Hastings-on-Hudson resident Aimee Lee is helping to sustain a dying art form with her new book on hanji, the first book on Korean handmade papermaking to be written in English.
“Because I teach so much, my students all over the country would want more information, but I couldn't point them to any sources because all of the books up until now about hanji are written in Korean,” said Lee, 35. “I knew that Americans needed an English-language resource and I was happy to provide.”
The visual artist and papermaker’s debut book “Hanji Unfurled: One Journey into Korean Papermaking” takes readers through Lee’s trip in June 2008 to Korea on a year-long Fulbright scholarship where she visited Buddhist temples and Korean cities and villages to work with hanji masters, artists and scholars.
“I felt I had learned so much in Korea that it would be a shame not to share the stories, techniques, and history I had gathered through my research,” said Lee, a freelance professor for various colleges, art centers, museums and libraries across the country. “Also, people kept asking for me to write a book.”
In her book Lee, who graduated from Hastings-on-Hudson High School in 1995, breaks down the process of Korean handmade paper making from harvesting paper mulberry trees down to weaving the completed paper into strips that can then be made into rope to create a vessel, like a teacup, lantern or chamber pot.
"This book is a valuable resource, a must-read not only for papermakers but for anyone interested in perpetuating honored traditions into an environmentally responsible future," said Melissa Jay Craig, a paper sculptor and book artist, according to the book’s press release.
“There were no chemicals or dangerous materials used in the process of making hanji, and the paper came directly from renewable plant material,” said Lee. “Done properly, this can be a sustainable industry with a small carbon footprint.”
Lee, who built the first Korean papermaking studio in North America in 2010 at the Morgan Conservatory in Cleveland, Ohio, fell in love with the strength and versatility of hanji as a graduate student at Columbia College.
“It's very unassuming but also very beautiful and durable,” said Lee. “It can withstand a lot of handling and pressure, and becomes stronger for the wear, unlike paper that the average person encounters on an average day.”
“Hanji Unfurled,” is available from The Legacy Press on Amazon.com