Paper Magic - with Aimee Lee
I had the great pleasure of taking a week-long hanji class with artist Aimee Lee at the San Francisco Center for the Book.
From the SFCB website: "Aimee Lee is an artist who makes paper, writes, and advocates for Korean papermaking practices as the leading hanji expert in the English-speaking world, named an Ohio Arts Council Heritage Fellow in 2019. Her Fulbright research on Korean paper led to her award-winning book, Hanji Unfurled (The Legacy Press), and the first-ever American hanji studio in Cleveland. She teaches, lectures, exhibits, and is collected internationally."
Hanji (Korean (han) paper (ji)) is paper made from mulberry tree bark and is incredibly strong and versatile.
This class focused on the various applications of hanji: from paper cords and paper thread, to joomchi, a traditional Korean method of texturing and fusing paper together with water. We used natural dyes from yellow and red onion skins, brazil wood, and persimmon to color our various forms of paper.
Using soaked and boiled mulberry bark, kozo, we made bark lace. Pounding out the fibers with flat stones and carefully stretching them with fingers and awls, we wrapped the bark around bowls, cups, and other objects so that they would dry in the form of these things. I quickly discovered that while it was therapeutic to hammer away at the bark, I lacked the discipline and patience to bring the lace to its true artistic potential.
I was most excited to learn about jiseung, the method which Aimee uses to create her famous hanji ducks. The corded hanji, which was painstakingly twisted for hours earlier, was now to be untwisted and woven into a basket, jar, vase, chamber pot? Apparently, a traditional jiseung object is the chamber pot, used by brides during their journey to their husband's home. The pot would be waterproofed with lacquer. As I did not make nearly enough cords for a chamber pot, I opted instead for a tiny bowl, which still provided the opportunity to practice increasing my object's circumference.
A surprising lesson came from making paper thread. I've never considered this as a possibility before. Yet, using a single sheet of hanji and a drop spindle, a sturdy spool of paper thread formed in my hands. With this, Aimee demonstrated weaving techniques on a pin loom and knitting the thread.
Finally, joomchi offered a welcome relief on my neck and fingers as we learned the art of texturing and fusing hanji with water. This craft involves crumpling and beating paper together until the fibers fuse after repeated agitation. After undergoing such abuse, the result is a beautiful paper painting with the appearance of soft leather.
I am immensely grateful for the opportunity to meet Aimee and learn what she has to offer.