice paste for my lecture in Seoul at the end of April. Wohoo!

I should prep BOTH my presentations tomorrow, now that April is breathing down my neck. I'm going to indulge myself in another day all to myself tomorrow (unless some classic Korean last-minute appt comes up). I think I will also treat myself tonight to a bedtime that falls before 10pm...wish me luck!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009


I listened to this yesterday as I was weaving and felt like I was cheating on my violin back home - the very last, thickest callous on my index finger has just about fallen off (this has taken years) and I feel very vulnerable now that the tip of my index finger isn't protected. In the meantime, I'm developing other callouses on other parts of my hand b/c of weaving. It's amazing how the body adapts, but sad, too, that something that was such a huge part of my life isn't part of it anymore. Eric has been practicing two hours a day on new instruments and it makes me jealous.

But! I can't have it all. I'm happy with what I have now, tender finger and all.

Nearly blind

But I am almost done with the sides of the pot!! Just about six rounds away from the bottom. My excuse for not getting all the way down is that I'm not sure if I should reduce at every 4th cord or every 8th cord. The real reason is that my fingers and hands are killing me (poor metacarpals) and I can't see anymore b/c I have been weaving this sucker today from 9am to 11pm.

I had a dyeing lesson scheduled today, but my mom scolded me this a.m. for not having my priorities straight. I'm glad she did. It's true: I was gunning for instant gratification (colors), and shirking my homework. She said that if I keep not doing my jiseung homework, I'll keep not doing it. A very simple but true fact. So I cancelled my lesson, did not leave home, and sat on my ass and went round and round. We'll see what my teacher thinks tomorrow.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Falling short of world domination

[Areca from yesterday's dyeing.] Last week in Korean class, I learned that the word for the skill of handling water (in reference to making paper) is the same as the word for oyster diving. My tutor wanted to make sure that I didn't end up in a situation where I talked about how good I am at oyster diving. Though being able to do that would rank pretty high on the list of amazing skills to have as a woman, I'm okay with only being able to make paper. In the end, they both help feed you, one more directly than the other. Today we did more practice tests and my tutor gave me copies of her new book. I'm quoted in the backs of two of them.

I was recently alerted to my lifelong lack of a trench coat, so I called Chunhwa for another shopping spree. She takes no prisoners, and I came home with a champagne-colored coat and all sorts of other things. This means that I again whiled away precious time that I could have spent studying Korean or weaving my chamber pot or preparing my Fulbright presentations or or or or. But a girl can only handle so much hanging out in a pressure cooker; girlfriend time is vital. ALSO, thru correspondence with Nikki, I've realized a tragic error in my efforts to document: I have a glaring lack of photos of myself. I prefer not to have them b/c they involve 1. a tripod, 2. excellent self-timer skills, or 3. asking people constantly to take pictures of me. As a result, I have ZERO good shots of myself actually pulling hanji. This is slightly problematic. But thank goodness I figured it out before it's too late - I still have time to schedule more shoots. As soon as I finish making flash cards ....

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Now the funny ones

Mike sent images from my trip to Jeonju, and this one was the BEST EVER, from when they made us participate in the ribbon cutting for the hanji exhibit at the historical museum.

After complaining last night about how I never get to work in my sketchbook, I took the morning today to work in both of them (the small and the large). Oh, my. It felt SO GOOD.

I think I may be onto something; I have yet to pick up the article Frank left for me in my Fulbright mailbox about a scientist working on hanji robots (since hanji conducts electricity, which I learned while watching the cheesy promo video at the hanji museum), but I ALSO want to make hanji robots.

[Yes, I see the typo for Greek] I was cranky until today about having such a small sketchbook here, but now I think it is even more fun to dialogue between the big and small.

Definitely insisting on my robots being pink. I had the pink robot idea since January when reconciling w/an ex. This particular one I lived with for the entire three years I was in Chicago even though it was broken. Not the hanji one I just sewed today, but the one that all of them are based on. I vaguely remember it being a gift from when my great aunt (Lee Hee Ho, former first lady of Korea) was visiting the US years ago. But now, as my very generous colleague said, "I hope the book will enable you to build gigantic hanji mecha robots. Then world domination will only be a step away..."


