Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Special Hats and Special Socks

Back to tourist shots...

Yesterday I spent part of the day in the far southern reaches of Seoul at the National Museum of Contemporary Art, which is located in a huge park - the aptly named Grand Park.  The park also contains a theme park called Seoul Land (giggle), a zoo, a sky tram and a hobby museum.  Then I got back on the most wonderful subway system in the world (so clean! so efficient! so cheap!) and went to the northern reaches of the city where I spent hours at the Gyeongbokgung Palace.  It is impossible to take an ugly photograph there, I tell you.  I posted oodles of them on Facebook, so go on over there and friend me so you can see them!

Within the palace city limits, there also is the National Folk Museum of Korea, which I dearly wanted to see but it was closed yesterday.  I went back today, dodging school groups and the thick ranks of tourists, because I had heard that there was a very good display about Korean millinery.  I had not been misled.

Beautiful, special hats - nearly all for men.

Those great black ones are actually woven from split reeds and blackened.  I highly recommend all the small videos that are in many of the exhibition vitrines which show people demonstrating the techniques for making the items in the display.  I only wish they had been larger so I could really see what was happening.

Awesome display of shoes and boots.

One of the little videos showed how women processed flax and wove linen.  Again, I wish the screen had been larger - it was so fascinating because it did not (seem to) include any spinning of any kind beyond a bit of finger rolling.  As I stood watching, I became aware of someone else also watching.  It turned out to be an elderly woman who used hand gestures to indicate that she did this process when she was a child.  Achk!  About the millionth time I wished I could speak Korean!  Instead all I could do was make amazed noises and give her a very wide-eyed look that said (as best I could manage), Oh my goodness!  That's amazing!  It is such a complicated, time consuming process.  You must be an incredible person...or that is what I tried to convey with my eyebrows.

Are these not beautiful?  They were a prince's clothes.  As I walked around the palace, I tried to imagine it as a going concern rather than a tourist site.  What would have it been like to actually live and work within the walls of the compound?  I never imagined myself as royalty but I could imagine myself as someone who would have made clothes like these.  The care and attention to the stitches and inspiring.

After I thoroughly exhausted all the possibilities of the Gyeongbokgung Palace and related institutions, I went over to Insadong district, which I had heard had some good paper and antique stores.  It really was a tourist trap with tiny pockets of interesting things, like this shop that sold calligraphy supplies.  I didn't spend much time there because it was too much a scene for my taste.  However, there was a yarn store on the 3rd floor at the head of the street.

That store, I went in.


Patti Blaine said...

Fascinating! Gorgeous photos, Robyn.

island sweet said...

oh i wish i could have spent the day with you!

Brenda Stratton said...

I think you are correct Robyn.... they didn't spin the fibres...I think they rolled the ends together (possibly on their thigh) to form a continuous fibre or knotted the individual fibres together. I think. Looks like you are having an amazing time. Brenda

Robyn said...

Ah-ha! That makes sense with what I saw on the video Brenda - also some spit seemed to be involved. It belies my theory that every culture has a spindle, but perhaps somewhere else in Korea there are sheep and wool and spindles?

Shawn - I wish you had too!!