Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Fall Fun Series - Hanji (한지) Halloween Pencil Holder

This post is a bit late. I underestimated how long this project would take from start to finish (about 60 hours). Oopsie. Anyway, here's my contribution to today's Fall Fun Series post: a Halloween themed Hanji pencil holder!

First, I may have to explain Hanji a little. Hanji is a traditional handmade paper from Korea, typically made from Paper Mulberry (dak) trees. Lots of functional and artistic pieces can be made using a combination of Hanji, a sort of cardboard/wood base, and some hanji paste (it's corn starch paste, or wallpaper paste). This craft is used to make lots of exquisitely beautiful pieces, my favorite of which simulate wood grains and staining by using a combination of black hanji paper, wrinkled layers, and a bleach water solution.

I'm not nearly that complex in my hanji crafting, so we'll settle for a very un-Korean version of this craft. Since I also promised a step-by-step process of this several months ago, I'm going to go ahead and make this a two-in-one post. Will that make it long? Very likely. Am I sorry? Only partially.

Several months before you want to make your project, put together the hanji paste.

Okay, not really, but it'll take a day or so for the paste to reach the right consistency. I just happened to prepare my large batch of paste back in June, and the jar has been waiting patiently in my fridge for me to pull it out and use it.

From the research I've done, hanji paste is very similar to wallpaper paste so that might work for you. Some people who want to save a buck make corn starch paste, but I've noticed that it will dry very opaque and you will lose some of the color or print of the paper you use.

For my particular batch, I used 1/4 cup of my powder and added it to about 3 and a half cups of water. Did I do exact measurements? Nah. The important thing is to have enough water-to-powder that it'll thicken up, but not be too watery or end up too grainy. How will you know if it's too grainy? After you mix everything in so it looks mostly homogeneous, let it sit for 30-45 minutes and come back. If you see grains, kind of like you can see in the sides of the jar in the picture above, it needs a little more water.

Now this batch is more than enough paste to last you for several projects. I highly recommend you make a master batch that's slightly thick in consistency. That way you can portion off smaller bits and thin it out with water as needed, and using dark colors like red or black won't stain the entire batch of paste.

Supplies needed:

One very messy work space.

Hanji paper in whichever colors you plan to use. I also used some of the colored printer paper because I didn't have one of the colors I wanted to use. For those of you curious, it was orange.

Some sort of glue to put together the base kit. You can see the kit in its neat little packaging near the small Gatorade bottle. Some people use wood paste. I used a glue that I got from Doorihanji in Insa-dong.

A hanji kit. You can get a variety of kits in Korea, from small pencil holders to large, functional tables or drawer sets.

Something to cut the paper with, like an exacto knife or scissors.

Brushes to paint the paper on.

Entertainment in the form of music, videos, drinks, or another person's company.

A dog to beg for cuddles while you try and work. For best results, make sure it's a great dane mix that you're dogsitting for a week. That way the poochie is tall enough to get all. In. Your. Business.

A writing utensil to trace/mark things.

Start putting together the kit. Mine didn't come with instructions, so I was left to flounder a little and figure out how the pieces were intended to go together. Some of these kits will come with basic diagram instructions, which can make it even harder to figure out where the heck that one extra piece you have is supposed to go.

Because the finished product has very tight spaces that would be hard to decorate with paper when fully put together, I opted to start putting on my paper before I finished gluing my project together.

While the project is drying, pick out the colors you will be using and cut them down to an appropriate size for the sections you'll be decorating.

I picked red, purple, and green for the inner boxes. For the outside, I picked black with a decorative accent on each of the longer sides.

This part I wasn't able to take pictures for was the actual application process. My hands were full and covered in paste. LOL

To 'paint' on the paper, you have to coat the paper in the hanji paste, then press the paper to the areas of the craft that you want colored. For thicker papers, you need to coat both sides of the paper. For thinner, one side should be enough to soak through. Once you have the paper applied, use a brush, your fingers, or any utensil you want to work the paper into any corners you want to fill and work out and wrinkles that form. I'm a fan of how the project looks when the paper wrinkles a little, so I didn't put much work into straightening the paper out.

This is how it looked once I had finished applying the paper. As you can see, I decorated the piece of the kit that I hadn't yet glued on so the inner compartments would be completely decorated when I glued the side on.

While that dries, cut out and prepare the decorative elements for the sides of your pencil holder.

I made two ginormous pumpkins and four bats. For the pumpkin stems, I glued on some leftover green hanji paper.

Once the paper dries, use an exacto knife or scissors to trim off the extra paper.

Glue the rest of the kit together and voilà, the kit is put together! Now to finish painting the paper on and putting the decorating elements together.

Glue on the pumpkins and bats to each side. I traced the pencil line to make sure I placed my bats and pumpkins so they would be visible once I covered the longer sides with the framing the kit had.

While the pumpkins and bats dry, paint on the black paper to the frames.

While the frames dry, paint on the black paper to the bottom and sides of the kit, skipping over the decorative sides.

While the black dries, paint a thinner cream paper over the decorative paper. My hope was to mute out the colors and add a spiderweb effect over the entire thing.

If you're curious about the bare white on the sides, never fear! It will be covered by the frames!

While your project dries, take some time to take pictures of the poochie you're dogsitting and give her lots of love.

Once the project dries, glue the frames on the sides. I made the pieces look seamless by reapplying my paste to the excess edges of the black paper and ripping the edges before brushing them down onto the piece. I'll show a close up of the effect later in this post.

