Brilliance Obtained From Shells
Brilliance Obtained From Shells
  • Lee Park Jeongeun
  • 승인 2024.04.01 10:00
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Have you ever picked up shells on the beach? Shells are beautiful for their exterior shape, but some shells have a brilliant light inside them, which makes them even more eye-catching. Therefore, if processed, it can be used as a material for crafts. This handicraft of inlaying processed shells onto various objects is called "najeon chilgi." This SMT reporter made her own najeon chilgi by decorating a mirror case.


Traditional crafts that never lose their shine

Mother-of-pearl, which is also called "zagae," mainly refers to the shell of abalone or horned conch, and when the flat part is cut and shaped, it becomes "najeon." When the object with the najeon applied to it is painted, it becomes mother-of-pearl lacquerware — "najeon chilgi." During the Goryeo Dynasty, when crafts flourished greatly due to the growth of aristocratic society and the prosperity of Buddhism, najeon chilgi was also enjoying its heyday as production was popular. Unfortunately, there are very few existing examples of najeon chilgi of the Goryeo Dynasty, which had a distinctive style. Tongyeong, Gyeongsangnam-do, Korea, is particularly famous for its beautiful najeon chilgi. The reason is that it is a place where abalone, a type of mother-of-pearl, can be produced in large quantities, and high-quality lacquer is produced nearby. That is why Tongyeong City holds the Tongyeong Najeon Chilgi Festival every October.
Mother-of-pearl, the raw material for najeon, can be found in daily life in the past. It was especially popular as a wedding item and because of this, it was seen as a symbol of wealth. However, as time passed, various types of objects began to be used. Recently, mother-of-pearl has been used in the design of items such as tumblers and smartphone cases, and DIY craft kits have also appeared. Those who want to make their own mother-of-pearl items can do so through one-day classes as well as DIY craft kits. In particular, technologies for coloring mother-of-pearl have been developed, and there is a push to preserve and revitalize the beauty of traditional mother-of-pearl craftsmanship. Mother-of-pearl, which is believed to have contained what our ancestors wished for, has not lost its beauty and shine.



The most gorgeous mirror

This SMT reporter visited a one-day class at a mother-of-pearl craft shop in Insa-dong. She made a reservation and decided to make a mirror from the given options of a Smart Tok, keyring, or mirror. The first thing to do was to place the mirror on a piece of black paper and draw a circle around its border with a pencil. Afterwards, the staff member gave a brief explanation of the names of mother-of-pearl and najeon chilgi as well as explaining three methods: shaping and attaching the mother-of-pearl, attaching pieces like a mosaic, and using thin sticks to make geometric shapes. First of all, she provided some mother-of-pearl that had been cut into various shapes so that the reporter could practice the technique of attaching the shaped mother-of-pearl. She could create a design by freely placing pieces in a circle drawn with a pencil, and then attaching them one by one onto a mirror case sprayed with resin. Precise positioning can be done using tweezers. Among the various shapes, the first one the reporter chose was her favorite butterfly shape. Butterflies were placed on the upper part and coral shapes were placed on the lower part to make it look like the sky and the sea. Then she filled the edges with shapes such as hearts, clovers, and stars. Because of the sparkle of mother-of-pearl, she was already dazzled by the decoration up to this point. However, when she saw objects with mother-of-pearl attached so that there was almost no empty space, she felt that the beauty was doubled, so she filled the empty spaces in the center with large shapes such as dolphins and chicks. With this, the decoration work was completed.


Afterwards, the staff provided blue, red, and white mother-of-pearl pieces that were like powder. This step can be done by just dabbing some resin on the tweezers and sticking it on. She wanted to use all three colors as they were beautiful, but there was not a lot of space left on the mirror and she wanted to match the overall tone, so a little bit of blue and white was used. The remaining gaps could finally be filled with carved mother-of-pearl. Unfortunately, the class time was almost over and there was no more space left to decorate the mirror, so the process of attaching the thin sticks was skipped. After the overall decorating process is complete, it takes the staff member about 10 minutes to finish it and the completely dried mirror was brought to her. The mirror was packaged so that it could be safely carried without losing its shine, and it was advised not to touch it for an hour. Then, a large seashell was temporarily provided as a production prop so that one's handmade work could be photographed beautifully. While taking pictures, the SMT reporter was surprised that such a gorgeous mirror had been created by simply placing the shapes she likes here and there, and she thought that it would be nice if mother-of-pearl were used more widely as a traditional craft.


Feeling like holding a jewel

The SMT reporter could feel her inner peace while quietly making a mother-of-pearl mirror case. Moreover, she was able to relieve her stress by seeing her favorite shapes gathered in one place and sparkling. When the completed object was packaged, she felt as if she had a precious jewel. If you want to make your own jewelry-like daily objects, how about trying this craft, which allows you to perceive the value of mother-of-pearl as a traditional craft and feel its beauty?


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