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Design Stores

Hanji Handmade Paper and Gifts

Posted by Robyn Urback / Posted on December 30, 2011

Hanji TorontoHanji Handmade Paper and Gifts is a petite little shop straddling Koreatown and the Annex. Inside, there are soft touches of olive green on the walls, juxtaposed by colours, shapes, and textures beaming off handmade Korean products lining the store's perimeter. It's a mom & pop in every sense, owned by husband and wife Hyun Suk and Catherine Choi.

I meet Hyun Suk at the door and am quickly introduced to Catherine, who is arranging bits of cards and stationery on the section's lowest shelf. We get to chatting and Hyun Suk ducks out of the store for a few minutes, Catherine telling me with a smile that, "He's still a little shy about English."

Hanji TorontoThe two met with Catherine was teaching English in Korea in 2009. They got engaged after Catherine moved back to Canada and made the decision to open their own store not long thereafter (though Catherine still works another job).

"There was this neighbourhood In Seoul," Catherine says when I ask her about her inspiration for Hanji. "And there you would find just such beautiful things. Beautiful handmade pieces by local artists."

Hanji Toronto"Well," she continues, "when I came back here I couldn't find anything like it. So I thought we could bring some of it here."

Hyun Suk, an artist himself, did a lot of the personal connecting with Korean artists and has sourced a collection of handmade paper lamps, cards, books, and more for the shop named for the Korean word for handmade mulberry paper.

Hanji TorontoHyuan Suk returns to the store and the pair show me around the space, pointing out their favourite products. "These lamps are really cool," Catherine says, walking towards the lineup on the store's west wall. "They're all made from one artist, and all made out of paper--even the bases." Indeed, a light touch reveals that they are, in fact, paper, though I don't think a gust of wind will necessarily blow them over.

"They're actually quite sturdy," Catherine says of the lamps, which range in price from $59.95 to $299.95. "And the switches are right here," she says, tapping a little metal ball on the lamps' bases. "They go on and off with a tap." Like the first time I saw an automatic soap dispenser, I'm mesmerized. Simple pleasures.

Hanji TorontoWe next move onto the assortment of paper, which starts at $3.50 (basic tissue) per sheet. Catherine and Hyuan Suk point out their favourites, which include printed leaf ($9.00) and handmade mulberry swirl ($13.00) designs. Not everything at Hanji is made of paper, though the handmade ceramic mugs, candle holders, and mother-of-pearl mirrors are still made in Korea.

Hanji TorontoHanji itself has a strong DIY vibe, with lots of ribbons, ties, and papers for various projects. Its book-making materials, which include everything from printed covers to pre-bound pages, metal corners and necessary pliers, have proven to be a big hit. Catherine says they're thinking of setting up a book-making table and perhaps hosting some workshops in the future. Before leaving the shop Catherine and Hyuan Suk make of note of telling me that all gifts are wrapped free of charge, and needless to say, Hanji has an abundance of options.

Hanji TorontoPhotos by Nick Warzin

Discussion

36 Comments

jj / December 30, 2011 at 10:14 am
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The products all seem very crafty and exotic and all that, but they really are re-packaged "made-in-China" goods at way over-priced Canadian rates.
cc / December 30, 2011 at 10:50 am
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How do you know that for sure, jj?
cc replying to a comment from jj / December 30, 2011 at 10:51 am
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Sure they can be over priced in Canadian dollars but how do you know that they're made in China?
eec replying to a comment from jj / December 30, 2011 at 10:58 am
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What is your point, jj? First off, they are made in Korea not China. Secondly, any imported product costs more than it would in it's home country. Do you feel the same way about imported French perfume? Imported Cuban cigars? Imported single malt scotch?
Jess / December 30, 2011 at 11:26 am
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I had an awesome experience shopping at hanji before Christmas. My family loved the gifts I bought for them, and in fact, there are gifts available in a wide range of prices at hanji. I declined the free gift wrapping and instead my sis and I were given this great paper rope in bright colours to use instead of ribbon on some of our gifts. It's really cute; you can make a flower on the top of your gift instead of a bow. I'll definitely return to hanji the next time I need wrapping paper or a notebook. I wish I could afford one of the amazing lamps described in the article!
nicole / December 30, 2011 at 11:50 am
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I purchased a few supplies for book making as a gift. The two owners were very helpful and even gift wrapped the supplies beautifully.
I think the neighborhood needed something like this!
Smash replying to a comment from jj / December 30, 2011 at 12:01 pm
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I guess the hater just got to hate. Ain't that right, jj?

I, myself, am looking forward to the next time I'm in the neighborhood so I can make it a point to check out what looks like a very beautiful space.
Enrico Pallazzo / December 30, 2011 at 12:24 pm
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Looks like a beautiful store, looking forward to checking it out too. Thank you for the article.
MrsPotato / December 30, 2011 at 01:42 pm
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Hm. I completely agree with JJ.
This stuff is dirt cheap, even with importing it in.


Go on Etsy.com, and buy this stuff for a quarter of the price directly from the source ... and pay $2.00 for shipping.