I took a bunch of paper to my dyeing lesson today and luckily my teacher was setting up dye baths for other students so I got to do more than one today. This is hanji I had bought at the store run by my hanji teacher. I had already knitted it at the love motel in January, and it was coffee colored. This dye goes a straight up deep red on white silk.

Two onions in the back, the middle is areca palm with an iron mordant (and barely survived all the baths), the front sheet is onion with an iron mordant (which later became the culprit in staining all of my lovely damp sheets that I packed to take home. I always think I'm the exception to the rule, like "wear gloves when handling solvents," but I never am. So now all my colored sheets that were damp have dirty spots. Live and learn).

Onions w/alum mordant; areca palm w/iron mordant.

I still have not gotten a translation for this tree. I just call it "red tree" since no one seems to know what I'm talking about when I say the Korean name and I can't find it in the dictionary. I will eventually ask my teacher again. Front two w/alum, back w/iron.

Yesterday's safflower petals; the pink in the foreground is cotton and the salmons in the back are silk.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Little by little

Before I left for Korea, my boss told me to be present and take in everything while here b/c this is such an incredible gift. I thought it was a nice idea at the time, but not one that I was capable of enacting: being present?! ME? But now I'm closer to it than I ever imagined. I feel thankful daily, and am taking in as much as I can w/o imploding.

Yesterday, I headed back out to the papermill where I worked this winter. I needed to shoot video of my teacher to prep for a presentation where I'll compare sheet formation styles of living hanji makers. I've gone there twice on my own before, but of course at the very last transfer, I got on the wrong bus and it veered off in the wrong direction. After waiting for too long at a seemingly abandoned bus stop, I walked up to a church compound that was open but eerily empty. Then I walked until I found some semblance of civilization, and was able to ask the front desk at a motel-type establishment to call a cab for me. The good part was that I was lost in incredibly beautiful mountain and water scenery.

The cab driver talked about how he used to teach and do lots of public speaking in front of hundreds of people, but how cab driving has made it harder for him to do that. He then launched into the nature of cab conversations, and how people talk about things they never would in other settings. It was kind of great since I was there, fully present, fully loving this ride, being taken from lost to Eden (literally, to Eden). It was kind of magic, sitting in that cab with black upholstery and the button cushioned ceilings.

It was GREAT to go back to the mill, but funny to walk it now in spring, with things alive, no ice, and water trickling in the streams. Now that my teacher's younger brother has re-joined the family business, all sorts of new developments are afoot. There's a porch now off the box container, the deck off the mill is being re-stained, gardens are being prepped, there's a new trough for beater outflow, the broken greenhouse glass is gone and a GORGEOUS new, huge wood vat is inside, a new load of pepper plants is waiting to be burned, and the vinyl house is now filled with 3,000 mulberry plants. Plus, my teacher's mom had back surgery and now is in much better health - it was amazing to see her standing upright and with her face so bright.

Of course, my teacher was crazy generous again with information, paper, and other materials. He took me to three different storehouses to give me samples of mulberry bark, and then gampi and mitsumata. SUCH lovely fiber. We talked about how the former makes paper like men's skin, and the latter, women's. I had lunch with the family, complete with homemade "cookies" - not sweet, with mugwort leaves. My teacher drove me to the train station, got me some amazing Korean tea (more like a power drink: this dark brown, sweet tea with a raw egg yolk, nuts, dates, and sesame seeds) at the Korean predecessor of today's cafe: no frills, men sleeping on benches and being woken up when customers came in, strong tea/coffee.

After riding back to Seoul and napping hard, I rushed back home with all my paper goodies, got into a changing frenzy, and ran back out the door to attend a Fulbright dinner. I met some amazing new grantees, and am excited to spend more time with them before I leave. One teaches at the school I visited down south last week, and knows the people that I met, one of whom sent me fantastic photos of my visit and gave me lovely feedback about my work (art and research). Afterwards, we went out for tea, which turned out to be a girls' night out in a cafe set up like a train - seats from trains, train tracks, etc.

