The Handmade Korea Fair 2012

Written by on July 31, 2012 in Arts, Brands & Products, Lifestyle

It’s called son jaeju (손재주), literally “hand talent” or “hand skills”. Koreans have oodles of them, so having an exposition dedicated to it isn’t a surprise: The Handmade Korea Fair 2012 took place last week at the COEX in Seoul from July 26th, 2012 to July 29th, 2012.

“Handmade” is such a general term. It covers a very broad area of expertise. It couldn’t be more blatant at this expo; the booths and stalls were a mixture of artists, crafters, designers, and vendors. It was like going to an indoor flea market, albeit with a creative flair and a bit more upscale.

The exposition at COEX

With the slogan “Real Design with Creativity”, art and design held center stage with most of the art and design being incorporated in objects for practical use. Living design, design in everyday life; even items for decorative purposes were steadfast in their statement that they did, indeed, have a purpose.

Jean Prouvé designed baekja themed table setting

Special zones were set up for certain themes: the “Live Painting” zone, the area for up and coming illustrators; a “Handmade World Class” where lessons were being given on various crafts; special exhibit areas for wood furniture design, cake and floral design; portrait artists aiming to draw one million faces to raise awareness for disfigured children. A unique showcase of the combination of designs of the renowned Jean Prouvé and the traditional Korean white porcelain, baekja (백자).

Accessory designers’ stalls lure in potential customers

There were many stalls for jewelry, fashion items and accessories, household knick knacks, pottery and ceramics, dolls and dollhouses. Furniture booths were impressive, as were the artists’ booths.
Some of the sights which caught my eye:

Table and chairs designed by the artist Ahn Jaebok

“Transformer” knit tops by designer Kwon Sunyoung can be worn in many different ways

Artist demonstrating chalk art on a menu sign

Delicately crafted bisque dolls

Traditional style mother-of-pearl lacquered cell phone cases

Bean bags by HUG design offer seats for the weary

Korean food miniatures as cute cell phone straps

Yarn and felt become cute namecard holders and doll brooches

Traditional herbs and ingredients make traditionally shaped soaps

Smiley wood figures as desktop accessories

Ceramic kkokdu figures by artist Lee Joon Sung

Cup and saucers by artist Sonobe Park

Typography and logo design t-shirts by Hello Korea

Completely natural wooden tableware

Creative and modern name stamp designs created on the spot

Although most of the exhibitors were Korean, there were international artists as well. Artists and illustrators were showing off their talent for all to see. Not only were there separate classes for viewers to participate, there were other occasions for participation as well, even for children.

Kids and mother enjoying a fan making session

Focusing attention on wood burning

Portrait artists were having a very busy day

Noted illustrator Delos also offered portraits for his admirers

Illustrations of Delos adorn clocks and stationery

Artist Jamie Bruno’s monochromatic mural painting in process

Artist Keisuke Haruyama’s mural boasts bold colors

Budding illustrators and comic book artists’ stalls were aplenty

Although I did have a very good time at the fair, I could not help but think that it was a bit “too much of everything”. Like I mentioned in the beginning, it felt like a flea market more than a proper exposition, all jumbled and pell-mell. I would have preferred more organization in the division of sections, or perhaps a more prominent theme to hold the whole thing together.

As it is only the second year this exposition has taken place, one can only hope that it would get better in the following years. After all, it wasn’t the talent that was lacking in the exposition. I’m quite sure I’ll be going once again next time.

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About the Author

Suzy Chung

Suzy Chung is a multilingual writer, editor, and translator with a marketing background. A coffee addict, bookworm, art junkie, foodie, oenophile, K-pop enthusiast, and occasional painter, she has been online since the mid ’90s when the internet wasn’t really the internet but a blue screen with text only discussions. She has lived in three continents but truly believes that Korea is the place to be and is willing to convince anyone who will listen!