Featured Artist: Hanji Naty

Meet Natalie from hanjinaty on Etsy and learn about her adventures in paper crafting.I am so excited to introduce you to my friend, Natalie. We met a couple years ago through the Etsy and even though we live half a world apart, we still get the chance to video chat from time to time.

Natalie's shop, hanji naty,  is filled with colorful, and intricate papercraft designs on a variety of items ranging from jewelry to home decor. They are unlike anything I have ever seen here in the US.

Who are you and where are you from?

My name is Natalie. I am from Quebec, Canada. I have worked and lived in South Korea for eight years now. I am now a professor at Wonkwang University in Iksan, in the province of Jeollabuk-do (south-west of the Korean peninsula). I live here with my husband and our four cats.

I started learning Hanji crafts in 2010, and it became my true passion. I opened my Etsy shop in February 2013, and it’s been a wonderful adventure so far.

Meet Natalie from hanjinaty on Etsy and learn about her adventures in paper crafting.
What do you create?

I work with Hanji paper, which is a wonderful medium. Hanji is made of mulberry pulp, and has amazing qualities. It’s been one of the great prides of Korean people for centuries.

Using Hanji paper, I create everyday items such as jewelry (earrings, brooches, necklaces), hair accessories, and small home decor items, like coasters, pen holders, plates, magnets, etc.

When did you realize your creative passion?

I’ve always enjoyed working with my hands; I love to cook, to draw, to do crafts. I never really dedicated myself to artistic creation until I started doing Hanji crafts here in Korea, back in 2010. After only a few hours I knew that it would literally change my life…. and it did! I cannot imagine my life without Hanji. :)

What or who inspires you in your crafting?

I would say that my main source of inspiration is the Hanji paper itself. It is such an amazing material, with an unbelievably wide range of colors, textures, thickness, patterns, variations…. Entering a Hanji paper store would possibly compare to entering a fabric store, for those who like to sew; you don’t know where to look, and the colors and patterns themselves give you countless ideas for crafting projects! I have to admit that I have a “paper addiction”; there is surely enough Hanji paper in my home to supply 20 years of crafting!! … but I keep on buying more (of course!) because every different sheet of paper feels like a unique treasure, filled with possibilities.

I also have a passion for Korean traditional patterns, that serve as inspiration for my different crafting projects. I often cut out various designs, simply because I like them; I rarely have a specific project in mind while doing it. All the patterns are cut by hand, using a very small and sharp pen-like knife. I keep my cut designs in binders, and when I get an idea for a project I choose among the patterns I have already cut, or I simply cut a new one! I cannot say that I am a very organized craftsperson; I do things instinctively, organically.

What’s your philosophy about crafting and/or life?

“Do it well, or don’t do it at all”. I’ve always believed in commitment and dedication, and in the satisfaction of a well-done task. It’s not about being flawless, it’s more about caring and investing yourself!

For me, it is important to put as much of myself as possible in a project, in order to succeed. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t always succeed! but I know that when I have setbacks, it is not because I did things half-way.
Is crafting a hobby, business, or something in between?

I think it is something in between. Crafting itself is still a hobby (I have a full-time job as a professor in a Korean university), but I am trying to apply “a business sense” to what I do, in order to help Hanji Naty grow and establish itself as a solid brand. That’s the reason why I pay much attention to the marketing of my product (packaging, branding, etc.), to give it a professional and polished look. I also pay close attention to customer service, to make sure my customers are happy and satisfied with their products, and with their overall experience.

I don’t know where this whole adventure will take me, so I am trying to enjoy and learn every step of the way, to slowly build a brand that I like, that inspires me, that is close to what I am, and that hopefully will inspire others.

How did you choose your brand or shop name?

While looking for my shop name, I really wanted to integrate the word “Hanji”, as it is the most important element of my creative process, and it is still fairly unknown outside of Korea. I decided to combine it with “Naty”, a nickname my husband gave me years ago. Together it almost sounds like a noun, which I like a lot!

What projects are you the most proud of?

I rarely work on big projects, but when I do it is a great achievement. One of the projects I am the proudest of is a traditional wall organizer, that I created a few years ago. It took me months to complete it, but I am very proud of the final result! I paid much attention to details, adding trims and small designs even in places where they won’t necessarily be noticed (on the inside of the shelves, for example), but I do know they are there, and that I dedicated myself to creating a nice object, that will be in my house for years to come! Everytime I look at it on my wall, I smile with pride.
How do you deal with crafting failures?

I usually have a “Scrap this! Let’s try again!” approach!... If something doesn’t work out the way I want, I simply discard it and try something else. Interestingly, some of my failures actually gave me great ideas for future projects!

One day I crafted a set of magnets with intricate Chinese characters on them. I was very proud of the design, and when I showed them to my husband he raised an eyebrow, looked at me and said : “Well… it’s nice…. but the character is upside down”. No way! I protested, argued, debated, until I checked and realized…. that he was right! I was so upset and embarrassed! From that day onwards I have that very design on the wall of my workshop, to remind me to keep my “editing eye” on, and never take things for granted. It was a good humility lesson!

Is there anything else you’d like to share about yourself, your craft, or business tips to help others with small crafting businesses?

A tip I would give to small crafting business owners is to connect with other creators and entrepreneurs, as much as possible. It is too easy to stay isolated, and to feel discouraged and alone, and to eventually give up…. When I opened my Etsy shop, I didn’t know what to do with it; the first six months nothing happened (no sales, very few views), and it made me feel like a complete failure. It’s when I decided to take action and get involved in Etsy teams (to connect with other shop owners) that things started to move for me. What an awakening! We are all in the same boat! Do not underestimate the power of a community, online or otherwise!

Stay Connected with Natalie
hanjinaty blog

Email Natalie at natalie@hanjinaty.com



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The Chilly Dog: Featured Artist: Hanji Naty
Featured Artist: Hanji Naty
Meet Natalie from hanjinaty on Etsy and learn about her adventures in paper crafting.
The Chilly Dog
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