I stayed up until 2:30am trying to get work done. Thankfully, I finally finished my taxes. I went back to my dyeing lessons today after a week and a half away, and was thrown into a super intense day. Today's dye was safflower petals, which require a lot more work and handling. I kneaded a huge bag of them for about half an hour, and then learned to prep fabric to tie dye. Suddenly, there was a huge influx of visitors, and we ended up having a 9-person lunch. I had coffee forced on me 3x today, which was NOT a good thing to accept, but now I know never to do that again.

It was great to get back to dyeing after lunch while everyone socialized, and there was a man there whose wife came for lessons. He had given up drinking and smoking in hopes of getting off of high blood pressure medication, and it was nice to dye side-by-side quietly. It made me think about what I should be doing NOW to prevent my own hereditary high blood pressure proclivity. One of things should be not freaking out constantly about my obese workload. I am getting coached almost daily by Ben to only take things one at a time, instead of going into paralysis thinking about my entire to do list all at once.

He was asking what kind of work I have to do after I do fieldwork or meet with people, and I told him that I need double the time that I spend with people to digest and process. Most of my processing is through writing, but when I don't have time to do it, I feel like armies of aliens have invaded my body and are constantly crawling under my skin. The problem is that if I don't write immediately, some of them get deep enough into my body that I can't flush them all out. And then I just feel crazy. The other problem is that the rest of my processing has been sacrificed b/c of time: sketchbooking. No wonder I feel like my lymph system is all clogged. Yesterday was enough interacting, hearing stories, and sharing information to keep me processing for a week. Today was all about remembering that I have magic hands. And making gorgeous pinks.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Please report back

[From the new vat at my hanji teacher's mill. Gorgeous thing.] Al just sent me a review of a Korean art show at the Met. I can't go, so someone please go and tell me how it is.

Quickie: yesterday was AMAZING but so packed it overflowed into staying 3am. More details.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

You and Me

I got up early after terrible dreams about being trapped in a land where some people had super powers and some didn't (that would be me). I was being terrorized by one and had to wake up to escape. Then I proceeded to Skype my entire morning away. But I did manage a whole section on my practice test for Korean, shower, make lunch, and make a museum date with Michael. We went to the Samsung collection, the Leeum. They have mad money = it's a gorgeous collection. It's separated into Museum 1 and 2, one for contemporary art and one for traditional Korean relics, complete with appropriate architecture. The celadon floor was particularly stunning. Michael and I were drooling all over a water dropper in the shape of a peach.

It was so weird to see that not everyone can immediately identify a Rothko, or Judd, or Kiefer. And that's when I realized that I have a very specialized education, an eye trained to see certain things, and a mind honed to understand BS. Yesterday, I had my sister proof my bio and presentation summary for a lecture I will give next month. Tonight, I read an article on art, anthropology, and museums. They were both written in obscure, boring, purposely convoluted languages and wrapped up in laughable vocabulary. I was reading about bags of shit, after a conversation about an expensive container of shit, and another one about a mason jar full of shit that exploded when my co-exhibitor in college was trying to seal it in boiling water. But the language packages it so differently!

This is me outside near the Louise Bourgeois outdoor sculptures. The Kiefer inside was incredible - lead dresses, the unborn. I love seeing art with people who know what they like and don't like and understand and don't. It was nourishing to see amazing work in a beautiful building. We were particularly excited b/c Michael just found out that he got his master's degree back in the UK! Hooray!!

After dinner, he showed me a lovely cafe that apparently has the best cakes in Seoul. Bad timing, since just yesterday I told myself that I needed to watch my sugar intake. But this crepe cake was too lovely. He worked on the computer and I spun and wrote until it closing. I walked to the bus, seeing wives pulling their staggering, drunk husbands down the street, thinking about how much I love my freedom and if I would ever be willing to give it up to be in a relationship with someone else. Then I started laundry after midnight. Not a great call, since I have to get up in about 5 hours to go to the papermill and visit my teacher to shoot some video. But clean clothes and prepping to put away my winter things...sometimes I am impatient, even if it costs me sleep.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

I need a fuel upgrade

The chamber pot is coming along, my fingers are blistered, and I can barely see. That's the second layer that I've started. It's a double-walled vessel b/c it has to be strong enough to squat on, apparently. I'm still not totally up to snuff healthwise, but indulged myself yesterday with an appt-free day: no class, no meetings, no running around. Just lots of Korean homework and weaving and then the requisite bout of insomnia. I ran errands today since I can now eat food, and was delighted with the fact that everything is in walking distance (I did my very first solo dry cleaning run here).

