Humankind comes from nature and returns to it. Not only human beings but also every living creature that exists
has a starting point from which it is born, and to which it returns when its journey of life is completed. It is the law of
nature. Maedeup, or the traditional Korean art of decorative knots, demonstrates this law as a piece of string
originates at a certain point then creates wonderful, intricate shapes before finishing where it began, completing its

Knot craft is a splendid decorative art that employs various methods to create a multitude of patterns using string.
However, knotting was one of the most basic skills mankind needed for survival in ancient history. It was only after
the development of knot techniques to bind two or more things together that people invented diverse tools for
hunting and fishing, such as bows, arrows and nets. From then on they made farming tools by fastening wooden
sticks with stones including shovels and hoes, which led to the construction of houses, contributing to the dramatic
development in inventions to aid production and convenience. Eventually, knot became developed for communication
purposes, to exchange letters and numbers. The art of knot gradually found its use in decorations and rituals,
firmly establishing itself as an important part of traditional crafts through its exquisite beauty that
no other can imitate.

In Korea, knot craft developed into a distinctive decorative art through
its long history, generating countless fashion, household and ritual
items, used in both court ceremonies and the lives of the common people, to
adorn musical instruments, fans, dresses, flags and palanquins. According to
Daejeon Hoetong (“Comprehensive Assembly Code”), a book published by
the late Joseon Dynasty, distinguished knot craft artists were called dahoejang,
or ‘master artists of strings,’and were employed as public servants to produce
varied knot craft items used by the court and public offices. Records shows
that there was a great demand for knot craft pieces during the Joseon
Dynasty and knot craft skills were developed to a very high level.

The art of decorative knots developed in many parts of the world, but Korean
knot craft is unique in that it is both a beautiful work of art to be admired and
appreciated, as well as a decorative accessory piece. Unlike macrame, the Western
knot art that makes two-dimensional works, Korean knot craft creates
an enigmatic elegance of balance with finely wrought three-dimensional patterns
made from a single string. Each knot craft work made by the dexterous hands of the
Joseon ladies displays the insight, creativity and artistic spirit of Korean women as
well as their fashionable lives. Korean knot craft is characterized by the
beauty achieved by the trinitarian union of string (kkeunmok), knot (maedeup)
and tassel (sul). The trinity establishes perfect harmony in a
delightful ornament for a lady or ceremonial event: the
kkeunmok made by twisting several silk threads together
that have been dyed with natural pigments; the main part of
a maedeup piece knotted with two strands into various
organic symmetrical patterns and shapes; and a tassel at
the end freely hanging down creates the final touch to
highlight the colors and patterns of the entire work. Other
special characteristics of Korean knot craft is that
not only it is symmetrical with the same pattern on both
sides, but also a maedeup piece (even one with a
complex pattern) is made by just one string, whose
knot begins and ends at the same point.

In Korea, decorative knot items were used to
make a special occasion even more wonderful. They
decorated lanterns that were hung under the eaves
of houses to herald celebratory events, as well as
‘flower palanquins’ that brides rode in on their
wedding day, musical instruments that were played
for court ceremonies or religious services, and biers
for carrying the dead during funerals. Knot craft
played an important role in Korean Buddhist
tradition too, as many remaining Buddha images
and paintings reveal Buddhas and Bodhisattvas
decorated with beautiful maedeup works;
this adornment helped remove the hard cold
touches of metal or stone of which a Buddhist
image was made, replacing them with tender and
elegant nobility.

The beauty of Korean knot craft displaying finely
wrought complex patterns knotted with just one silk
string is evidence of the wisdom of daily life
dramatically transformed into exquisite decorative art.
The graceful and extraordinary knot techniques combined with bold colors
and enigmatically delicate patterns are achieved by the incredibly nimble and
deft hands of a Korean woman. At the same time, a maedeup’s beauty is an
expression and reflection of her tender, loving heart that embraces and reveres life.

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