Bypass the middle man if you're into supporting foreign biz from Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Korea, etc.

Amber / December 30, 2011 at 03:21 pm
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My cousin owns this shop, and it looks quite amazing, good job cousin Catherine and Hyun Suk :)
Amber / December 30, 2011 at 03:21 pm
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My cousin and her husband own it!! Way to go Catherine!
KPB / December 30, 2011 at 06:39 pm
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my cousins own this shop, too!!
Sally ann / December 30, 2011 at 07:17 pm
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Walked into this store yesterday. Overall i was not too impressed. not a ton of selection was hoping for a "paper place" in the annex, maybe it just needs time?
Yay / December 30, 2011 at 08:28 pm
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I am so proud of my cousin for opening this shop! So happy for my cousin!
Sophia / December 30, 2011 at 11:10 pm
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Shut up about your cousin already
Proud Cousin / December 30, 2011 at 11:24 pm
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I am the proud cousin of the cousin who opened this shop. So successful! Thank you cousin for being my cousin!
Catherine Choi / December 31, 2011 at 12:49 am
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Hi everyone!
First I would like to say thank you to Robyn Urback for writing such a delightful article about our shop. It was a pleasure meeting you, and Hyun Suk and I think you captured the essence of our little shop quite well.
I would like to confirm that we order all our goods from Korea and a lot of them are handmade by Korean artists who are excited to be able to share their handmade products with you.
It has been so exciting to meet everyone who has come through our doors and appreciate any comment made about what we are up to. We have thoroughly enjoyed searching for all of the goods that we sell and are even more thrilled to gear our search based on feedback and suggestions.
We wish you all a very happy new year!
Cheers
Catherine Choi
Good Friend / December 31, 2011 at 12:30 pm
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The shop looks great guys! It brings the neighborhood a delightful taste of color!!! The items are very nice and good quality!! I wish you both success and success for the shop in the future! The items are rare to find in Toronto and I recommend anyone and everyone if you get a chance to stop by and check the store out!!
business is business / December 31, 2011 at 12:36 pm
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i would LOVE to see how much those Korean artists are making off your Toronto based re-selling store.

HA!
Mary / January 1, 2012 at 01:49 pm
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I am so pleased that I no longer need to shop on etsy to buy my Korean stationary. Hanji is awesome! they have way more selection than what is on etsy and the prices are quite reasonable. Anyone who has an eye for quality can see that they took the time to only order the best of the best. Going to Hanji brought back a lot of memories of christmas shopping for my family when I was in Korea. Overall, a great addition to the neighborhood.
Jonathan / January 1, 2012 at 02:13 pm
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I have not been to the store in Toronto, as I am from Montreal and now living in Vancouver. The shop looks really beautiful and I would love to visit and support the family-run store.

I find it funny how many people comment and complain about prices in "mom & pop shops". First of all, without a doubt you have purchased something from a large store in the past few years, a dollar store, a walmart, a mall, whatever.

The difference with these small family-run stores is they do not get the same bulk discounts as large chains. The profits are not the same. Surely the couple is not jet-setting around the world on the profits from this store. As you can read, Catherine still works another job.

I am sure that there are similar products indeed made in China, as there are Chinese versions of everything. If the shop owners are dealing with Korean artists and distributors, then either you accept to enjoy the retail experience or you live with your paranoia and stop shopping in retail stores.

Also, the overhead costs are much more astronomical for a store front than an etsy shop. Rent, decor, furniture, staff, utilities, taxes, graffiti repairs, supplies etc..

Go to a shop if you want an in-shop experience.
If you want to order stuff online, go online.

From what I read, the customer experience is lovely, and having all these products rounded up together is another perk of shopping in a store.

Thanks,
Jon
francescamadeleine / January 7, 2012 at 12:18 am
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This is a beautiful shop owned by two people who want to share some of the beauty that Korea has to offer. Supporting Korean businesses is extremely important to them. They give full credit to the artists who make the gifts and lamps that are sold in the shop and they even make some things themselves. I'm sure if you were to ask them why an item is priced the way it is they could tell you about every factor that they had to take into consideration when choosing those numbers. One of those factors would be that they want pay the artists who supply them fairly. Catherine and Hyun Suk are extremely helpful and care very much about their customers. I have never been in a shop in Toronto that was more welcoming and where the owners were so invested in offering something unique to their community. Also, every gift I purchased here brought huge smiles to the faces of the people I gave them to.
anon / January 11, 2012 at 06:14 pm
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I received a gorgeous book from this store for Christmas that had a design of a tree on the cover. I've been writing in it every day on the bus and strangers keep commenting on how beautiful it is and asking where I got it.
MJ / January 14, 2012 at 04:04 pm
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Cat and Hyun Suk are two of the nicest, warmest, and most cheerful people I have ever had the pleasure of meeting. This store is their labour of love and passion. I am so happy for the two of them and I know that any price on any item is fair. Haters will hate because it is in their nature and with all the positive comments from people who have visited the shop you can see all the critics are unfounded. Cat and Hyun Suk way to go; live the dream!
WW / February 17, 2012 at 08:14 pm
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I shopped at Hanji a couple weeks ago and fell in love with the shop- so many cute items and the owners were super sweet and helpful. I will definitely be back :)
kim / April 17, 2012 at 07:30 pm
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I came across the shop a few days ago. The selection of products were very inspiring , and I wanted to start doing book binding again.

