Entering the small hanok workshop in Seoul’s Bukchon’s Hanok Village, we were eager to try our hand at creating Kum Baek Yeon (gold leaf imprinting on silk). Welcome to week 314 ( 2/2/2017) of Travel Photo Thursday. Join us as we learn the Korean tradition of gold leaf imprinting on silk.
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Kum Baek Yeon is a technique originating from Korea’s Joseon dynasty (around 1849) and was used only on clothes stitched for and worn by the royal family. The first master craftsman was Kim Wanhyeong and now the fifth generation, Kim Gi – Ho, continues the tradition. Our first task was to choose the stamps we wanted to use, and under Mr. Kim’s guidance, we practiced our imprinting skills on a fabric swatch before being “let loose” on the real thing.
Kum Baek Yeon
After choosing our stamps, we all got down to preparing for the embossing. The technique is quite easy, but believe me, it takes time and dedication to produce high-quality gold imprinting. The first thing you do is cover the seal with just the right amount of glue and hold it over the heat for 5 seconds. Next, you take a wooden stick with a sharp point and scrape off any excess glue. You’re ready to imprint the pattern onto your silk. Press hard. Finally, attach the gold leaf, or in our case the imitation gold leaf. You tap the leaf gently onto your pattern, and watch as the gold leaf sticks and takes shape (fascinating). Finally, using a soft white cloth, you rub the pattern to complete the embossing. It is the tapping and the rubbing of the gold leaf that can be difficult. A very light touch is a must!
Mr. Kim is explaining how to work with the gold leaf.
Gold Leaf Imprint
I chose to produce my Kum Baek Yeon masterpiece on this silk card. The top flower is a chrysanthemum, which for Koreans symbolizes elegance. The bottom design is a star, and if I understood Mr. Kim correctly, a star symbolizes humility.
Everyone’s project was a success! Lastly, it’s important to let the gold dry for approximately three days.
If you’re in Seoul, and you want to create your own Kum Baek Yeon masterpiece, you can call Mr. Kim at 02-730-2067, or simply show up at the hanok, which is easy to find. The hanok is tiny, so if you’re a group, it’s best to call ahead. Get off at Anguk Subway Station (Line 3) and walk straight out exit 2. Follow the signs for the Bukchon Traditional Crafts Experience Center. Walk past the Center, and Mr. Kim’s hanok is at the end of the next lane on your right. Hours of operation are Monday through Friday 10 am to 5 pm, and Saturday 9 am to 3 pm. Mr. Kim can also be reached via email at [email protected] The workshop lasts about 2 hours. You can choose either imitation gold or the real thing and prices range from 10,000W for a silk card with imitation gold to 60,000W to gild a pouch using pure gold.
Have you ever attended a traditional craft workshop when visiting another country? Would you like to learn Kum Baek Yeon if you come to Korea? Let us know in the comments.
The workshop was offered by the Seoul Women’s International Association. SIWA offers numerous well organized and economical tours. If you’re planning a trip to Seoul, check them out. It was SIWA that organized the lovely tea ceremony tour that I blogged about a few months ago.
Mr. Kim waving goodbye to his happy workshop participants.
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