Spring has started late on Jeju. It’s very windy and still chilly in Gyorae, the area where Jeju Stone Park is located. And for participants of the park’s vine craftwork class, weaving by hand proved harder and more exhausting than they first thought.
Due to the difficulty of the work, in centuries past it was the task of male islanders to weave by hand such items as hats and baskets using the vine Daengdaengi deonggul (Cocculus trilobus).
Things have changed a great deal in the last few decades.
The participants of Jeju Stone Park’s traditional craft art program were mostly women. Teacher Hong Yang Suk, who is holder of the skill Jeongdong Beollip [ko], defined as an intangible cultural asset (Muhyeong Munhwajae [ko], No. 8 on this list) said, “People didn’t believe that it could be done by women until I made the vine craftwork.”
At the third class of this program on April 18, participants were busy working on their baskets (Jeongdong Beollip applies to hats, but due to limited time the class focused on basket making). But they were still having trouble weaving the thread of the vine. The weft, or the cross-threads, should be close-woven and it takes a lot of strength in one’s fingers to accomplish this.
As it turns out, even the rather unskilled results of the participants’ work have their own kind of beauty. Mistakes are part of the artists’ work, as they are in life.
Two hours a week passed quickly. Participants joked that the “valuable thing they will keep in those priceless baskets,” was their labor and time.
What can this part of a Korean traditional way of life teach us? According to Hong, after an exhausting day of weaving, she’s just happy to rest… It’s a reminder of the simple pleasures.