During my jiseung lesson today, my teacher's wife fed us an amazing meal while my teacher told me why I need to marry a Korean man: b/c Korean people have 정. There is no good translation for that word; I suspect it's a particularly Korean trait. My cousin mentioned it last summer in regards to her children, and when I looked it up in the dictionary (it said something like feeling or affection) and translated it back to her, she said, no, it's not that, and it's not love, either. So I was stumped, but after months of living here, I finally get it. I mean, it's why my teacher's wife feeds me during 6-hour lessons. It's why a professor would drive me from the humanities building to the agriculture building and back, and then continue to take care of me for the next two days. Why women in their 70s would insist that I take the warmest spot on the floor for a siesta. Why my cousin's wife would buy a fancy foam mattress just so I would have a comfy place to sleep.

It's a very special thing.

But onto love! My dear beloved Ching-In is kicking off her East Coast book launch, so I wanted to share for those of you near Boston and/or NYC:

The Heart's Traffic is Ching-In's debut collection of poems from Arktoi Books/Red Hen Press. This novel-in-poems chronicles the life of Xiaomei, an immigrant girl haunted by the death of her best friend. Told through a kaleidoscopic braid of stories, letters, and riddles, this stunning debut collection follows Xiaomei's life as she grows into her sexuality and searches for a way to deal with her complicated histories. At times, meditation, celebration, investigation, and elegy, this is a book about personal transformation within the context of a family forced to make do—a Makeshift Family—and how one might create new language to name the New World.

Sunday, March 22, 2009. 7pm.
NYC Book Release Party & Reading!
with special guests Marlon Unas Esguerra, R. Erica Doyle & Joseph O. Legaspi
Bluestockings, New York, NY; Free.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009, 6:30pm
Boston Book Release Party & Reading!
Boston Chinatown Neighorhood Center, Boston MA; Free.

Thursday, March 26, 3-4:15pm
Reading/Class Visit
Center for Humanities (next to campus center), Tufts University, Medford MA; Free.

Saturday, March 28, 2009, 7pm
122 Salon III
with Charon Morris & Marta Lucia Vargas
following the featured readers there will be a Renga Jam
Monica's apartment - 122 W117th Street Apt 3, NY, NY
$5, RSVP to marshaheart@aol.com

Sunday, March 29, 2009, 6pm
Red Hen New York Reading Series
with Brendan Constantine, Delana R.A. Dameron, and Mitchell Douglas
Bowery Poetry Club, NY, NY

Monday, March 16, 2009

"Widespread Dust"

Michael and I met Lee Chang-Soo, an artist in Seoul who uses mulberry bark and natural dyes in his work. As always around here, crazy labor-intensive work, but I'm glad he's doing it. We all suffer from the same disease: once you get your hands on GOOD materials, like Korean mulberry or high-quality hanji, you don't want to use anything else. He also uses natural dyes. It was fun to visit an artist's studio in an artsy art school hood, and then weird to hear the siren routines for invasion exercises. They said they're so used to them that it doesn't freak them out, and when Michael asked what you'd do if the north was really invading, they said, nothing! There's nowhere to escape!

Good old yellow dust season is in high gear, and gross. You can see it and taste it and see more people in masks and covering up their faces. It seems worse to not be able to escape from THIS phenomenon. Tempts me to skip dyeing class until it rains and just hole up at home and WORK. I started my taxes yesterday and it went on far too long, and they're not even done yet. I had a mild anxiety attack last night about overloading my schedule, but my tutor reminded me of how well I'm doing now, like a completely different person from when we first met last fall, and how I just need to ride out the grant period and take advantage of all it has to offer. Which is a WHOLE lot. It's like a test of how big my belly really is.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

The best thing to greet you when returning from the dead

I slept for a solid 9 hours and even though my body feels like it was thrown out a window from several stories high (damn that bed!), I think I've made the turn and will be fine. But what made it even better was to see that Jami's first NYT piece is published! Of course, it's superb. I didn't even wait to wash my face to start reading.

