100 Thimbles in a Box
About the Book
Korean art is characterized by simplicity, spontaneity and humor, and reflects a deep reverence for nature. But its unique beauty and charm have largely gone unrecognized in the Western world where it is much less well known than the art of other Asian cultures. Debbi Kent and Joan Suwalsky have set out to change that with the publication of 100 Thimbles in a Box: The Spirit and Beauty of Korean Handicrafts.
Written as an introduction to the beautiful art and handicrafts of Korea, the 168-page book begins by touching on the historical, cultural, religious, and philosophical background of Korean handicrafts.
The second chapter offers detailed explanations of 40 of the symbols that have appeared repeatedly in Korean handicrafts for thousands of years, symbols that have not only been used as decoration, but that have served very important functions – to ward off danger and invite blessings.
Chapters 3 through 9 present 44 arts and handicrafts in 7 categories – ceramics, fiber arts, paper, inlay, metal, wood, and painting – discussing their attributes, their history and how they are created.
Chapter 10 looks at the state of handicrafts in Korea today, where “National Treasure” artisans continue to create exquisite traditional works, while contemporary artists have come up with innovative ways to incorporate traditional themes into their work with exciting results.
For those who want to learn more, a comprehensive list of Resources in both the United States and Korea is provided.
The book is intended for adults and teens, but can also be enjoyed by children who will love studying the bright, colorful pictures and learning about symbols like the tiger, dragon and three-legged crow that are pictured throughout the book.
“This thoroughly researched and elegantly photographed book is more than a source of knowledge — it is itself a piece of art.”
Autographed book ~ $30
Wrapped in a beautiful Korean wrapping cloth ~ $35
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Authors: Debbi Kent, Joan Suwalsky
Softcover, 168 pages
Publisher: Seoul Selection
Publication Date: April 2014
Dimensions: 11 x 8.6 x 0.5 inches
Seoul Magazine – June 2014
Opening the Door to an Undiscovered World
For American writers Debbi Kent and Joan Suwalsky, the decision to put together “100 Thimbles in a Box: The Spirit and Beauty of Korean Handicrafts” (2014, Seoul Selection) was a natural outgrowth of what the two had been doing for years, namely, teaching classes about Korean art and handicrafts to adoptive children and parents. Read more…
Korea Herald (daily newspaper in English) – 4/29/14
American mothers publish book on traditional Korean handicrafts
After adopting children from Korea more than 20 years ago, two American mothers and longtime friends, Debbi Kent and Joan Suwalsky, were both determined to raise their children in an environment that would expose their families to their kids’ native culture as much as possible. Read more…
Hankyoreh (daily newspaper in Korean) – 4/28/14
입양아 뿌리 찾다 ‘한국의 멋’에 빠졌어요
미국 매릴랜드 주에 사는 조앤 슈왈스키(Joan Suwalsky, 70)와 버지니아 주의 데비 켄트(Debbi Kent, 62)가 한국 전통 수공예를 소개하는 영문 책을 함께 냈다. 100 Thimbles in a Box-The Spirit and Beauty of Korean Handicrafts. 우리말로 풀면 ‘함에 담긴 골무 100개-한국 수공예의 얼과 아름다움’이다. Read more…
Joongang Daily (newspaper in English) – 5/12/14
Adoptive moms praise beauty of Korean crafts
When two U.S. mothers, Joan Suwalsky and Debbie Kent, adopted Korean children 20 years ago, they decided their kids should learn about their Korean roots. The two began to make regular visits to their children’s homeland to find out more about the country, and they were soon captivated by the beauty of Korean handicrafts. Read more…
“While many theorists and art historians have tried to pinpoint the beauty and essence of Korean craft, its familiarity and universality have kept it from being fully understood and properly appreciated until this book. Ideal for the general reader, 100 Thimbles in a Box covers various themes and media in Korean art. As they explore the hidden symbolism and unique uses of Korean handicraft, the two authors trace connections between Korea’s past and present. Offering abundant visual material, this book illustrates how Koreans have enjoyed art and culture in every moment of their lives.”
— Hyonjeong Kim Han
Associate Curator for Korean Art, Asian Art Museum of San Francisco
“As Korea continues to forge ahead in the era of globalization, 100 Thimbles in a Box provides a timely and necessary reminder of the persistence and beauty of traditional Korea. This thoroughly researched and elegantly photographed book is more than a source of knowledge; it is itself a piece of art. Debbi Kent and Joan Suwalsky have seamlessly blended culture, art, and history to offer readers an extensive overview of Korean handicraft, tradition, and identity.”
