Wednesday, 6 May 2015

My One Year Anniversary with Korea!!!


Hellloooo/ 안녕하세요!!!!!
Last week I celebrated my one year anniversary with magical Korea!! I CAN NOT BELIEVE I HAVE BEEN HERE FOR A WHOLE YEAR?!?! The time has flown by, it really has...I still feel as if the whole experience is still new and to be honest there hasn't been a day when I've felt like the novelty has worn off or haven't appreciated being here. That's not to say that there aren't things that I miss about the UK, namely family and friends (and things like crumpets and salt & vinegar crisps!!) but, all in all this past year has been one of my favorites so far!
Moving to Asia was something that I had set in my sights for many, many years. Much as I loved living and working in London for several years, once I started taking on more work overseas and traveling a lot with my artist residency projects I knew that I needed to dedicate myself to giving somewhere totally new a shot at calling home. After spending a few months in Korea in 2013 working with Incheon Art Platform during my time as artist in residence on Baengnyeong Island I knew that magical Seoul was the place I wanted to be!
One reason for deciding to move to Korea was to be able to devote some serious time into researching and seeking creative influence as well as learning about new methods, techniques and heritage crafts. One thing I love here is experiencing such a diverse arts scene in Seoul. There is so much going on and there is a tremendous value placed on creativity here which means there is always something new going on whether is be exhibitions, seminars, workshops, artist talks or community projects so I find the environment here really inspiring and encouraging in terms of generating my own new pieces. Being surrounded by a total cultural contrast to my own has equally pushed me in new directions with my own research and approach to my creative ideas. My focus on the upcoming months is to learn more about traditional Korean textile methods, specifically natural dyeing and canvas folk painting...so I'm excited as I embark upon the upcoming year or so here to add some new strings to my bow as there as so many interesting little workshops going on! My most recent workshop that I attended was learning how to make a paper lotus lantern which I did at a temple taught by a wonderful volunteer who was a bakery teacher and a Japanese major!!!
It's also been an awesome year for food too! I have NEVER seen so many independent cafes as I have in Seoul! Cafe culture is a huge thing here and the European coffee experience is massively popular so everywhere you turn there are cute cafes and an abundance of 'Afternoon Tea' sets, mountains of macarons and dainty little tarts and cakes!
A couple of my friends here are equally into good cake as I am and love searching for new cafes and cute tea houses, so we have been on a mission exploring the cafes and coffee shops of Seoul, one slice at a time! 
We have found some amazing places!! Probably the best afternoon tea of MY life was at Garosugil's 'Salon de Thé : Mon Chou Chou'... it came with tiny little lemon meringue pies, cheese scones, violet macarons and teeny cream puffs!! AMAZINGGGG!

Being a vegetarian in Korea is not always an easy feat. The majority of Korean dishes are packed up with meat or fish, staple kimchi included which means eating out and about always takes some forward planning!
I have however found some AWESOME veggie and vegan places around Seoul and it seems as though more and more are popping up so it's always fun to track down a new veggie eatery!!!


I also really LOVE cooking here. I miss having a big kitchen and a proper oven but, it's amazing the things you can do with a tiny £20 toaster oven and minimal surface space (that includes squatting on the floor to grate carrots onto a plate to whip up a carrot cake!!)
I love to visit the traditional market as they have so many weird and wonderful vegetables that I've never seen before in my life so it makes kitchen experiments fun... I have now mastered how to cook kohlrabi and daikon...also there is an unidentifiable vegetable at the market I have my eye on so that may be my next challenge!

I would be here all day if I were to try to sum up an entire year of what has gone down here in lovely Korea. It's been a busy and exciting year and I feel that I've really got to know Seoul~even after a whole year I've never felt like I've exhausted the city and feel there is still so much I've yet to experience!! I've been lucky to make some wonderfully talented and inspiring friends here and I love this place more and more as each day passes....yayyyy excited for more adventures and exploits here in magical Seoul. I am so grateful to have this chance to be able to live in such a country that continues to interest, challenge and inspire me so much meaning that I'm super conscious of making the most of every precious moment that I have in this awesome country!!! So in a nutshell this past year... cherry blossom festivals, road trips, beautiful countryside, Korean language lessons, urban hiking (!!! in ballet shoes!!!), endless exhibitions, parks and forests, cakes and bibimbap, lotus blossom tea, bungeoppang, bingsu, climbing fortress walls, magical mystery bus trips, Korean borders, riding to the end of the subway line, trips to watch the ballet, picking persimmons,  jaunts to Japan, reunions in Hong Kong, dressing up in Hanbok, climbing 'mountains', old prisons, candyfloss on Wolmido Island, sweet potatoes in Yangpyeong..... ahhh so many memories!! Anyway, I will cease rambling on and leave you with some of my favorite snaps from throughout the year including some from my travels to Japan also!!!
Happy Birthday Korea~ !!!
Love and Sparkles,
Emma xxx





Tuesday, 31 March 2015

OKAYAMA X NAOSHIMA ISLAND- JAPAN!!!!