Forced bed rest

[Hanhee Ham, a leading anthropologist and professor who teaches at Chonbuk University, Lee Dong Hee, director general of the Jeonju Historical Museum, me, and Michael Reinschmidt, a visiting professor in museum studies at Chonbuk, and also an anthropologist.] I got back last night from a FANTASTIC research trip to Jeonju. It was all great until we were about 20 minutes away from Seoul on the bus ride back and I got sick. I'm not sure what it is about Korea that makes me vomit so much in moving vehicles, and I wish it would stop. I also am not sure how I got myself home from the bus terminal and then started my laundry, but my body was having none of my attempts to work through the food poisoning after a while.

I had to cancel all of my appts today and likely will have to clear tomorrow since I haven't really eaten anything but a handful of crackers today and was barely able to take water in the morning. Thank goodness for Kelsey who lives upstairs, b/c she brought me more fluids and things to eat. My cousin called to see what I was up to and I was sad that I couldn't come out to play but he said to just make rice gruel and take care of myself. I have no intention of making anything since it requires getting out of bed.

But this all takes away from how amazing my trip was. In particular, Professor Ham was very knowledgeable and generous, plus she took care of the bulk of my transportation, food, and lodging during my stay. I met a ton of people who are all doing amazing work and got everything done on my list save meet one professor. But I'll definitely make another trip before I leave, so I'll meet her then. My last stop was the opening of a hanji exhibit at the museum pictured above, where Michael and I were asked to participate in the ribbon cutting ceremony, which was hilarious. Appropriate that my first one is in the name of hanji.

1. The hanji museum
2. A local papermill
3. An intangible property holder in hanji screen making (you can't make hanji without the bamboo screens that come out of his studio), and
4. A hanji exhibit at the Jeonju Historical Museum.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

I should be packing

This is ground up persimmons (when they were green) for dye. My whole apt stinks now of it - not a fresh smell, not quite vinegary...

I had a super long lesson today. OF COURSE, I had another language barrier issue that caused me to have to undo a bunch of the work I had spent hours doing. This keeps happening w/this teacher. Oh well. He did the whole rest of the pot for me b/c I was making a mess of it (I can relate; I would be that kind of teacher if I had me for a student). So now I'm halfway thru: it's a double-walled vessel, so I'm at the opening and have to weave back down. But I'm not going to touch it for a few days.

My hanji teacher came by, too, and it was great. Like a stitch & bitch, only w/men. Kind of weird, but at the same time, it's great to spend time w/people who are weird like me. My hanji teacher had gotten us all these awesome trimmers (plier-like scissors that latch shut and have a spring mechanism) that are PERFECT for this craft. We were all getting excited about it b/c we are tool geeks. He got it in the fishing section. The fishing section is always the best place for everything. Now I don't have to worry about getting them myself (I had been instructed to go to the car section. I don't like the car section. Fishing is much easier to handle).

On the way to class, I stopped at my fave taco stand b/c the guy is cute and sweet and always knows that I'm the hanji person. Then, in the subway bathroom, I completely wiped out b/c of the squat toilet: my foot got caught on the rim and my left knee and upper shin took the brunt of the impact. Not cool, but I think I'll be lucky enough to only come away w/nasty bruises. This is why I should stay away from holes in the ground.

Tomorrow I take off for a 2-day trip to Jeonju. I booked a couple more appts this morning, so my schedule is packed. Two museums, a national heritage holder, three professors, a researcher from Arizona, a papermill, and an opening. Wheee!!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Nick of time

I realize I shouldn't take all those little idioms for granted in English. Since I have to learn a million for my Korean exam. Well, I won't actually learn them all but they're something that I hadn't given much thought until I found out I'd be tested on them.

