Not that easy to stumble upon, but worth the search, sitting near the train tracks that have been under construction for years in the Hongdae area is Pole Pole. Most people head the opposite direction, usually walking toward Hapjeong or Sangsu when visiting Hongdae, but this area has some cute cafes and restaurants that have stayed the course even though the construction seems like there is no end in sight. This cafe and gallery has been open for three years and is run by two reporters turned doll enthusiasts and not only can one enjoy and purchase dolls here from around the world, but visitors can also paint their own Matryoshka, or Russian nesting dolls with the help of Jino Kim, 김진경. Jino welcomes guests into the small gallery and patiently teaches those interested how to paint and inspires those without any clue how to begin.
The dolls that line the shelves on the walls have been procured from around the world and there’s a story behind each one, which Jino is happy to share. Guests can sit and talk over coffee or tea with the owners while enjoying the numerous stories or choose to paint their very own dolls to take home. The different tales behind the dolls and their histories and unique styles could give hours of conversation. There are dolls from South America, Africa and Europe. There are old dolls and new dolls. It’s a quaint gallery, but there is a lot inside.
Some visitors are fast and sit for just a couple hours first stenciling the wooden dolls and then painting them while others come for a couple hours for a few days in a row carefully designing the dolls, Jino explained. She first provides books and pictures and examples of Matryoshka dolls in the gallery for inspiration and then hands over pencils and white washed dolls ready to be drawn on. After the penciled outlines are complete, acrylic paints in numerous colors are provided to enjoy at one’s whim. Two paint brushes of different sizes are supplied and then the fun begins. First the lighter colors should be painted and then the darker and then finally the outlines, she explained. The good thing about acrylic paint is that it dries quickly and when guests are finished a final coat of lacquer is painted on to make the dolls shine.
For more information on how you can find the cafe and gallery and how you can make your own Russian nesting dolls, continue reading on The Soul of Seoul.
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