Tuesday, November 5, 2013

The Art Of Hanji A Western Approach - Korean Crafts Series Part III

A Western Approach to an Ancestral Korean Craft

As you probably know by now, Hanji paper has been used in Korea for centuries. The beauty of the Korean paper shines particularly bright in crafts, like the one I fell in love with a few years ago!

The designs are cut by hand, 
using a small scalpel knife.
Once the pattern is cut,
it truly looks like paper lace!
HanjiNaty at work

The technique that I work with, called Jeonji, involves cutting of the paper and application of multiple layers of Hanji paper onto a form, such as a box, a chest, a picture frame, a pen holder, etc. Basically, it’s about covering an object with Hanji paper, featuring different colors, patterns and hand cut designs.

The most challenging part is definitely the cutting of the designs; it requires patience, dexterity, time…and a very sharp scalpel knife! 

I can spend up to 6 hours cutting a single design (depending on its size and complexity), and almost as much time cutting the different pieces that fill out the different parts of the design. Imagine it like paper lace; and then, when the “holes” in the design are filled with vibrant colors, it basically looks like a paper version of stained glass.

Afterwards, I apply the hanji paper onto the object, using a 100% natural glue (that I make myself). When the item is dry, I apply three consecutive layers of diluted glue (letting the item dry between each coat) that will allow the Hanji paper to really absorb the glue and stick strongly to the base, which is usually made of sturdy cardboard or wood. Finally, I apply two thin layers of varnish, that will give to the item a nice shiny finish. The varnish prevents color fading, and also allows the item to be cleaned with a soft damp cloth.

HanjiNaty is all about bold colors!
The Western Eye

When I first started with Hanji, I learned the traditional techniques of cutting, assembling and gluing, but I was also naturally exposed to the traditional patterns and design, and the conventional color choices and combinations.

From the very beginning, I have had the desire to challenge the conventions and do things my way! I felt like I had seen too many Hanji items designed with the same colors, the same style, the same symmetrical designs… I wanted to do things differently! Concretely for me it means : choosing bold and bright colors and combining them in an unusual way (hello lime green and burgundy!), playing with the patterns and deconstruct them, using a more organic approach that is not dictated by symmetry… No need to say that my choices have made my Hanji teacher raise her eyebrows!

Hanji Trays Tiger Lily Design
Practical, please!

Finally, another thing that matters to me is to create useful objects. Many Hanji items are stunningly beautiful, but aren’t necessarily practical in everyday life… For me, it’s essential to offer practical items that can be both useful and pretty. That’s why I concentrate on tissue cases, pen holders, coasters and magnets, rather than decorative objects or framed paper cuttings.

If you missed out on Part I or Part II of this series, please see here :


My name is Natalie. I am a French-Canadian gal, but I live in South Korea. My passion is called "Hanji" : sumptuous Korean paper made of mulberry pulp. Hanji has been used for a thousand years in Korea to create decorative or ceremonial objects. For me, it is essential to offer useful and practical objects, that can enjoyed on a daily basis. Tissue cases, pen holders, piggy banks, fridge magnets: let the beauty and unique character of Hanji make our everyday life objects irresistible!



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  1. I had no idea how involved your work was. So very interesting. And your work is just beautiful!
    Thanks for sharing!

    Beth (from Pretty Byrd Designs)

  2. Thanks for sharing! This series is so interesting. Looking forward to the next post!

  3. This is all so knew to me...I find it fascinating! Your work is very beautiful, Natalie! Looking forward to finding out more about it!

  4. This is so interesting. I had no idea what was all involved in your craft. Your work is beautiful.

  5. Thank you so much everyone for your lovely comments! I'm very happy to have the occasion to talk about my craft, which is not as famous as it deserves to be! :)

    I am hoping to continue writing about Hanji... there's so much to talk about! Stay tuned, everyone! :D

  6. Hi Natalie, the whole series was fascinating! Off to see more of your work in your shop :)

    One thing - I totally thought (up until I finally read the caption) that those trays in the bottom photo were key of a computer keyboard! Would that be a silly idea I wonder?.....