10 things my Korean Calligraphy Class taught me 🖌

서예

Pronounced Seo-Yeh
~ A traditional method of artistic writing ~

It’s no secret and you may have already guessed from my occasional Korean Drama schpiel on Twitter, that I have a very strong appreciation for Korean Culture, and that includes Customs, Traditions, Language, Food, Entertainment, Art and most recently Literature. I often get asked “So what made you get into Korean Culture and what do you love about it?” and as I’m currently learning korean I usually get the surprised expression followed by “Oh, you’re learning Korean!? What made you want to learn it?to which I reply; “I just love the Korean culture, language, Dramas, Music and of course the Food!” ~ which is the more condensed answer.

 A more detailed and lengthy answer would be; ”I really love the language ~ It’s beautiful in every sense of the word; Nice to speak and nice to listen to. The sentence structure fascinates me. Hangul (The Korean Alphabet) to me looks especially beautiful written in calligraphy. I find Korean customs and traditions admirable. Korean Street Art/Graffiti with Calligraphy incorporated is my favourite kind. Korean food is hands down my favourite cuisine of all time ~ Japanese, Thai and Greek are close behind but Hanshik wins for sure. When it comes to Korean Music; I love all kinds; Classical, K-Indie and of course a little K-Pop. And when it comes to Korean Dramas, I’m well known to lose out on hours of sleep just to get in “one more episode” which let’s face it, is impossible because ~ Cliffhangers amirite? haha!


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Remember the days of Ustream? Years ago I was watching a broadcast and the comment section was flooded with comments asking “Are you watching any K-Dramas at the moment?” and “What do you think of Taeyang’s new Music video?” Clueless, I thought to myself; “What is this K-Drama and K-Pop world you speak of?” One quick YouTube search and a few sidebar clicks later, I was pretty much sold on the idea that entertainment in Korea was on a whole other level compared to the UK. So after 6 + years of watching Korean Dramas and incoherently singing along to my favourite Korean songs I finally decided that it would be a good idea to learn Korean and with that, I took my first step and learned Hangul within a day.


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Being self-taught with the occasional help from friends, I’m pretty much always on the lookout for anything new to help and last summer I stumbled upon a video where a Lady from London was talking about her Korean language learning experience. She mentioned that she found a course run by the Korean Cultural Centre in London and only having a few days before the application deadline she poured her heart and soul into the form and made the cut. Eager to join the course she raved so highly about I headed over to the Korean Cultural Centre website and found that sadly I’d missed the deadline for the language course but I did end up finding a course that was still in line with the Korean language and perfect for developing a new skill; 서예 pronounced Seoyeh ~ Korean calligraphy. I was so glad that I found a course that combined my love of the Korean language, traditions, and art. Learning 서예 sounded like the perfect way to spend my Wednesday evenings. Fast forward a little ~ I luckily landed a space on the course and what I gained from my experience was so much more than I expected. Here are 10 things I learnt.


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  1. It’s not as easy as it looks ~ The skill and technique involved are not to be underestimated. Once you’ve mastered how to hold the calligraphy brush and the correct seating posture it’s a series of light and hard brush strokes both vertical and horizontal, turns and ‘finishes’. Anyone under the right guidance can master calligraphy. I was lucky enough to have the most encouraging, patient and kindest teacher; Mr Kilchan Lee.

  2. I  learned that much like handwriting, everyone has a different style and that’s what makes Korean Calligraphy even more beautiful. Each creation has its own unique flare.


  3. The actual practice itself is very therapeutic. Don’t get me wrong there are times where it can be a little frustrating but it’s worth it because it leads to a greater sense of accomplishment. There is no greater satisfaction than the feeling you get when you get something right on that 100th try ~ It’s all about consistency and perseverance.

  4. I learned discipline and improved on time management ~ It’s been a few moons since I was in education and between you and me I really didn’t like school (at all) but it’s funny how easily you can slip back into a routine and class setting. Working remotely I never have a set place to be or a set time, so it was nice to have something to commit to for 10 weeks. It became such a routine for me and one that I really looked forward to.

