Sunday, October 12, 2003

God cuts the fun short

The Hongik University Hope Market (Hongdae Huimang Shijang) runs on Sundays. As it turns out, it usually goes from noon to about six. I wasn't sure exactly when the market started up, so I arrived early, around 10:30AM, convinced I'd be part of a huge crowd waiting to stampede onto the grounds (it's a little park, more brick than brush). But I was the first one there.

First-timers to the market have to register, and there's a W10,000 fee (you pay the fee each time you set up shop). You're given a tag to wear on your chest, and you can set up pretty much anywhere you want (though you have to be careful of the regulars, from what I heard).

Things were slow today. At 10:30AM, when I arrived, the park was a mess from the Free Market that took place yesterday. Beer and soju bottles, junk food wrappers, and that old Korean standby-- vomit-- were in evidence everywhere, along with posters advertising the latest rap and hip-hop groups, taped onto the ground in sets of 10 or even 20.

Around 11:30AM, people started to show up. Some of these folks wore tags indicating they were the Hope Market "managers," while others were simply merchants hoping to start setting up. Everyone, including myself, pitched in to clean the area up. Brooms, brushes, and dustpans were passed around. I ripped up the posters that were on the ground. Trash pickup doesn't happen on Sunday, so the best we could do was jam everything into plastic bags and pile it all together. Not much could be done about dried puke and birdshit (my bag got shat on, dammit), but the place looked a lot cleaner by noon, and everyone began to set up shop. Curious passersby started wandering into the market around 12:30.

I had a blanket and one of my pillows with me (for my ass, not my head). I spread the blanket out, unrolled some brown packing paper, and spread out my wares-- the ones you see over at Chewiest Tumors. People stopped by; many were curious, and one kid begged his mother to buy him a Bodhidharma (Mom said no). Alas, no takers, but we were only 90 minutes into the game when the Good Lord decided to drain the dragon on us.

Lessons learned today:

1. I planned well when it came to presentation: the blanket and brown paper were good ideas. The artwork definitely caught people's eye. Quite a few people asked, "You did this?" I smiled and bowed and said yes. But presentation isn't enough: I got a few critiques from the people running the market. "You should do your art on the spot," they suggested. True-- other artists had brought their entire kit. Next time, that's what I'll do, but I'm still shaky about how I hold my brush, and I still run through quite a few drafts before producing something I like-- a dead giveaway that I'm not a seasoned pro. So the product is good, but the process is still too ugly to show the public. Maybe this week I can clean it up a bit, concentrate more, and waste less effort on drafts. Buddha-mind. Buddha-mind.

2. I need a better system for wrapping up the artwork. I didn't have to use them today, but I'd brought cut-up cardboard tubes. As I discovered during a test run, they're a bit too skinny for my purposes, and it's hard to roll the paper into thin enough cylinders that will fit inside the cardboard tubes. Something to ponder this week.

3. It was interesting to see that a lot of kids seemed taken with the artwork. Tagging along with their parents and showing no real interest in the various wallets and purses and bangles, the kids were attracted to anything remotely visual arts-oriented. A lady on my left was selling tee shirts she'd designed herself. They were gorgeous. A young 20-something guy several stalls down was making stone dojang on the spot. I asked him how much his biggest ones cost; he said W20,000, which is awfully cheap. I told him so, and joked that I should have come to him for my dojang. He said, "Oh, that's nothing. Some people charge W50,000 or even W100,000 per." I didn't feel so bad that I'd paid W50,000 per stamp for my own set of three. The upshot of all this is that I need to think about offering some more cartoonish artwork for kids. The tiger vs. monk staring contest might be just the thing, and I think I finally found some Chinese characters that'll work with the image.

4. Weatherproofing! The rain came early on, and that wasn't just a problem for me; many-- if not most-- of the other merchants ended up striking camp after having sold little to nothing. A few intrepid souls were well-prepared, however; I imagine they stayed on despite the rain. I think I need either a big plastic sheet to cover the artwork while it's displayed on the ground, or else I need a more condom-like approach in which each piece is individually wrapped in its own sheath. I might also want to hang the artwork vertically somehow-- maybe off a makeshift tripod.

5. Completed scrolls. Along with "raw" product (such as what I'm selling at Chewiest Tumors), I need to showcase some actual scrolls so people get an idea of what their purchase will look like. I was told I could probably sell completed scrolls for 2 to 3 times the price of the artwork alone.

A lady friend of mine who majored in art and design at Sookmyung University took a look at my brush art and thinks I might also try the gallery route, even though they take a commission. Hmmm. Something else to think about.

OK... tomorrow, as promised, more on North Korea and the starvation issue, this time through the eyes of the think tanks. In the meantime, I direct your attention to the Marmot, who quotes from a current issue of Policy Review. The Infidel also has some interesting things to say here. And on the Tacitus site, Bird Dog asks what you would do about NK if you were president. Expect a ponderous comment thread as usual.

There, that ought to keep you busy for a while. Heavy-duty blogging for my hairy self tomorrow (Monday, Korea time).

Oh, yeah-- forgot to mention: it was actually sort of cool to be the only foreigner selling stuff today. Some people couldn't decide whether to speak directly with me or not, which forced me out of my introverted shell and made me greet them in Korean first. One American shopper came by with his (who else) Korean girlfriend. He spoke shitty Korean, so I was pleased in a petty way. I also learned that the lady to the right of me was not only a Buddhist, but also left-handed. Her brand name (she was selling diaries with embroidered covers) is "LeftRoad."

LeftRoad, meet Chua Su Bul.

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