KONNICHIWA!!!!! So last month I whizzed off with my little pink suitcase again for a lovely jaunt to Japan!!! This time around I headed to Okayama city so that I could use it as a springboard to check out the quaint old town of Kurashiki and mainly so I could head to Naoshima Island. It's so handy living in Korea as it means it's only an hour and a half or so to travel to Japan~ in fact it takes me longer to get to Incheon airport on the subway from my house than it does to fly to Japan!! One of my missions over this past year has been to explore more of Japan and living so close has given me the perfect opportunity to see the parts of the Japan that have been sitting on my bucket list for so long, waiting to be explored!
Naoshima Island, that lies in the Seto Inland Sea, has been a place that I have dreamed of visiting for so many years!! This tiny little island trimmed with pine trees and sandy beaches is famous for it's contemporary art and boasts an bunch of galleries, museums and public installations. It is also home to a couple of pieces by Yayoi Kusama, who is one of my most respected artists, and Naoshima is famous for her pumpkin on the pier.
The island is home to so many interesting art projects and initiatives and it was really amazing to get to visit and see it all with my own eyes.... so anyway back to arriving in Okayama!!!!


Okayama is a relatively small city and isn't super touristy so it was nice to be able to wander around without the crowds and check out it's lovely castle and famous Korakuen gardens. The weather was slightly warmer than Seoul during the time I was there which was lovely as the plum blossoms had just started to bloom!
I stayed in central Okayama which was great as there were a bunch of old school shopping streets and arcades in the area as well as little cafes and places to eat!! When I was there I took the train to the nearby town of Kurashiki which is full of winding, traditional streets sitting on a canal. 
The place reminded me a lot of lovely Mino!!!
Kurashiki was awesome...little museums, cafes and shops tucked around every corner! There is also a nice shrine that offers views over the town! So many yummy snacks too including black sesame ice cream!!!
A trip to Japan is always, of course, an excuse to indulge in some shopping for goodies!! On this occasion mainly cute stationary, glorious snacks and a mega haul of green tea!!
I was also excited that Starbucks had just launched their Sakura seasonal specials menu so I made sure I got a hefty slice of cherry blossom chiffon cake and a divine 'Caramelly Sakura Choco Latte' every morning!!!
I really took advantage of the glorious sakura goodies whilst I was there.....cherry blossom tea, sakura chocolate, sakura mochi, sakura milk tea, sakura ice cream.....and along the same theme....plum blossom potato chips?!?!?! Made the most of the endless daigaku imo (college potatoes!!)...steaming matcha on tap....and of course the odd taiyaki here and there!!!!
My adventure to Naoshima Island was the part I had been most looking forward to! I took a train out to Uno Port where I eventually hopped a aboard a ferry that sailed out to Miyanoura Port~ I'd been up mega early to travel there so I enjoyed the glorious morning views of sunshine over the Seto sea whilst eating a strawberry jam sandwich up on the poopdeck!!!!! Most incredible start to the day!!
The first thing I spotted when rolling into Miyanoura was the much anticipated Kusama red pumpkin!! I'd been super excited to see this gem sitting in amongst fishing boats and the likes in the port!!!
AMAZINGGGG!!!!
Naoshima is a small island and I actually ended up deciding to take to the island entirely on foot simply because I didn't want to miss ANYTHING, so the bus and bike options were out the window!! So glad that I decided to walk the island because it gave me a change to saunter through the towns and enjoy lovely, long walks past fields, orange trees, along the beautiful coastline and through little clusters of houses en route!! Perfect way to see Naoshima! Oooohh and also....there happens to be a WONDERFUL vegan restaurant on the island which I hunted out...my lunch was AMAZING!!!!There are several large galleries on the island and I opted to take in the 'Art House Project' and Benesse House. There were so many places I wanted to check out but these two were top of my list!!!
The art house project was my favourite as it was collection of existing residential properties in the Honoura district that had been interpreted by Japanese artists.
One particular piece, 'Go-o Shrine' by artist, Hiroshi Suhimoto, was especially interesting as there was a set of crafted glass steps leading underground from the shrine into a chamber. People could access the underground chamber two at a time using a torch to find your way~ it was really incredible!!!

I could talk forever about magical Naoshima~ my time on the island was AMAZING....one of the most memorable and awesome places that I have visited in Japan so far!!! Incredibly beautiful!!! Was so great also to get to see some beaches and sea as living inner city here in Seoul I often miss the seaside!! I was lucky that the weather was perfect! It was just beginning to get warmer and it felt really springlike!!
So instead of rambling on anymore, I shall leave you with a bunch of photos from my Japanese adventure!!!!!!
Love and Cherry Blossoms!!!
Emma
xxxx