Yesterday, I realized that I needed REAL down time, and let myself take the night off to read about polar bears and narwhals and go to bed early.

Today, I was so thankful I got that rest b/c it was another long day. Good, but long. I did jiseung homework until I had to run to dyeing class. We did a simple dye, so it was pretty painless, and I finally brought some hanji to dye so I hope that works out. Then a whole bunch of us went to a temple close to my home to meet the son of a famous late monk who was an incredible Buddhist painter. Then we went to the temple grounds. Totally gorgeous stuff. Kind of embarrassing that I hadn't been there b/c it's so close, but now I know where to go for a quick mountain escape. The late monk had done all the paintings along the outside of the temple's buildings, which are fantastic. These are my pics from the visit.

Michael and I headed back to my place to digest and then we ran out for dinner and coffee in Hongdae before meeting Kim Baek-ki and his artist friend who lives on the big island and does all sorts of work w/paper and hanji. So now I have a TON more leads, but of course that means a TON more research. But just in time: the professor I meet on Thursday down south is at the university where apparently two other professors teach, whom I should meet. So I hope I can quickly arrange meetings for while I'm there so I don't have to make that trip again.

It has been super to have Michael as an associate; our research interests converge nicely and it just makes the meetings less stressful. Plus, it's invaluable to have the post-meeting sessions to debrief. So much to be thankful for!

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Marathoning has become my default

Whoa. I didn't think I had it in me, but I gave one hell of a tour to my friend Maho today. We had three years together in NY when her dad was sent on business from Japan, and the last time I saw her was at her wedding in Guam in early 2007. This was her first trip to Seoul, and I carefully wrote out everything I wanted to do with her, along w/the location and number of her hotel, where I was supposed to meet her at 10am, and then left it on my desk when I left my apt this morning. Classic.

But I got her to a palace, art exhibit at Kukje Gallery, non-spicy lunch at a famous Korean home cooking place in a gentrified hood, the requisite tourist drag, a dyeing session w/my teacher (I did bug dye today; she did the red wood), a two-second meeting w/the owner of an art book cafe/gallery, tea at the bird cafe, a long hike through a traditional Korean hood, errands at a ginormous book store, and dinner w/her Japanese friends in a market district. Where I refused to eat Korean-style beef tartare.

(Bugs + iron mordant). I even managed to buy tights and tank tops on my way home. Now I have a huge pile of Korean homework to do before class tomorrow morning. But thankfully, I was able to get out of going to my other teacher tonight. So I'm feeling slightly human again. On the escalator out of the subway tonight, I wondered if what I'm experiencing right now is not abundance, but excess. I'll think about it while squeezing out a Korean composition.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Maybe Velma was right about dying

After meeting w/a teacher, her disciple, and my aunt today for late morning / lunch / coffee (yes, again. But it was watery and I only had a little before bolting), I went back for another round of dyeing. Today was something I don't have an English translation for yet, but it makes things red and purple.

There were two other students there, excited about the process. It's nice to be reminded through other people's joy of how satisfying it is to work by hand and love the results. I was feeling worn down b/c another teacher called me three times today to insist that I come see him at the hospital (his wife is there postop) this weekend, either by canceling my other dates or by coming late at night, to a place FAR from my home. I think that people forget that I am a student, and a human being with a rather weak liver (meaning I tire easily), rather than a mechanized disciple.

I've been thinking a lot about what Melissa blogged about recently in regards to the banking concept of education. I feel like this is how it works here It's hard to participate in a system I don't believe in, and even if I did, at this point I would have to cry out, "I am not a big enough vessel!!" When the teacher thinks that I am expressly here to master a craft at the expense of my health and stay motionless under his foot for the next several months, all I want to do is run.

A few days back, Velma had emailed asking about how dyeing was going, but the "e" had slipped out and I wondered what she was referring to, b/c I hadn't been thinking about dying. But now I wonder if this will be the last straw before something gives. I pray for no nasty fights, but I have a feeling that there are going to be some major disappointments that I will have to dole out soon.

Speaking of dying, I just found out that my very first boss at my very first salaried job just passed. And so it begins.