Referred to as the paper that has a thousand years lifespan, Korean paper proved it in 2017 as a paper to recover recorded documents by the Louvre, Paris. Despite its recognition overseas, however, Korean paper is not used in daily lives homeland. Feeling an urge to do something, Lee Yu-mi, CEO of Hanjibimji Craft, rolled up sleeve. PowerKorea met her and learned about the art.
P: What makes Korean paper charming?
Lee: Bimji is a pure Korean word for a string made by twisting Korean paper. Since 2005, I’ve used bimji and attached it to various objects to create contemporary-feel Korean paper works. Korean paper is made of tree and its reaction to nature is natural as it tightens in hot weather and becomes tender in wet weather through absorbing and keeping the moisture in the air. Experience has taught us that keeping rice in a Korean paper box keeps off rice weevil and putting a paper in a closet removes odor.
P: I learned sad news that Korean paper market is declining?
Lee: Making things with Korean paper seems not attractive to youngsters who seek fast and furious as the long process takes patience and attention to detail. You might ask why some people keep doing it. I can say because the some people know the beauty of it and the fruits given to those who are enduring.
P: Can bimji craft be an alternative to declining Korean paper market?
Lee: In fact, making a living with Korean paper making is not easy as there is not enough demand in the market. For this, I brought up ‘matt method’ that removed the unnecessary process and lowered cost. While the traditional craft intact, I applied contemporary collage to give a speed and a trendy feel. To make bimji craft gain its own recognition, I spent a great amount of time especially in design. So far, the response is positive which is encouraging.
P: I learned that online response is actually more than positive.
Lee: True. People taking a course at Haerang Craft Academy may tell the increased recognition of bimji. We work together to make new things and new methods and share the fruits at competitions big or small. I’m actually motivated by this to launch a program for kids such as kids collage class soon.
P: Is bimji craft one of many Korean paper crafts?
Lee: It is. There are various kinds of Korean paper crafts themed on its usability, making method, material, shape and color, etc. Bimji craft among them is particularly designed for fast living city dwellers today. It is the similar to the twisting method used in jiseung craft but bimji uses patented Korean paper produced by machine. (Bimji craft was registered to Korean Intellectual Property Office last year and is waiting for a trade mark registration this year.) The speed allows that we can make a bimji doll in 30 minute or 3 hours maximum.
P: What drew you into Korean paper?
Lee: I spent my high school years in Gwanwon Province. One day, my father and I had an occasion to go to Namdaemun Market, Seoul, where I saw beautiful Korean paper works. The colors and images had lingered in my head ever since. Strange to say but I touched the paper whenever I felt down and the very feel of touch healed me. I can say that Korean paper has been like a medicine to heal my wounded heart.
P: Lastly, do you have any plans?
Lee: My plan is to promote bimji craft to more people. I t is regretful that Korea paper crafts are getting behind of people’s interest year by year. I hope bimji craft play a catalyst to boost the industry.
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