  5. One of my favourite parts of the course was meeting people from different walks of life and being around people who shared the same love of Korea that I do. I no longer felt like the alien in the room haha! It was so nice to be in good company and have great conversations. I also picked up new Korean Phrases, discovered new dramas, music, animes and tattoo places. And believe it or not, there were some BTS videos that I hadn’t seen! Shocking I know! I also had no idea that Centre Point on Oxford Street existed but now I do and I can tell you that they have the best deal on barley tea in town. You’re welcome.


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  6. I learned how to be Patient and Mindful. Patience is one area I lack in. I get agitated just waiting for the kettle to come to a boil! Ha! When it comes to learning a new skill I often get so excited about the idea of it that I want to become a pro as quick as I can and look for the quickest shortcut to getting there. With calligraphy, I really had to learn how to take my time and enjoy the process. Like most things in life the journey on the way to your destination is the best part, so enjoy it. 

  7. Take Chances, takes risks, take action. I have really bad anxiety. (#mentalhealthawarenessweek) This class helped me break outside of my comfort zone. I learned a new skill, made friends, met someone famous (more on that later) and made some great memories & all because I broke out of my comfort zone. If you take anything away from this lengthy post take away this ~ You never regret the things you do do, you only regret the things you don’t.

  8. Silence is truly Golden. This is in alignment with being mindful. During each class, it was nice to chat but the times when it was silent really allowed for us to concentrate on mastering the techniques at hand. The “dots” are by far the trickiest things to learn but being able to focus on perfecting it was challenging and rewarding in the best way. I always thought that I needed background music to work but now I find that I much prefer working in silence.


  9. A new habit that I formed up was picking up a copy of the Evening standard newspaper from the train station. During classes, we would practice on the newspaper which was a nice way to catch up on current events in the news. It’s a habit that has stuck with me ever since.

  10. This next point is something I like to call ‘The King of all ‘What are the chances?’ moments”. Bare in mind this is more of a highlight than a learning curve but I couldn’t resist not including this standout moment. One of the weeks myself and a couple of the ladies from class went out for dinner at a Korean Restaurant in Soho. We had just ordered our mains and were chit chatting away about a very famous Korean actor;  (Jung Woo-Sung) who was in London for the Korean Film Festival promoting his movie Asura, when right on cue…Guess who walks in with his producer and team? Yes! None other than Jung Woo-Sung! “What are the chances!?” is something you’ll often hear me say because really you really can’t make this stuff up. I’m pretty sure we all stopped breathing for a moment! Ha! There is nothing that will ever compare to meeting 정우성. We chatted with him briefly and got our picture taken and I have to say he was so polite, friendly and extremely humble.

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Within the span of 10 weeks I went from splodging basic lines back and forth to crafting actual calligraphy script. I loved learning the different strokes, lines, dots and going over the consonants and vowels. I’m not quite sure how it started but It was especially funny calling the letters ‘ducks’ and ‘birds’. One of the priceless things I took away from the course was being able to create personalised calligraphy canvases and give them as gifts to friends and family ~ Personally I think it’s a nice, unique and thoughtful gift.

Now having my personal calligraphy set at home, I like to have some quiet time from time to time either with a cup of tea or glass a wine and practice. On the last day of class, I brought a friend along and as she entered she was hit with the smell of black ink which she said brought back memories from studying seoyeh at school. The smell of black ink was something that I had gotten used to over the course of 10 weeks and never really paid any attention to but now that the course has come to an end I completely understand that nostalgic feeling. Every time I practice and the black ink hits the stone, it brings back little doses of nostalgia. 


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Photo Credit: KCCUK

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I’d like to say a huge Thank you to Mr Lee and the Korean Cultural Centre for having such great education programmes and being so welcoming.

 

 

 

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