Hur receives Fulbright to research, invigorate traditional Korean crafts

About the Award

Fulbright Scholar Awards are prestigious and competitive fellowships that provide unique opportunities for scholars to teach and conduct research abroad. Scholars play a critical role in U.S. public diplomacy, establishing long-term relationships between people and nations.

The Fulbright is the U.S. government’s flagship international educational exchange program, funded by Congress through the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. Participating governments and host institutions, corporations and foundations around the world also provide direct and indirect support for the program.

East Carolina University’s Mi-Sook Hur has received a prestigious U.S. Fulbright Scholar Program award for the 2024-25 academic year.

Hur is a professor of metal design in the ECU School of Art and Design in the College of Fine Arts and Communication. She earned her Bachelor of Fine Arts in metalwork and jewelry from Seoul National University and a Master of Fine Arts in metals from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Hur will conduct a 10-month research project exploring traditional Korean crafts in metalsmithing and enamel at her alma mater in South Korea.

“My primary focus is to uncover the barriers inhibiting innovation within these age-old practices and propose alternative methodologies to invigorate them,” she said. “This endeavor involves immersive research, collaborative efforts with industry experts, museum visits and apprenticeships under esteemed masters.”

Since joining ECU in 1999, Hur has taught metal design and first-year shared experience courses. Her artistic focus revolves around creating realistic images inspired by nature, delving into the contemporary studies of Limoges enamels.

“I am excited to expand my expertise in cross-cultural research,” Hur said. “This opportunity aligns with the university’s strategies to expand and enrich external partnerships by fostering collaboration with the host university.”

Hur will begin her residency in August and will be based at Seoul National University’s College of Fine Arts.

Mi-Sook Hur displays some of her handcrafted pins, which take on average a month to complete, in her studio in ECU’s School of Art and Design.

“I will be engaged with a diverse community of faculty, students and researchers, fostering a spirit of collaboration and knowledge exchange. Through this immersive experience, not only will I advance my research objectives, but I will forge lasting connections and contribute to the global dialogue on the preservation and evolution of traditional crafts,” she said.

Hur’s research will include an exhaustive examination of colors and patterns prevalent in historical Korean crafts, particularly during the tumultuous period between 1913 and 1953.

“This era, marked by the Japanese invasion and the Korean War, posed significant challenges to the preservation of traditional techniques,” she said. “I aim to pinpoint these endangered techniques, dissect their complexities and explore avenues for their preservation and modernization.”

Another key aspect of her research includes exploring methodologies that integrate computer-aided design and computer-aided modeling technology, infusing contemporary conceptual meanings into traditional crafts, Hur said.

As an example, she will investigate merging elements from disparate genres, such as enhancing a historical metal locking system with enamel inspired by traditional embroidery techniques.

“This interdisciplinary approach is to create a new genre of artwork that honors tradition while offering fresh perspectives and cultural enrichment,” Hur said. “My goal is not only to safeguard these cultural treasures but also to seamlessly integrate them with contemporary art practices, thereby enriching both Korean and American cultures.”

Kate Bukoski, director of the ECU School of Art and Design, said the Fulbright award underscores Hur’s outstanding achievements in metalsmithing and enameling, and her esteemed international standing as an artist.

“We are thrilled that this award will enable Mi-Sook to master traditional Korean techniques, which she will then introduce to her students at East Carolina University,” Bukoski said. “This prestigious Fulbright award not only highlights Mi-Sook’s dedication to her craft but also enriches our cultural and educational community as she brings a piece of Korea’s artistic heritage to our campus.”

Hur said the opportunity will mark a pivotal turning point in her professional and personal journey as an educator and artist. It will allow her to bring back insights to enrich the understanding of ECU students.

“I am genuinely thrilled to infuse these profound historical elements into our endeavors, amplifying the richness of diversity it entails,” she said. “I foresee an exhilarating journey ahead, and I am eagerly anticipating the remarkable destinations it will lead me to.”

Beyond showcasing the finesse of Korean craftsmanship, the project will build bridges across cultures and celebrate the richness of Korean arts while integrating contemporary Western techniques to ensure their continued relevance, Hur said.

“At its core, this project is about promoting global understanding and intercultural knowledge,” she said. “This Fulbright project has equipped me with the tools not only to appreciate but also to actively contribute to the preservation and celebration of cultural heritage.”