On November 7 after a delicious breakfast at the Conrad Hotel in the heart of Seoul, South Korea, we decided with my friend Cole to visit Changdeokgung Palace, located in a beautiful park dotted with autumn trees in Jogno-gu.
It is a palace built by the Joseon dynasty, in 1405. It is made up of a set of buildings with elaborated roofs that make up a kind of maze. An austere place that currently lacks furniture but that dazzles with its sophisticated architecture.
From there we walked to the Gyeongbokgung Palace, where we could witness the deployment of soldiers dressed in period with very colorful pennants.
The idea was to go walking to Tongui-dong in Jongno-gu for our stone carving class.
The class was at Hangeul Jeongak Gallery in the basement of a building. There, our Korean teacher would teach us "in Korean" how to carve stone seals.
The first thing we had to do was polish some irregular pieces of stone. Once the surface was very smooth, we painted it with orange ink. While the stone was drying, we painted the calligraphy we wished to carve on our stamp with Chinese ink on "hanji" (rice paper). Luckily, cell phones are a tiny assistant that can translate any word in the language we wanted. That's how I found the calligraphy in Korean of my business name, Shogo (which means noon). Once the word we wanted to carve was written on a piece of "hanji"(rice paper), we turned the paper over, to copy the calligraphy in reverse with ink on the rock.
When the ink was dry our teacher gave us chisels to carve the rock. All this in the middle of a hundred of instructions in Korean, instructions such as that each stroke within the calligraphy should keep the exact same distance or, how to handle the chisel so as not to hurt our hands, the necessary depth that we should carve our rock and many others instructions.
Our master's patience was admirable, she guided us in Korean always smiling until finally, our seal was ready.
Last step, our teacher prepared a pasty red ink with which she covered our seals with a brayer or rubber roller. At that time, our stamps were ready to print on "hanji" (rice paper).
It was exciting to see that in three hours we had manufactured our own stone seal. My friend Cole embarked on the task of printing the name of her Scottish clan and despite being a somewhat complicated task she managed to perform wonderfully well. Bravo for my friend Cole who patiently let herself be dragged by me to do art courses in Seoul, thank you, Cole!.
Both we were so happy with our own carved stone seals.
I have to tell you a little bit about the Hangeul Jeongak Gallery because it is a place worth visiting, this artist has an extraordinary collection of stone seals, real work of art characterized for the elegance, attention to detail and, exquisite beauty. True works of love that seem absolutely impossible to capture with a chisel on rocks. Her pieces are so delicate and beautiful that I could not escape the temptation to buy her a seal, besides before saying goodbye and taking pictures with this amazing Korean teacher she gave us a copy of her stone seal book published in 2011.
We left the Hangeul Jeongak Gallery proud with new knowledge, experience and "our own carved" stone seal in Korean. Traveling and learning is a luxury, and if we add the company of a good friend there is nothing more to add. Don't you think?