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Artist Lee Hae-eun creates handcrafted works with traditional Korean paper

By Park Yuna

Published : Feb. 22, 2023 - 20:59

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Artist Lee Hae-eun speaks at a forum organized by CICI Korea on Tuesday held at the residence of Italian Ambassador to Korea Federico Failla (CICI Korea) Artist Lee Hae-eun speaks at a forum organized by CICI Korea on Tuesday held at the residence of Italian Ambassador to Korea Federico Failla (CICI Korea)

Artist Lee Hae-eun has produced a variety of bags and shoes using "hanji," traditional Korean paper made from mulberry bark. Delving into the world of traditional paper, she quickly learned how unique hanji is compared to paper from other Asian countries.

“Hanji is durable, preservable and has good ventilation compared to ‘hwaji,’ Japanese mulberry paper or ‘seonji,’ Chinese mulberry paper, which have their own characteristics,” Lee said at a forum organized by CICI Korea on Tuesday at the residence of Italian Ambassador to Korea, Federico Failla.

Hanji is produced with the inner bark of the mulberry tree, which is washed and steamed. Lee attributed the paper's durability to the unique process of producing it, called "oebaltteugi," a process found only in Korea.

After exploring the traditional Korean paper, Lee invented her own way of producing hand-crafted bags and shoes using lacquered hanji in 2011, naming the material lacquer "gugim hanji." In 2017, the artist began exploring Indian ink for use on her hanji handbags and shoes.

“Hanji absorbs liquids very well, so I wanted to try using Indian ink, which would be reminiscent of Korea’s traditional ink wash paintings,” Lee said. In 2021, the artist produced hanji lighting resembling "gat," a Korean traditional hat made of bamboo and horsehair.

“I make a lot of goods exploring many aspects of hanji with the aim to globalize traditional Korean paper. Hanji lasts quite long compared to cotton, as it is known as the paper of a thousand years,” Lee said.

By Park Yuna (yunapark@heraldcorp.com)