After having two children, Seon Joo So stopped studying for a career in the food industry and changed her college major to early childhood education. Spending time with her children brought her the most joy and she wanted to translate that into a living.
When she first discovered Jong-Ie Jopgi, Korean origami, it was a way to stimulate her children's minds while playing. Born in South Korea, So moved to the US in 2006, and enrolled her children to Shorewood schools, but as her children neared adulthood in her new home, she sought out another way to share her love of transforming a humble square of scrap paper into a masterpiece.
In December, she opened So Cool Craft at 4160 N. Oakland Ave., next to Benji's Deli and Great Clips. The shop offers a variety of paper-crafting courses for children as young as 4 years old, teenagers and an adult certification class, starting at the beginning of the month. So often incorporates Korean culture and language into courses, she said.
So runs an open studio session at 4 p.m. on Saturdays, which is free, but limited to 10 people. She encourages those interested to call ahead and reserve a spot. Private lessons and tutoring are also available at her Shorewood studio.
In addition to teaching origami since 1997, So has taught children with autism in Korea for seven years and holds a master's degree in curriculum and instruction with a specialty in early childhood education from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. She sees the art and practice of paper crafting as a fun educational experience for children. For instance, it can serve as a fun way for young children to learn about geometry and boost creativity.
"Children can measure the angles and detail the number of edges for shapes," she said.
Origami and paper crafting can be as simple as folding paper to as complex as constructing cranes made from hundreds of different pieces of paper, So explained.
"This crane needed more than 300 pieces of paper," So said, pointing to a pink origami piece lining the wall of her studio.
So has a number of crafts on her walls, including paper versions of famous, historic homes, figurines and other crafts.
"It's taking a simple thing and organizing a bigger, complex thing," she said.
Visit the So Cool Craft website for hours and pricing.