Saturday, December 20, 2014

Hanji seminar mania

While deep in the middle of my nasty cold, I had to rush to Seoul Selection and grab a couple more of my books to have on hand for the hanji seminar that began for us special guests on Wed. It was fun to see my books alongside Krys Lee's, a friend of a dear friend. I was really concerned about making it through all that travel and super intense seminar schedule, but here I am in bed, trying to recap before I go zzz.
On Wednesday morning, the international guests, Bo Kyung Kim, and Korean staff climbed onto a big tour bus headed for Mungyeong Hanji. It was the coldest day yet, enough to take your breath away, but I thought that was a nice touch—perfect weather for hanji work.
We were well cared for by KCDF staff, who provided water, hot packs, cookies, chocolate, and whatever else we might need on the many bus journeys. I was thankful that our lunch stop right before we got to the mill was for traditional chicken soup, stuffed with rice and ginseng.
And yet I was energized because I was finally going to visit the mill I've wanted to see since 2009.
Father and son, Mr. and Mr. Kim. They did a talk about the steps of making traditional hanji and they have a lot of pride over the fact that they do something no other mill in Korea does: every step the old school way. That includes growing and harvesting and processing their own kozo, and also making their own ash and ash water for cooking.
I totally fell in love with this beating surface and stick.
This couching stand would kill me. Do you see how low it is to the ground? Very interesting technique with rolling the log from the center out.
I loved watching the bal (screen) float on a stick in this ginormous tank. The reflection of the man in the hat is of Nick Basbanes. I so very much enjoyed spending time with him and his wife Connie, and was very curious about his long career as an unaffiliated journalist and writer.
The younger Mr. Kim took us outside to show us their dak (paper mulberry) harvest. The wind by now had whipped up so strongly that we didn't stay outside long.
They had been steamed and then froze, so I wonder how stripping will go.
They let us into their old original space for papermaking, a dark old space with low ceilings. They don't work in there anymore but have left it as a museum of sorts and I was very excited to see this winch press.
While the younger Mr. Kim demonstrated webal tteugi (the traditional sheet formation method), I sneaked behind the heat dryer to do an impromptu interview with his father, the provincial intangible cultural property holder of hanji making. He almost cried talking about how his son grew up around papermaking (and left, but came back), and said he was embarrassed to tell me that he started making paper when he was nine. He can't pull anymore but still does other work and pointed to the steps that he still participates in. He talked about how his family works seven months of the year just scraping bark. It was hard to pry us all away, but we were herded back onto the bus to ride another three hours to Jeonju.
We were exhausted by the time we got to dinner, but then had to stay on point as we met the mayor of the city of Jeonju, pictured above at right, standing, as well as other Jeonju representatives and people who had visited Cleveland for the Watermarks Conference in 2012. The food was insanely delicious and wonderful, and then we were treated to an unexpected pansori performance (kind of like Korean opera, a very distinctive type of singing that tells stories, accompanied by musicians). I think everyone passed out in their respective hotel rooms.
[Jiseung cord lamp] We had breakfast, checked out, and then visited the Hanji Industry Support Center. It was super cold inside the large glass structure but there was lots to see around us.
They gave a lecture about a replica project and I kept checking my phone for Professor Ham to call so that I could go pick up my new bal/teul from Mr. Yoo. I was able to bring along my new colleague Kayoko Moriki-Ichinomiya, who was such an inspiration in many, many ways—a papermaker, book conservator, washi proponent, and multi-lingual to boot.
One of three new bal/teul! Don't even ask how I'm going to get these back (one is an order for an upstate NY professor). But the others...yeesh! It was good to see Mr. Yoo again, and in his new home near the hanok village.
His wife seemed more sprightly than last time, and maybe even in better health. She was working on the outer grain of the bamboo to prep for splints.
The new work space is so bright and she roasted sweet potatoes on the stove that she shared with us. I was sorry that we weren't able to stay for lunch, but Prof. Ham had to run and we had to rejoin the group for more famous Jeonju bibimbap. Then back on the bus to head to the archives of the Chonbuk National University Museum.
This was a real treat for everyone. There was something that delighted each of us in this trove of books and objects.
Oak and cedar storage drawers for paper artifacts.
Two floors in this particular. No shoes allowed and I almost slipped on the way up the stairs.
These woodblocks printed these books. There was an area outside where they set up blocks for us to print for fun. I skipped that but it was nice to see others participate.
I was meh about the books but as soon as I turned around and saw THESE shelves, goodbye! I left the group to take a look.

