SUMMER IN Korea is known to be deadly. Temperatures in Seoul reached 39.6˚C last year, being the hottest in 111 years.* And having experienced such extremes each year, many of us have our own coping mechanisms to fight off the heat. Visiting waterparks or staying in air-conditioned rooms are all great options, but survival can be a bit more creative. Enhance your summer with D.I.Y activities available at Ssam-zie-gil, Insa-dong area.
Paper fans are perhaps the lightest, most portable weapons to fight off the heat. Traditionally known among Koreans as hap-juk-seon, these fans are crafted with handmade paper made from mulberry trees called han-ji and strips of polished bamboo. Hap-juk-seons are known to last for centuries, and their resilience and light weight make them ideal for carrying around in bags or pockets—they are as thin as chopsticks when folded! The lasting quality of han-ji also makes it an economical investment, as one purchase goes a long way.
The Yhlayuen Jeongak Art Center located next to the entrance of Ssam-zie-gil plaza in Insa-dong provides various D.I.Y activities for Korean crafts. One of their most popular programs is the fan art activity, where participants draw on a hap-juk-seon. The materials provided are han-ji, bamboo strips (for the frame), watercolor paint, ink, and calligraphy brushes, and with these tools, participants can create and even decorate their own unique handmade fan. Some brush their favorite quotes in jet-black ink, and others illustrate images, such as blue waterfalls and pink hyacinths, using bright watercolors and diverse brushstrokes.
The activity takes about 30 minutes to one hour. There is usually one instructor provided by the Art Center, and reservations are not necessary. The activity costs ₩ 22,000 per person, and if time allows, one can try out other activities provided by the Art Center such as D.I.Y stamps, tumblers, and pouches.
We can’t help but take at least two showers a day on hot and humid days. The Ssam-zie-gil Plaza located in the heart of Insa-dong has a workshop studio for various arts and crafts such as candles, rings, and even dreamcatchers. Here, you can create organic soaps to add a bit of fun to your daily baths.
The process is simple. First you choose a mold for your soap. The molds vary in different shapes and sizes, ranging from roses to crabs. Then you are presented with a transparent cube, or what is known as a soap base, to cut with a spatula-like cutter into smaller cubes. The base cubes are then molten to create paste. Next, you choose organic ingredients to add to your soap, selecting from various colors and properties such as replenishing moisture and nutrients or anti-aging. Each container has a list of cosmetic properties and compatible skin type, so this is great news especially for those with sensitive skin.
The powder is finally mixed with drops of glycerine, aroma oils, and the molten base. The mixture is then added into the mold and you wait to let it sit and cool for about 40 minutes. The finished product is wrapped in vinyl and packed in a cute container box. This entire experience costs ₩ 12,000 per soap, and the studio works with both soaps and candles. Make baths fun and fragrant with your unique, handmade soap!
Another way to fight the heat is by drinking cold drinks like iced americano or lemonade slushies. Drinking out of mugs is an environmentally friendly alternative to single-use plastic cups, and the good news is, you can make your own.
The ceramic section of the Ssam-zie-gil workshop caught my attention when I first arrived at the studio. The array of polished china had unique designs and illustrations drawn by past participants. I chose a medium size mug for my morning coffee. One precaution to take into consideration is that the handle is very weak, so as you work with the design, it is better to hold the cup from within (see picture).
The process is even simpler than the soap activity. You are presented with a mug of your choice, and you simply have to draw on your design using a pencil and later color it in with specialized paint. The paint dries very quickly and has a thick consistency, so it is recommended to add a few drops of water before working with it. The cups are then polished and baked, and the finished products are delivered to you within two weeks. .
Try at home: D.I.Y cocktail
Finally, when it comes to summer, thirst-quenching drinks are essential. But cocktails in bars are expensive, and it’s cheaper for college students to D.I.Y their drinks. With just ₩ 9,100, I was able to make four different “imitation” cocktails: Blue Sapphire, Peach Crush, Soju-Tonic, and Bong-bong-ju.
Blue Sapphire: A combination of soju and blue lemonade, this cocktail is tangy and sweet. Its blue color and sour aftertaste makes you picture a tropical setting.
Peach Crush: I mixed peach flavored Mogu-Mogu and soju. The pink juice and cube jellies reminded me of sangria, and it was the most popular one among my classmates. The sweet taste takes away the bitterness of soju; I recommend this to those who do not enjoy soju as much.
Bong-bong-ju: I combined grape bong bong and soju, as I saw this combination all around social media. The sweet grape flavor and round jelly was tasty, and the green gelatin reminded me of the olive they add in martinis.
Soju-Tonic: A fusion of soju, tonic water, and cider, this was my personal favorite. As a fan of vodka tonic, this was the perfect balance of bitter, sweet, and cool.
This D.I.Y activity was particularly fun, especially since I was able to make the drinks with friends. If you are looking for an enjoyable and cheap activity to try out at home, this is the perfect option.