Lee Hyojae’s name includes the title of ‘wrapping cloth artist’ that publicized the beauty of traditional wrapping cloths in the world and even attracted other countries to send their private jets to seek learning, along with the life of ‘hanbok designer’ who lived a life full of hanbok seams and threads since age four, born and raised by a mother who made hanbok. Last year, Hyojae was busy working as a storybook writer by publishing the series <Our Beautiful Life and Culture> that shows children the value of tradition in daily life. Whether it is hanbok, wrapping cloths or books, Hyojae says she has “finally reached the age in which she can grasp and use something that is Korean, since the boundaries of beauty have disappeared.”
“Hanbok designer Han Bok-ryeo said to me when she turned 57, Hyojae, now I finally see something. Having reached that age, I, too, have some things that I can finally see. For me, tradition is freedom. Hanbok is not beautiful and great just because it’s ours; all things old in the world are beautiful. Qipao, hanbok and kimono are all evolved according to the climate, natural features and ethnicity of each country. So tradition also can be seen as evolved beauty.”
One might ask if age matters that much, but for Hyojae, it does. She uses 24 hours with rigor and accuracy, naps under the covers that are smaller than a sitting mat, and constantly moves around working when she is awake. So yes, age is a reward of her hard work each day.
“I don’t live a busy life, but just a hardworking life. My strongest suit is that I consider daily labor as asceticism. So I reward myself with a medal every day, telling myself that I’ve lived well.”
For Hyojae, ‘to live’ is ‘to have one’s own story’. She believes that “those who love industrial products will have a story about such products, and those who love nature will have a story about being eco-friendly”. She is excited about encountering even something worn to a stump, as every single thing has a story --- a broom dressed in lace crocheted with a hooked needle, and a pouch for needles made by winding strands of hair around it.
“It’s easy to change your everyday life into art. Think about what you can do more when cooking instant noodles. Name your noodles once you complete them. Don’t eat bread you bought from a bakery right out of the plastic wrap, but warm it up on a plate. If you don’t eat mindlessly, you won’t live mindlessly. Naturalism is valuing myself.”
She lives her daily life with so much sincerity because she was “not born a wealthy girl, not born in a wealthy nation, and not born with a glamorous face of a celebrity”. Reaching for the word ‘wealth’ drives life into endless poverty, but letting go of ‘wealth’, she says she has finally become a complete woman of freedom with nothing and no one to be jealous of.
In January, she pulls herself together to start over again. To people who want to change and create innovation, Hyojae says, “Start by changing your habit of taking off your socks inside out once you get home tonight.” Changing even the smallest habit will give you new courage. If you still do not have courage, “change your words”. It is what she realized from life: “Speak as if you write, then you will hear your own words and change your nature. If your nature changes, your mind is purified and your destiny is changed.”
“They say it always rains if the American Indians hold a ritual for rain. It’s because they pray until it actually rains. Dreams, as long as you don’t give up, become reality. It’s the greatest absolute rights that only humans can have. Absorb an Indian saying as your own motto, open your eyes wide and push forward with your whole body, and miracles will begin. Make a plan and do it. If you fail, make another plan and try again.”
For Hyojae, miracles are always ongoing. Whenever she went to Jecheon, she would look up at the observatory in Resom Forest and say, “Look, the moon rose in the daytime. I’d love to go to the house of the moon.” Surprisingly, this year she got the chance to use that observatory as a cooking studio. She named the studio the ‘Moon’. With the hope that “energy recharged by the house of the moon will become a strong armor against exhausting days,” Hyojae will work hard throughout the twelve months of 2015.
The name ‘Hyojae’ holds the meaning of a ‘home to follow’. Hyojae’s ability to turn roots of herbs and barks of trees into a sumptuous feast and to change a barren land to a flower garden is not ‘magic’, but an outcome of accepting the labor of housework as asceticism, thinking that today is the last day of her life. It is a gift of life she got as a reward for not giving up on her dream. Her repeated words not to “poison your words” or “give up on your dreams” are words of wisdom offered by sincere grown-up Hyojae for Hyosung employees.
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