This was the one I was most excited to find. I sat on the floor (and then my back went out again, on the other side) and stared at it because I knew it was woven out of paper. There was someone who worked there who said, no, it's wood, and I got mad but later it was confirmed by the person who was explaining the archives that indeed, it was jiseung.

After that, we were on the bus back to Seoul. Not content to just let us nap or have a hanji-less moment, they put a DVD of Im Kwon-taek's film, Hanji, on the big screen. It was funny to see the people we would see at the seminar (and one guy was on the bus with us!) in the movie. On top of that, we had more guests join us on the ride back to Seoul. One, in the very back, was Mr. Hong: the national intangible cultural property holder of hanji making (he and my teacher's father share this designation). WOW. I was promised an introduction later but instead just said hello myself. Because how can you ride the bus with a national treasure and NOT say hi?!
[Hanji lamps] Upon our return to Seoul, we visited KCDF's Craft Trend Fair and COEX, the big convention center south of the river. We didn't have time to see everything, so they steered us to the areas pertinent to hanji. At the second booth, I felt like I was going to have to lay down from all the bright lights and dry recycled air, so I started to ask Mr. Hong questions about technical problems I had been having back home: why is my bal rippling? He knew exactly the trouble and how to solve these issues, and I was so excited to have someone to talk to about these things.
[Hanji blinds] We had dinner upstairs, western style, and they had chosen our seats so that I was next to Mr. Hong. He asked about our kozo back in Cleveland, what we did for formation aid, how to take care of the tororo while growing, making paper in the summer when you have to and ideas about how to deal with stinky vats, and so on. They hired another performance troupe to entertain us after dinner even though we were more than ready to head back to the hotel.
[Hanji lamps] After that: barely any sleep, rising early for the bus to the convention center, a meeting for the panel, Nick's keynote, four lectures, a group photo on stage, lunch, five more lectures, the panel, meet and greet, bus to the hotel, dinner and goodbyes. Today was so intense that I have zero pictures and almost lost my voice before the panel because there were SO many people to meet and talk to!
[Hanji wallpaper] Some of those highlights: the rep from Andong Hanji, whom I had met twice my last visit, Youngdam Sunim, the Buddhist nun, and my hanji teacher!!! I was so touched when the first and last said they only came because they saw my name on the program and wanted to see me. Youngdam Sunim took my hand and wouldn't let for for a long time.
[Hanji lamps] I felt a little out of place on the panel as everyone else was in the business of selling paper (well, just in business in general!), but as soon as we wrapped up and I got off stage, I was surrounded by all kinds of people: those I knew, those who came as fans to see me, and converted fans after my remarks. I wished for more time and steam (by this time, I was so dehydrated! I had to walk out in the middle of the seminar to ask for the temperature to be turned down in the ginormous hall that had turned into a dry sauna—no surprise, with a purported 400 guests), but we were finally herded back onto a bus to the hotel. I have so very many notes to transcribe and now people to meet. I am not sure how I will stay on top of all of this, but it's going to be a race to the end in this final less than a week.

Lots of gratitude for this impressive gathering.


Anonymous said...

OMG - Wow! take care and get home in one piece.

Velma Bolyard said...

hang in there, keep yourself healthy and tell us all! mostly, stay healthy.