Did not have enough time to browse, but will be back again.
Mark / May 11, 2012 at 12:35 pm
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Good grief. They are trying to run a business and make a living! I do some importing of Korean products (ceramics) myself and sell them here. Korea is not a third-world country with dirt-cheap prices. It's a modern nation and believe me, you have to PAY good money for nice products. Costs of that, plus shipping, plus rent/utilities/promotion/packaging etc. But the items are worth it. Hanji paper is really beautiful.
Jan / May 26, 2012 at 06:32 am
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Congratulations on your new adventure and the shop. I write a blog for expats who've worked in Korea and who want to continue doing Hanji when they leave so this would be a great place for people who live in Toronto to visit. I've featured the article on my blog. All the best.
Dorothea / June 3, 2012 at 01:18 pm
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With all the technology, paper work is slowly disappearing. Sure saving trees and all, but I missed paper. Catherine told me that with all the e-readers and tablets, paper book bindings are making a comeback. Yay!!! Once I walked into this store I was almost in tears, I was so impressed. It's so beautiful. And the background music was gorgeous too. I felt like I stepped into a little shop in old time Korea( on a movie set with soundtrack and all). The mulberry paper is so gorgeous one could frame a sheet on it's own as abstract art.

Sure you can find cheap stuff online. China copies everything and looses value along the way making everything feel cheap and worthless. But you don't get the experience. Sometimes price isn't everything. I drove to this shop from Hamilton, just for the experience. I adore this shop.

For some stuff prices were actually way cheaper than I found them online. for example leaf shape post-it notes online were $10. Here they were $3.95.

Sure enough with all the different stuff I bought I almost spent $100. lol.

I am definitely coming back to it. I love supporting small shops. Hopefully their business will last a long time.
Caroline / July 11, 2012 at 06:25 am
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What a bunch of ignorant trolls. I visited the store last month, it was lovely. I think people lack the knowledge that Korea has its own paper making tradition like Japan. People seem to be very accepting of the Japanese Paper Place, for example. But I doubt for the authenticity, skill, quality and uniqueness of these products will people decide to switch to Chinese made goods (?). For all this talk, I haven't even seen anything that comes close to a replica of Korean made paper. It's an original, artisan product, it's not easy to reproduce. And it's beautiful. I commend Catherine and Hyunsuk for bringing products that are available in Korea that I never ever get to see in Toronto. So I think this store is a wonderful idea. And check out their store for stationary. Korea makes amazing stationary besides the Morning Glory stuff.
mc. apostoli / December 18, 2012 at 11:04 am
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This store is really lovely and the owner is very sweet. She had a lovely idea when she thought up this store idea. Yes, obviously the paper costs more in Canada than in Korea, but thats what happens when you import special products and have a store front on the subway line near the annex. The products are lovely and if you don't like the price point, buy your wrapping paper somewhere else (consumer's choice). I love their convenient location and I got a bunch f little boxes and pretty wrapping paper to put my gifts in for christmas. Presentation is everything!
Melissa / December 21, 2012 at 03:03 pm
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The store is gorgeous, the staff are super-friendly and knowledgable and the paper is lovely quality. I will definitely revisit there.

btw- no one there is my cousin.

As for the haters - no one is forcing you to shop there. So go back to shopping online and leave the happy, artistic people who enjoy in-store experiences alone :)

Happy Holidays everyone.
Nicole / February 2, 2013 at 08:57 pm
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Really cute store and nice selection of unique and well crafted goods!
Mat / August 10, 2013 at 10:04 pm
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I accidentally got into the store today, and I loved it so much!
Wendy / February 12, 2014 at 09:30 pm
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I stopped into this sweet little store last summer - my friends had to drag me out as I was making us late for our show ... there was so much to look at. I bought several bracelets from Korea that I wear often. I keep wanting to return. At the time I chatted with the owner and told her how lovely I found her shop. I am thankful we have lovely stores - such as this - in which to browse and be inspired by beautiful things. I hope the shop succeeds.
Queena / September 21, 2014 at 09:43 pm
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I LOVE this store!!! They didn't have pictures of their exquisit pop-up cards. I got one that was a three tier/layer mary-go-around diecut, it was delicate and intrigue, the card is for a friend's baby shower. If you want quality, you have to pay. Chinatown has nothing resemble the craftmanship in Hanji. I am a designer who specializes in custom prints, I know quality paper/print work when I see it. You can buy a card in a dollar store/Walmart, but it won't have the uniqueness or the wow factor. The store is meant for artisans/art lovers, not race to the bottom. Apparently people still think Artisan doesn't pay rent or eat. We are as much of a professionals as your bankers, our work is different, that's all.

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