Craft Feature: Joanne B Kaar
I’ve been a member of the IAPMA (International Association of Hand Papermakers and Paper Artists) for nearly ten years. There are currently over 450 members from 52 different countries. Every couple of years a congress is arranged, this year our hosts were the Hanji Development Institute in Wonju, South Korea.
Hanji is traditional Korean paper made from mulberry. The IAPMA congress was held at the same time as the Hanji festival and the opening of the building for the Hanji Development Institute in Wonju. All these events have been many years in the planning, so there were lots of celebrations and press coverage of the events. I was caught out at one press conference – having thought I was going just to help our IAPMA president (all dressed in made-to-measure traditional Korean clothes) at a press conference for Korean TV, I was rather crumpled wearing the clothes I’d slept in at a temple stay, getting up at 3.50am (yes 3.50am not 4am!) that morning for the full temple experience!! Horrified that a chair was reserved for me in front of the cameras – not back-stage!! (To give you an idea of the scale of events, there were nearly 200 local volunteers helping out behind the scenes during the festival and congress).
This was my first time to South Korea and the first time I had attended an IAPMA congress. I was getting the full experience – teaching workshops, exhibiting and on the committee – so lots of meetings! 130 members gathered from 29 different countries. Many of us had ‘met’ by e-mail and even collaborated on projects – quite a few members came up to me and said how much they had enjoyed being part of my paper boat fundraiser! A very impressive list of workshops, lectures, tours, VIP seats for the Hanji fashion show and the opening of the juried exhibition ‘Paper Road’ were all on the official timetable – as well as great food.
And after the congress………. a whirlwind tour of South Korea. They certainly kept us moving along with calls of ‘don’t be late’ at every stop! Everyone on the tour will have their own personal favourites and memories. I will share some of mine with you.
Walking around Yandong Folk Village, a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage site, I was transported back in time. This is a living history, as houses are still occupied. Each house with its own personality and signs of modern life with piles of shoes outside the doors and clothes drying on washing lines.
The galleries and museums we visited as well as and the hotels we stayed in were absolutely stunning. Designed by some of the best architects in the world. Lots of concrete, wood and glass made into huge bold structures which sat quietly in the landscape. I would have been more than satisfied from just seeing these buildings from the outside, be we went in too. We gave our Korean friends a hard time with all of our questions and personal requests – making sure no-one was left behind! Deals were made with managers of hotels to get us flights to Jeju Island and accommodation at the Phoenix Island resort at much discounted rates. We were truly spoilt.
We were offered a glimpse into an artist’s life through the photography of Kim Young Gab and his garden, I was reminded of Derek Jarman’s work. And the drawings of everyday life by Park-Soo Keun. These touched my heart.
I sometimes skipped a tour, instead staying near the bus to sketch street sellers. The memories of the moments I snatched here and there, just to sit and watch will stay with me for a long time as I flick through the pages of my sketchbook.
Drawing makes me really stop and look, not dash past. Many locals ventured over to have a look at what I was doing. Making connections with a glance and a smile, then often laughter as they looked through my book to see that my first sketch was of the ‘Ear, Nose and Throat” hospital! Well at least I had copied the sign correctly!! Maybe I missed many things which were just around the corner as our tours move on, but I’ll cherish my sketchbook forever.
I have started to add pages from my sketchbook here: www.flickr.com/photos/joannebkaar/
It was perhaps the shared experience of something new and the opportunity to make new paper friends from around the world as well as experience Korean culture which made the travel well worth it.
The next IAPMA Congress will be in 2012 Cleveland, Ohio, USA. IAPMA will combine events with Friends of Dard Hunter at the Morgan Conservatory frpm 17th – 21st October 2010.
Joanne B Kaar, September 2010