Maedup – Korean Macramé – Unique to Korea
|Maedup (literally ‘the knotting’) is a folk handicraft that cannot be learned from books or by studying finished pieces of work. It is, rather, an folk art that throughout Korean history has been passed down from one generation to another. Technically, maedup is anything produced by knotting and tying strings made from twisted grass, bark, fur or thread. Maedup has been in existence in Korea since before recorded history. It was first used to form articles of clothing or decoration for the interior of dwellings. As life became more complex, however, maedup began to be used as a means of recording and tallying numbers, of communicating and of keeping records. In more recent history, it has been more commonly used in accessories for women’s traditional dress or for decorating furniture and other handicrafts.A tradition of maedup-style knotting is also native to China and Japan as well as Korea. In Japan, maedup is commonly used as an ornament in traditional tea ceremonies or to wrap and tie a present. It is also used as a waist string for the kimono, the Japanese traditional dress for women. The finished Japanese and Korean maedup look very similar to each other but the technique of making the two are different. The Chinese style of maedup also looks very similar in pattern to the Korean, but differs in the colors used and the proportion of the knotted body to the tassel.While both involve knot-tying, Korean maedup is very different from Western macrame. Macrame is said to have started when American sailors began to use the knots they knew to create designs during their spare time on long ocean voyages. Typically, therefore, Western macrame is of cotton and tends to be rough and heavy. Korean maedup, on the other hand, is usually made with brightly colored silk thread, giving it a very different kind of beauty.
There are 33 different traditional patterns of Korean maedup, but all of them begin with the same basic steps, so that the completed work looks the same on both faces and has symmetrical right and left sides. No matter how complicated the maedup is, it always starts at the center and ends back at the center.
The tassel, called sul, which hangs from the body of the maedup, is an integral part of the design. It is meant to add beauty to the work with its graceful lines of hanging threads. There are many variations on the tassel design; some of the most common are the berry, rod, club, octopus leg, bell, and abalone tassels.
The norigae is a special type of maedup used to decorate a lady’s traditional hanbok dress which may have up to 12 colors in it. However, it usually uses just three basic colors: red, yellow and indigo blue. Norigae are bright, sophisticated-looking and come in many forms, each representing a wish for something special, such as wealth, fame, many sons, or eternal youth.
Another type of traditional knotting is known as sonchu. It involves a knot to which is attached tassels and other ornaments and which is then tied to the hole in the handle of a fan. Sonchu can be decorated with white or green jade, amber, ivory, cloisonné or jujube wood in which a pattern, perhaps representative of a crane, a deer, or a pavilion, is carved. In olden times, only those who had achieved a governmental position by passing a special national examination could use sonchu on their fans. Those who gained office through family connections, but without passing the examination, were not allowed to use sonchu, no matter how powerful they were! Maedup products are still very popular and can be found in many shops across the country. The traditional center of maedup production, the Changchung-dong area in Seoul, is still an excellent place for visitors to shop for just the right piece to take home.
by Soo-Deuk Sohn
Information provided by
Korea National Tourism Organization
Korea Maedup (Macrame) Institute