Although we live in an era of mass production, people still value artisanal, handcrafted goods. The word “handmade” carries a lot of value, indicating something that machines, for all their technology and efficiency, cannot imitate.
In Play Pocket, a well-known DIY studio in Seoul, the artisan Jiyoung Lee spends her days carefully working on a variety of crafts by hand. And when she isn’t designing one-of-a-kind creations, she can often be found helping children learn how to make crafts of their own, showing them how to develop their own creativity. Filled with unique handcrafts and cute little creations made by her students’ tiny hands, Play Pocket is more than just a studio – it’s a special place where Jiyoung and others can grow emotionally through art.
A Studio That Teaches More Than Art
The educational aspect of Play Pocket is a key part of what makes it special. Classes there nurture children’s creativity and encourage them to express their emotions through making things with their hands. Unlike formal classes at school where students are expected to find “the answers” to particular questions, no one at Play Pocket judges or suggests there are right or wrong answers. The children understand that while they are here, they are free to experiment and explore whatever they find intriguing.
By giving the freedom to engage in self-directed projects, the children naturally develop a strong sense of independence. In addition, they come to identify and understand what they truly like and who they are. It’s the opposite of most classrooms, where a teacher leads the students and tells them what to do and how to do it. “At Play Pocket, our classes generally begin with listening to what children want to do, and helping them achieve it,” said Jiyoung. “Because the children get to do what they enjoy, they naturally develop their skills and interests, and then they share those interests with their friends.”
One of the greatest benefits of crafts is that they can give children a sense of fulfilment and happiness. As Jiyoung explained, “Children can experience genuine joy from turning their worries and emotions into tangible artworks. People in general experience the greatest sense of happiness when they set goals and achieve them. During Play Pocket classes, we make sure all the students are able to set their own goals, and then we help them work toward those goals using art. It’s the kind of satisfaction young people rarely experience in a normal classroom setting.”
Although Jiyoung’s life now is quite involved with teaching children, it is not a path she had planned on taking. She had worked at a design company for more than a decade, but after she resigned, she opened a studio where she could share time and ideas with her son. That studio evolved into a business. At first, Jiyoung focused on turning the small works she made with her son into books, paintings, and decorative objects. However, many people started to express interest in her work, and soon she found she was accumulating a following of students.
Today, Play Pocket is well known among educators, and Jiyoung regularly received many requests to give lessons from local art institutes, kindergartens and other groups. In fact, she has also developed a big following among adults who want to use the arts to find some peace of mind. “I like the thought of helping the people who visit Play Pocket to find some comfort and calm,” Jiyoung said.
The ultimate goal of Jiyoung’s craft lessons is to help children find something they truly love doing. “When you feel happy about the work you do, it naturally becomes your passion,” Jiyoung said. “I hope the children who come to Play Pocket can, not only find their passions, but then use that energy throughout their lives. Life is all about the choices you make, which is why it is important for children to know how to make choices and complete what they start. I believe that the children who attend Play Pocket will be better able to make proactive and honest choices as they grow up.”
Looking at Nature through the Window of TV
It is getting harder for children living in cities to enjoy nature. Young people in cities grow up seeing more concrete jungles than forests, and are more familiar with streets and roads than hills and streams. “Human beings have an inextricable connection with nature,” Jiyoung said. “They have an intrinsic need to be a part of nature for their happiness and contentment.”
But since Jiyoung cannot move her studio and students into the countryside, she instead tries to bring a bit of nature into her studio, using television. She tries to have a variety of natural landscapes playing on the TV in her studio throughout the day, to help create an organic ambience through the screen.
Jiyoung recently set up a Serif TV at Play Pocket for showing nature to her students. “I hope my students might find it inspiring to see these scenes from nature, even if it’s only through the TV,” said Jiyoung.
She says she chose Serif TV because it had a different, less mechanical feeling from most other TVs. “When I first saw the Serif TV, I thought that it looked like a window frame,” said Jiyoung. “I chose Serif TV because it goes well with the space and it seemed like the children could easily connect with it.”
“I am very happy these days because I can concentrate on the things that I like to do,” she said. “Every day I get to experience so many things that I never could in a regular office job, and that gives me a real sense of satisfaction.”
Jiyoung says that she wants to take what she’s learned so far from making handicrafts and teaching, and share those lessons with more people. “If I get the chance, I would like to establish an ‘emotional content laboratory,’ where I could use my experiences to help others,” she said. “I want to help more children be happy and live healthy and passionate lives through emotional learning.”