Dating all the way back to the Three Kingdoms period and its beautiful gold crowns, Korea has a unique history with elaborate crafts. Even to this day, artisans are devoted to continuing the nation’s handicraft history. However, Korean traditional crafts are often only displayed on the tourist packed streets of Insadong, Bukchon Hanok Village or the National Museum—places designated solely to promote Korean culture.
In an effort to promote Korean traditional arts and crafts to younger generations, the National Intangible Heritage Centre and the Korea Culture Heritage Foundation presented a number of items through exhibitions. However, they fell short of their goal with little interest shown by younger generations.
Middle Studio, a design company, alternately introduced “Chi Project” as an idea to promote traditional art crafts to the public.
“Chi-hada in Korean means to become totally immersed in something,” said Kim Eun-bi, the CEO of Middle Studio. “We came up with the name ‘Chi Project’ to encourage people to get immersed in and come to love Korean traditional culture.”
One way in which Chi Project aims to garner interest in Korean traditional arts and crafts is to infuse it into a modern context by collaborating with a number of artists. This, according to Chi Project, will help people relate to the art.
In the past, the Korean Maedeup craftwork was the art of decorative knot making that would decorate chairs, musical instruments and flags. Chi Project, along with artisan Park Hyeong-min, created a DIY kit to give people easy instructions to create bracelets using four traditional knotting techniques called: Oudorae, Dongsimgyeol, Saengjjok and Kkot garakji Maedeup. They also worked together to create Maedeup for hanging plants – rather than using wires.
For another pioneering method to introduce traditional Korean arts and crafts in a modern context, Chi Project teamed up with Baek Kyeong-hyeon to introduce Mamiche to a modern audience. Mamiche is made out of horsehair and was historically used to make traditional Korean food such as doenjang, makgeolli, and rice congee. All these require filtering, which the Mamiche does, acting as a kind of strainer.
In an interview with the Korea Business News, Baek pointed out the capabilities of Mamiche to filter extremely fine particles. To modernize the traditional horsehair craft, Chi Project and Baek took its extraordinary filtering feature and created Mamiche coffee filters.
“It was Baek’s idea to invent a coffee filter using Mamiche,” Kim Eun-bi said. “Our job was to take the artisan’s original idea and apply a pleasant and presentable design to it.”
Unlike modern and disposable coffee filters, Mamiche filters are free of chemical substances and other additives – removing unpleasant artificial tastes. Along with this, they are long-lasting and can be reused multiple times, opposed to being used once and thrown away like modern coffee filters.
For Kim Eun-bi, Chi Project is her attempt to bring back the distinctive characters of traditional Korean culture. She hopes that this will help traditional crafts such as Maedeup and Mamiche to regain their true values and keep important heritages alive, despite the nation’s drive into modernity.
Kim places a special meaning on all traditional Korean arts and crafts.
“In Korea, traditional crafts such as tteoksal maedeup and jangseok have unique and beautiful patterns,” Kim said. “Each pattern holds a special meaning that grants us a peek into the desires and hopes of our ancestors.”