Korean Gold Leaf Workshop at Kum Bak Yeon
Stamping some gold on fabric can’t be that tough right? Turns out there’s a lot more to gold leafing than I realized. I got a glimpse into this ancient craft on a visit to Kum Bak Yeon, a studio tucked away on a side street of Bukchon Hanok Village in the old part of Seoul. This cozy, traditional studio has been producing gilded textiles since the mid 1800’s.
This unique Korean craft has been practiced for centuries, preserved by masters who pass their knowledge to new generations of apprentices. Me and a small group of friends took a workshop from one such an experienced artisan, Mr. Kim. He greeted us upon arrival and led us to a small exhibition room displaying beautifully ornamented fabrics and stamping and carving tools. Mr. Kim briefed us on the history of Korean gold leafing. In Korean culture, gold represents beauty and eternity and gold-decorated clothing was reserved only for royalty. Nowadays, gold patterned clothing is worn for special events like weddings or milestone birthdays.
wedding veil stamped with symbols of longevity and happiness
learning to gold leaf
Participants could choose among silk fabric, bookmarks, or pouches to imprint. After selecting our items, we sat in the courtyard to start our class. Mr. Kim gave a demonstration of the process, which he made look a lot more effortless than it was. A thin layer of glue is evenly brushed on to a wood block then heated. Sounds simple, but it’s easy to accidentally paint on too much or have it bubble. Next, the pattern is stamped on to the fabric and tricky layers of gold leaf – we used the more affordable brass imitation form – are applied and pressed into the pattern. Once firmly set into the glue, a cotton pad is gently used to wipe away the remaining leaf.
The workshop was definitely not enough time to master this ancient technique, but it did give me a deeper appreciation for the craft. The knowledgeable Mr. Kim was very patient with us and did a thorough job of educating us on the process and symbolism behind the wood blocks. Plus, I got to leave with a pretty bookmark!
The workshop varies between 10,000-20,000 KRW (roughly $10-20 USD) depending on the material you choose to print. If you’ve never done this before, I recommend opting for the imitation gold leaf which is about a third of the price of the real stuff. To sign up for the workshop, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call + 82-2-730-2067. Find the full, updated details here»
Mr. Kim explains the symbols behind the wood blocks
Kum Bak Yeon studio entrance
Kum Bak Yeon
24-12 Bukchon-ro 12-gil, Jongno-gu, Seoul, South Korea
Mon-Fri: 10:00 am – 5:00 pm
Saturday: 10:00 am – 3:00
The studio is a 7-10 minute away from Anguk Station (subway line 3) exit 2. It will be on the right off the main street. You will go up a hill past other studios in the village, turn left near the top, and then make a right on to a tiny side street.
Have you every tried a workshop abroad? Share your experiences and tips below.
Lara was instilled with the travel bug at an early age and has visited over 25 countries. Her mother’s job as a flight attendant enabled a childhood of discovering the world. She recently relocated to Seoul, South Korea, where she hopes to explore much of Asia for the next few years. In addition to being the founding editor of En Route Traveler, Lara also works as a freelance graphic designer. In her spare time, she contributes as a Local Expert to AFAR, is an ambassador for FIG Clothing, enjoys vegetarian cuisine, instructs Zumba, practices yoga, dabbles in photography and, of course, travels as much as possible.
*Admission rates and hours of operation are subject to change