My Paper Obsession

A workshop with Aimee Lee
In late June 2013, I took a workshop with Aimee Lee. It was an amazing experience that gave me a brief introduction to Korean papermaking, basketry and culture. The past year or so, I have been learning about Japanese paper thread/cord making for weaving and basketry, so I signed up for Aimee’s workshop hoping to compare methods, and perhaps incorporate some Korean techniques.
As a third generation Japanese American, it was fascinating for me to hear Aimee’s stories about growing up in New York, with immigrant parents, and extended family in Korea. I was intrigued to hear about how the Korean culture is often overlooked or almost non-existent to most people. Everyone is familiar with Japanese paper, Chinese and Japanese gardens, ceramics, food, etc., but very few people really know very much about Korea besides popular music culture. I believe that one of Aimee’s goals is to let the world know about Korean paper and its many uses.
Here is a description of the workshop:
Paper Like Leather, Bark Like Thread: Korean Paper Techniques
Korean papermaking has a history almost as long as papermaking itself. Korean paper, known as hanji, is made from the inner bark of the mulberry tree, renowned for its long and strong fibers. This makes hanji ideal for an array of applications suitable for book arts.
One ancient technique called joomchi adds water and elbow grease to hanji to felt, collage, and texture hanji to make pieces that are ideal for remarkably light and durable book covers. With paper mulberry bark, students will learn to make thread for decorative bindings, and with hanji, they will make paper yarn that can be used for non-traditional pages and covers. The most advanced technique covered will be jiseung, a traditional Korean method of cording and weaving hanji, to create woven covers. Bringing these skills together, students will leave with an exposed spine book made completely of paper, a set of felted hanji, and mulberry bark thread for further experimentation.
In spite of this detailed description, I really didn’t know what to expect. However, I was so excited to learn about other methods and uses for paper yarn and cord, that I was open to any and all information. Our group of 12 students at the Focus and the Book Arts conference in Forest Grove saw slides and heard about Aimee’s studies in Korea. She received a Fulbright Scholarship to study hanji, but got side tracked into basketry and joomchi. We learned about the process of making mulberry paper, and the differences between Japanese and Korean paper while Aimee was boiling and cooking up a pot of kozo (inner mulberry bark) fiber. (This fiber can be purchased from papermaking suppliers.)
When it was ready, we rinsed it, and spread it out to reveal the long, stringy, slimey fibers. We could let it dry as it was, or pick out the fibers and spin it into string.

Bark after rinsing

Twisted into string

In the afternoon, we got to take out our frustrations on paper. Joomchi is a way to make layered and textured paper (like leather) with water and physical force, which included scrunching and hitting. No glue!

The next day, we prepared hanji paper to cut into continuous strips. And yes, it is prepared differently than the Japanese way. Aimee showed how to make 2 ply cords in her palms, which made a wonderful flapping noise, and very tight cordage for warp threads.

Aimee demonstrating 2 ply cord making

Unfortunately I was not very adept at making the two ply cords, and after a few hours, my wrists were sore. I did manage to make 16 warp cords, as she requested. Then guess what? Weft weaving cords are made by unwinding the warp cords we just made!
The original workshop project was to make a cover for a little book by twining a rectangle. I chose to include my cords in a basket that I had started at home. Here are some of Aimee’s book samples, crocheted, knitted, woven, and twined.




Aimee also showed how to make little baskets, and explained the history of paper cord twined chamberpots. They are double walled, and very, very strong.

Here is a twined slipper that she made

So what did I do? I made paper cord from hanji paper with my shuttle winder. I made two small woven beads, and wove my paper cord onto a cedar bark basket. It started out white, but I noticed that the cedar stained the paper cords when they were touching, so I applied some kakishibu (Japanese fermented persimmon dye.) The darker cords are made from tissue pattern paper for dressmaking, and I included some yellow cedar.

 More on this basket to follow.  I ended up hating it, and taking it apart!

Check out Aimee’s website. She done extensive research, and shares a great deal of knowledge. She recently published a book, Hanji Unfurled. If you are interested in hand made paper, paper cord baskets, and Korean culture, I would definitely recommend that you take the time to peruse Aimee’s work, and take a workshop with her.

Thank you to the Columbia Basin Basketry Guild and the Natural Fibers Group for scholarships!


Saturday, March 8, 2014

Art and Soul retreat

I am teaching how to spin paper and weave it into a basket or in a small woven 2-d piece.  This will be at the Art and Soul retreat in Portland, OR.   If you look under the instructors names or workshops tabs, you'll see the description and be able to register if you like.

For the website, the organizer, Glenny Moir, asked that we make a video.  Oh no, I thought.  This is really way out of my comfort zone.  I was really sweating it until I noticed that many artist videos are just slide shows set to music.  I didn't need a video camera, just the program that was already installed on my computer.

It was fairly easy.  Many of you have seen it before.  Thanks for watching!  If I can do this, so can you!


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