For thousands of years, the traditional handmade Korean paper known as hanji has been an indispensable material of daily life in Korea.
Hanji is constructed from the inner bark of the dak tree, or native Korean mulberry, which possesses fibers of exceptional length, resilience, and sheen. The items manufactured from it boast a durability that spans centuries; in fact, hanji can retain its completely smooth surface for up to 1,000 years.
Remarkably, hanji was made into armor in the early Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910). Because of its waterproof properties, it was able to maintain body temperatures during winter while also protecting soldiers against spears, arrows, and swords. Today, the naturally antibiotic material has an application in hospitals, where it is used as sterile paper, bandages, and even artificial skin.
In the aesthetic realm, hanji has been used to build doors, windows and walls; for furniture, umbrellas, lanterns, boxes, fans and kites; and for clothing and shoes. Koreans even used hanji for their floors.
As part of Art Santa Fe's "How Things Are Made" series, Park Fine Art is pleased to present an exclusive demonstration of hanji making, facilitated by Yu-Ra Lee, professor at Jun-Ju University in South Korea and President of the Korean Traditional Paper Association.
The process of creating hanji takes approximately ten minutes; another ten minutes is needed for the paper to dry. After demonstrating the creation of the paper, overlap sheets of previously made hanji will be used to create a sturdy material resembling cardboard.
Using only this traditional hand-made paper, Lee, along with three other Korean artists, will be constructing a myriad of unique objects. The resulting pieces-beautiful yet sturdy-can last for years if handled properly.