Korean Handicrafts

If you walk through Insadong, one of Seoul’s historic areas, you’ll notice all of the beautiful handicrafts for display and for sale. This is of no surprise of course. Seoul has a long history of wonderful craftsmanship that many people, both Korean and foreign celebrate. Not only will you see traditional arts and crafts, but you will also find more modern crafts that are more commonly associated with western culture. While I’m not really in a position to purchase many of these items, I definitely believe it’s important to appreciate them.


Korean Pottery

As a history buff, I’ve found that many ancient civilizations share one thing in common: advancement of pottery. If you think about it, this makes sense. During ancient times, pottery originally served more function than fashion. However, as time goes on, pottery artisans begin to add more artistic expressions into their pottery. The history of Korean pottery is pretty rough from what I’ve found in my research. In 1592, Japan invaded Korea and Korean potters were forced to relocate to Japan. This would stunt the growth for a while, but as you’ll see, it didn’t stop the Koreans from continuing to produce such fine pottery.


Korean Knots

This craft is probably one of the more iconic trinkets associated with Korean handicrafts. The use of these knot was usually very important. In an older time, you would find these knots on clothing and as a means of identification. They would also be use as decoration for instruments as well as a Buddhist ornaments. Eventually, these knots came to represent the status of a person, with more elite socialites using these knots as sign of their power. In modern times, many knots are massed produced and sold as cheap souvenirs. However, there are still many craftsmen that keep the Korean knot alive and well. Even some Western craftsmen try to incorporate this unique craft into their own style of craftsmanship.

There are many different types of knots that vary in intricacy. Among all of the different styles, the most common are the dorae knot (도래매듭), which is used to connect or fix other knots, and the Maehwa knot (매화매듭), which is used for baby clothing and traditional ornaments worn by women.


Leather Crafts

In the modern day, Korea has many craftsmen that have taken to more modern crafts. Leather is an especially popular craft that you will find many craftsmen excel in. While walking through Insadong (인사동), I found shopkeeper that specialized in leather crafts, and I found her prices to be very good. What is incredible about here products is that many of them are constructed by hand, and are very durable. I was able to purchase a wallet for a very good price, and as of right now it seems to be holding up very well! If you’re interested in this store, its name is “Handworks by Bee”. She constructs goods ranging from wallets to shoes. I also hear that there are cafes that teach you the fundamentals of leather crafting. So if you’re interested in learning more about constructing these kinds of things, be sure to check them out!


Where to Find these Crafts

As I said before, Insadong is a hotspot for these kinds of crafts. With this being said, I’m sure you can find some of these crafts anywhere in Korea that is known for its cultural significance. And if you don’t want to consider making a purchase because of the logistics of sending it home, that’s okay! Many stores are beginning to adopt online storefronts in order to reach customers around the world. Just be careful and make sure that the items that you are buying aren’t made in China!


Article by Eli from the U.S.A.

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