Wednesday, June 23, 2021

The last few days

Because of pandemic, many elevator panel buttons and door handles are covered with plastic as a kind of "virus, slide off!" protection. That helps reveal just how impatient Korean nature is, given how the plastic is so damaged and worn at the door closing buttons. We all KNOW Koreans are like this but this is visual evidence.
Somehow, after a LOT of fretting, I managed to get one large suitcase, two smaller ones (they are held together with an orange cover for the large one, like how you cover two people with a donkey costume and they pretend to be one four-legged creature), my backpack, and a long (and heavy and awkward) package of long hanji, an umbrella, and 8 pieces of wood for a hanji bal teul (frame) wrapped in a blanket from Jeonju to Seoul. It was very hard to do and of the course the cab drivers on both ends scolded me for having so much luggage. But the Jeonju post offices don't have packing services like in Seoul, so I had to drag it all here! The tallest pieces of wood come up to my chest. 
At least I wasn't the only one traveling like this on the bus. Except this is actually a musical instrument, which is what the taxi drivers assumed I was carrying.
One of my first meals in Seoul was lunch with Minsun, who I think I have only ever seen at the Met, where she works in NYC. I didn't want a lot of beef as people keep feeding me red meat even when I protest, so I asked for seafood, not knowing it was going to be this much. This doesn't even show all of the veggies that go into the shabu-shabu. It was so nice to have a long leisurely lunch together as usually she has to rush back to work during her lunch hour.
I hadn't gotten this off of my old phone but it's from way back when I visited the indigo farm and Cho Misook picked me up from the train station first and fed me at a delicious Southeast Asian place.
This time, I wanted to have a day dyeing with her without other distractions, and miraculously my schedule finally allowed for it (this play date is months later than when we originally conceived it). The purple comes from gromwell roots, not something I've ever dyed with before.
She has two indigo vats and we worked with her indoor one as the temperature is easier to control. It was so fun to be able to teach each other about what we knew, as the info is really valuable to each other (she is at the start of a 5-year project that includes dyeing hanji). Things I took for granted when it comes to understanding how handmade paper and natural dyeing intersect are not common knowledge even for really skilled dyers.
She is an expert safflower dyer so this was a big treat. She had already washed out much of the yellow in this precious dye and we could get to pink pretty quickly. She gets deep reds from this dye and her goal is to let people know that you can get brilliant colors from natural dye, not only browns and other subdued tones.
She treated me to a delicious and enormous late lunch, which meant I could skip dinner with no repercussions.
Outside the restaurant, we ate from this tree. Our rough translation was banyan but I'm not convinced.
And back near her studio we sat under this giant gingko tree (of course there was a wood platform to do so right next to it, that's where I'm sitting to shoot, and a wood bench at the trunk that you can see peeking out from the left side). It's hard to see but this tree has had cement work done where they fill holes/rot with cement to help prevent more rot or decay.
Koreans are very serious about taking care of their trees. This is a metal post supporting one giant branch that goes out horizontally.
I had also forgotten to take these not good quality pics from my old phone from Jeonju, where I saw a mama duck and two of her kids. While it would have been nice to make more friends and connections in Jeonju, it was also easier to take off because I was alone most of the time.
Back in Seoul, I asked my cousins about these cops, as they are dressed in white and drive fancy BMW bikes. He said they also wear tall boots even in the hot summer and are a special unit that often guard the president's entourage. We later saw them pull over another guy on a motorcycle.
In my clumsy attempts to do less in my final days in Seoul, I took a morning to visit the National Museum of Korea. I haven't been in years and thought it would be a nice treat. See the bamboo roots pushing out of the bottom of the planter?
SO many planters, to create a lovely cool walkway to the main building.
Using online timed reservations, of course, during pandemic.
The inside was the same as I remembered, except for the robots.
I won't do a comprehensive sweep of what I did but mostly stayed on the first floor to do the history of Korea from the emergence of humans there. I love how you can see netting impressed into these shards of pottery.
Chinese knife-shaped coins! After years of struggling to find and order good knives, this makes so much sense.
Duck vessels abound!
I like to see how tools evolved over time,
and how we have both versions of these even today.
A tiny book! I haven't prioritized explaining any of this but the way the history was laid out in also a pretty political way was fascinating. Also, very interesting to note that after we get into more printing technology, a majority of the artifacts became books. Which, in this setting, are extremely boring as objects (I say this as a book artist) after seeing so many other artifacts. I had a meeting with Ki Chan Lee of Ki Lee, a fashion brand that is trying to use less harmful materials—including hanji—and he had great insights as a young Korean man raised here but educated at Middlebury in Vermont. One was that we don't have a lot of really excellent models of different types of Korean art/artifacts, so even visually, we're working from a small amount of not the best stuff. Why? Colonization, war, imperialism, etc. The easy answer: it was all burned or stolen. The best stuff is in Japan but it's not like the people who own it there are willing to either give it back or let us know they have it! I won't get into those politics and didn't intend to end on that note, but it's a good reminder that not only do the victors write history, they get the prizes.

Flying back home next week! Just learned that I have a major leak in my house and there is nothing I can do right now to deal with it! Except probably try to reach my home insurance folks. We are entering monsoon season here, which means that when it rains, it pours.

1 comment:

Velma Bolyard said...

this line: The inside was the same as I remembered, except for the robots. is the best!

and one of th grandfather sugar maples in my front yard was filled with concrete and cabled together until it finally was taken down before all of the split trunks were broken out onto the road.