— Jai-Ok Shim
Executive Director, Fulbright Korea
“100 Thimbles in a Box will be treasured by everyone who loves traditional Korean culture and art. For adoptees and adoptive parents, however, it will also serve to nurture and support individual and family identity and pride. This beautiful volume will keep Korea close to all of us who love Korea, whether we are joined to it by birth, adoption, or simple admiration for its rich cultural heritage.”
— Margie Perscheid
President, Korean Focus
“This beautiful book is a perfect introduction to Korean handicraft traditions for English-speaking audiences. Visually stunning, it places traditional art forms in the philosophical and religious contexts in which they have grown over the past 5,000 years, describing how they were (and still are) made, and how they were central to the lives of the Korean people. It offers a clear explanation of the symbols that permeate handicrafts, their origins, and their functions: to bestow blessings and protect from harm. In a final chapter, the status of handicrafts in modern Korea is explored with explanations of how they are being preserved through the efforts of expert artisans and reborn in the beautiful work of modern Korean artists. This fascinating book will whet the appetite of any reader to learn more about the vibrant, engaging folk art that has colored the everyday lives of Koreans for generations.”
— Byung Goo Choi
Director, Korean Cultural Center in Washington, D.C.
“Discovering the beauty hidden around us in our everyday lives—pausing to appreciate, for example, the humble glory of a wildflower—that brings warmth to our hearts. There are not many books that describe, as 100 Thimbles in a Box does, the familiar grace and charm of Korean handicraft in terms of its symbolism and the various techniques involved in producing it. I believe that this book will help many individuals come not only to understand Korea, but also to love it.”
— Kim Yeonsoo
Former Director, Research Division of Artistic Heritage, National Research Institute of Cultural Heritage in Korea
A Treasure to be Shared
The exquisite photographs and beautifully written text of 100 Thimbles in a Box bring the splendor of Korean handicrafts to life. The authors’ knowledge of Korean arts is obvious throughout the book and their passion for the Korean culture is infectious. This book will make the reader want to visit Korea as soon as possible to see the crafts and the artisans of Korea firsthand. It’s a treasure to be shared with family and friends.
– By Roger Glover
My husband has 2 adopted Korean sisters. I have found trying to learn more about their culture is overwhelming as there is so much to learn. This book takes one part of the Korean culture, traditional handicrafts, and walks the reader through each main type. The writing is eloquent and succinct. The images are vibrant and detailed. I am so happy to have this book not only as an educational resource but also on display on my coffee table. Excellent!
– By Jessica Sedgwick
Beautiful Book, easy to navigate through
This book is full of beautiful illustrations and information pertaining to the history of Korean crafts. I love how easy it is to navigate through. It is a MUST for anyone interested in the Korean culture or wants to introduce others to the beauty and story behind their intricate crafts.
– By Michelle
I loved this book!
This lovely book really opened my eyes to the incredible diversity, richness and stunning beauty of Korean art and culture. It provides an easy-to-read, well-organized overview of the full range of Korea’s amazing arts – and is a true feast for the eyes (hundreds of beautiful photos). The authors also explain the historical and religious roots of Korea’s handicrafts and discuss how they are still very much alive and evolving in Korea today. I would recommend this book to anyone who is interested in art, culture, and, of course, Korea and Asia. And it also makes a gorgeous coffee table book!
– By Deborah D. Barron
This is a beautifully illustrated and well documented book about Korean folk culture. It is fascinating reading, and will provide much information and spiritual insight into the arts and crafts that have been part of Korean life for centuries. Collecting these handicrafts will take on new meaning.
– By Mary M. Graham
Table of Contents
Historical and Religious Foundations of Korean Art
Symbols in Korean Art
Ceramics and Clay – Celedon, Stoneware, White Porcelain, Earthenware Pots, Roof Tiles, Walls, and Chimneys
Fiber – Thimbles, Embroidery, Ornamental Knotting, Gold Leaf, Wrapping Cloths, and Traditional Costume and Accessories
Paper – Mulberry Paper, Hanji, Fans, Kites, and Lanterns
Inlay – Metal Inlay, Mother of Pearl Inlay, and Ox Horn Decoration
Metal – Furniture Brasses, Bells, and Shilla Gold
Wood – Masks, Drums, Totem Poles, Rice cake Stamps and Molds, Wedding Geese, Funerary Figures, Temple Doors, Chests, Doors, and Windows
Painting – Folk Paintings, Ten Longevity Symbols Paintings, Sun, Moon & Five Peaks Paintings; Character Paintings; Scholar’s Study Paintings; Foldings Screens; Genre Paintings; Literati Paintings; Documentary Paintings; and Architectural Painting
Handicrafts in Korea Today – Living National Treasures and Contemporary Artists and Craftsmen