As you can see, the cream paper ended up being too opaque so I had to mess with it a little to get the effect I wanted.

I reapplied the paste to the paper and scrubbed it with my fingers, thinning out the paper with the hope that the design would show through better once dried.

It took a couple attempts, but I finally got the final product to a point I was happy with.

This was the end result of me ripping the edges of the black paper before smoothing down the paper. This is usually used when two same color edges overlap to smooth out the lines. If two different colors overlap, the lines are much cleaner. For my project I decided to keep the lines messy to add to the Halloween feel of the product.

I also took this time to cover any leftover areas with black paper, like the top of the dividers.

This was the final product before I started the finishing process.

What is the finishing process, you ask?

First apply 2-3 layers of the hanji paste. This is to prevent streaks from showing up in the final product.

Once those layers dry, apply two to three layers of the lacquer. I have a glossy lacquer that I prefer, so that's what I used here.

When applying the lacquer, you have to wait for each layer to dry completely before applying the next one. See the bubble on the top of the purple section of the holder? That's what happens when you get impatient and move on to the next section before the lacquer has completely dried. Darn you, bubbles!

The final result!

I had lots of fun making this piece and will very likely continue using this beyond the fall/Halloween season.

It definitely has a rugged, handmade look to it. I'm okay with that.

Unfortunately, I have no new fall melts to share with you guys. I'm wary of melting anything while we're dogsitting. I don't want the poochie to have any reactions to what I melt! I should resume melting by our next Fall Fun Series post!

Please don't forget to visit these other lovely ladies participating in this fall series and read their contributions!

Amanda at Thrifty Polished
Jessica at The Meltdown Blog
Lauren at LoloLovesScents
Sandra at Finger Candy
Stephanie at Imperfectly Painted
Sunnee at Our Sunny Life


  1. Nice! And yes, the torn edges do work better for a Halloween feel.

    Love the doggie pics!


    1. River is such a photogenic dog! I'm jealous of her. LOL

  2. This post made me so happy; first of all I believed you when I first read to mix the paste months in advance! From the messy desk, to the cuddly dog I relate to the way you work. But the main reason I enjoyed it is because I learned about art/materials I've never heard of. Oh also, I'm obsessed with pencils, collect them when I travel and try to cram them into a too small holder. Theses are the dimensions I'm looking for! Awesome project.

    1. I'm glad you liked this post! I'm not a very organized person when it comes to... well, anything. LOL. It works for me, so I guess that makes it okay.
      I loooove writing utensils. I have way too many. More than I could ever hope to use in my life. I'll still buy more, though!

  3. If I was being video'ed when reading this, you would have seen my eyes pop out of my head when I read SIXTY HOURS.
    I can totally see why though, this craft is amazing and intense. The final product is the coolest. I agree with you and Deb, the torn edges rock.
    The pictures are really fantastic in this post - if you're using you new camera - WOW. The doggie is so cute, I can't handle it!

    1. LOL! I should say that the project took about 6 hours of actual work. Most of the time was due to letting parts dry. That's the thing about hanji - it can be easy, but certain steps have to take a while because parts need to dry before you can continue.
      There are some pieces that are sooo incredibly detailed that they take 60+ hours of actual work, though. I can't say I'm that dedicated to it to want to do that, though.
      We dropped River back off with her owners last night and I already miss that "little" love bug.

  4. How fun! So it's basically Korean paper mache? Very cool and I love your doggie photos too!

    1. That would be a great way to describe it! Just don't let certain Koreans hear you say that. LOL. They're very proud of this craft and feel that it's offensive to stray from the traditional way of making things. It's why I had to do it at home instead of with the normal group of people I do Hanji crafts with.

  5. Liz! This rocks!! I love the colors you picks for the inside of the compartments. The torn black paper reminds me of bat wings for some reason. The gauzy veil of fog around the bats and pumpkin turned out perfect. This looks like a craft I would love. So cool you get this experience. Your photos are great too! That pup looks like a sweetums. Did the pup sniff around the hamsters? How are those fuzzy butts?

    1. Thank you! I had lots of fun making it! You hit the nail on the head. I was trying to phrase what the torn paper reminded me of, and that's it! Either that or an old and raggedy veil to a witch's hut.

      River was so curious about the hamsters. They weren't a big fan of this giant bear-dog-monster-thing staring at them, though. I feel like they purposely waited in their sleepy-hidey holes until we went to bed and brought River to the bedroom with us.

      They're doing great otherwise! Hammy let me pick her up this morning without any complaints. This is happening more and more frequently so I'm excited that she's getting more comfortable here. Bunny is still a very curious, active fuzzy butt and she will explore everywhere she can. They both LOOOOOVE carrots and sunflower seeds. I may or may not use this to my advantage and sneakily trick them into walking onto my hands. Buahahaha!

  6. Wow, I love this craft! You did an amazing job. This looks like something I'd enjoy doing. I love the cute photo ops of your doggie!

    1. Thank you! This is a really calming craft that anyone can do and its versatile nature allows for short and easy projects or long, exquisitely detailed projects.

  7. How lovely! It looks so lovely. But holy crow, I'm a slacker and a half - 60 hours?! My craft took about five minutes, and even that made me want to yank out all my hair (not much of a crafter, me.) Really nice job. :)

    1. Haha I should have mentioned that there was only about 6 hours of actual work that went into the project. The rest was waiting for stuff to dry.
      I was going to go for a super easy 5-minute fall/Halloween themed card, which would have been infinitely easier and faster. Silly me and changing my mind at the last minute.