Figured matting Hwamunseok
By Shim Hyun-chul
In seasoned hands of weavers, thin strands of a species of sedge called tall flatsedge are entwined. After countless crossovers, the stems turn into “hawmunseok,” or a Korean wooden carpet.
The name of the handicraft means flower carpet. A craftsman peels off the green outer layer of the plants that resemble rushes to dry. One may color some strips to create a pattern.
Ganghwa-gun in Incheon, west of Seoul, is famous for the craftwork. The area even exported such items from the Goryeo Kingdom (936-1392). Along with ginseng, they were the most popular commodities among foreigners. During the Joseon Kingdom(1392-1910), royalty sent them to China as gifts.
Tall flatsedge, the main material used, grows in paddies in Ganghwa-gun as well as the Yeongnam and Honam areas. It is also found in Japan and China.
The finished goods carry the characteristic of the plant. They are sturdy and let air through, making them perfect to keep the body cool in summer. In the winter, they can fend off chills. The natural oil prevents any breakage. The intricate patterns make them appropriate to decorate the living room or be used in ceremonies.
Though the exact date for the start of the craft is not available, it is said that many households have produced hwamunseok since the middle of the Goryeo Kingdom.
In Songhae-myeon, Ganghwa-gun, is the Ganghwa Hwamunsuk Cultuer Hall that showcases various types of these products as well as the history of the craft. The institute also offers classes for people to make their own flower carpet with the help of professionals. For more information, call (032) 930-7060.