Paper-string Baskets D. 60cm, H. 17cm Mulberry Paper-string Container D. 45cm, H. 18cm
The core of paper string handicraft is twisting the mulberry paper into string. Twisting begins with cutting the paper according to the intended use. To make a round basket, hanji, traditional Korean paper, is cut into two-centimeter wide strips. The strips are twisted once to make a single-thread string, and the threads are twisted one more time to make a doublethread string. This process of twisting takes a long time and can be physically painful because the artist has to use thumb, index finger and wrist repeatedly. To make the basket, Kang Seong-hi had to spend 18 hours a day for 20 days in twisting hanji.
Kang’s stone grinder mat and round basket are handicraft items for everyday use, using twisted hanji strips. The stone grinder mat is used to collect grains of cereal for grinding. Traditionally, such a mat is made of straw. Kang used paper strings instead of straw and applied transparent lacquer on some parts. Kang reinforced the mat to withstand moisture and insect infestation. Kang’s round basket follows the traditional shape, but creates a clean look with the paper string.
Kang was not the first artist to use paper strings to make a round basket, but his mat and basket show that the artist was trying new techniques of applying lacquer and changing the traditional materials.
Born in Wonju, Gangwon Province, in 1954, he began jiseung(paper string craft) at age 13 by learning how to twist yarn from his father. Hispen name is Wunhae(雲海) and what he made first was an ink-stone case. Until he started his career as a Certified Public Appraiser,he consistently made paper-string items like sitting cushions and under-mats. Kang resumed paper-stringcraft in 2003 and started working as a full-time artist by creating janggu(traditional Korean hourglass-shaped drum).Only after producing three of these drums that failed to make proper sounds, was he at last able to finish a piece that satisfied himself. He won the Participation Prize at the Korea Traditional Handicraft Art Exhibition for two consecutive years in 2005 and 2006. At the 38th Korea Traditional Handicraft Art Exhibitionin 2013,his work was specially selected. Up to2013,hehas received five awards at this annual exhibition.At Korean Craft-Resonance, A Graceful Sound of the Past Echoing Down to the Present held in 2012 at Quarter Guard Gallery, Delhi, India,he displayed his undermat artworks. At theOne Korea Festival held in Tokyo and Osaka, Japan in 2004, he presented drums woven with paper strings and gave a performance on them. So far, he has participated in some twenty exhibitions at home and abroad.