Marianas Variety

Last updateFri, 22 Nov 2019 12am







    Thursday, November 21, 2019-5:14:37P.M.






Font Size


MacKan art’s beautiful, lustrous mosaic imagery

DEVELOPED by Lee Sang-Soo in 1983, MacKan art is a relatively new interpretation of traditional straw craft. Deriving its name from the humble barley stalk, MacKan is an intricate multi-step process that produces beautiful, lustrous mosaic imagery that is monotone, but not exactly.

View this article's accompanying photos in our gallery

Award-winning artist Lee Eun-Ji, or @lezcivil as she goes by on Instagram, has been creating her works of art for five years now. She was taught by the inventor himself, and has been residing in Saipan temporarily making and selling her art before returning to Korea. We sat down at her father’s home in Papago for a tutorial, and even some hands=on experience!

To begin, dried stalks of barley approximately 5” long are slowly carefully split open with a pointed wooden dowel not unlike a knitting needle. The split must be perfectly straight or the stalk is ruined. It is then rubbed lengthwise and on a slight angle to flatten it somewhat into a strip.

Next, the strips are placed side by side with the iridescent side up on a sheet of adhesive paper. There must be no space between the strips, not even the thickness of a hair, or it will ruin the illusion of a seamless shiny surface. The uneven ends are cut off, and a heavy rolling pin is used to remove any air bubbles between the barley strips and the paper.

A template of numbered shapes is applied to the back of the sheet, and pieces are cut out using a razor- taking care to align the grain of the barley stalk attractively between all the pieces. Often, the grain is aligned in such a way as to compliment the original subject as it would appear in nature; for a leaf, or the hair of an animal for example.

Finally, tracing paper is used to map out the design on the backing board. The waxpaper is removed from the back of the pieces and they are carefully placed with tweezers into their correct position. Once completed, varnish or wax may be applied to the finished product, or it can simply be framed.

MacKan creations can be large or small, as the process can be scaled up or down in complexity. Smaller pieces can be made into something as simple as a cell phone decoration, while larger pieces can take weeks or months to complete and be several feet wide.

Lee Eun-Ji can be contacted by email at, or on IG @lezcivil.