- Incheon Intangible Cultural Heritage 25, Paper Flower Master, Eun-ok Kim
Pink tassels come in sight through the red petals. Brilliant and lively paper flowers, created by pasting petals together decorate the entire space. Let’s trace the traditions that live on through the fingertips of Incheon Intangible Cultural Heritage 25, Paper Flower Master, Eun-ok Kim.
Keeping Charms of Paper Flowers
A variety of flowers bloomed. From the color of the petals to its shape, a non-existence fragrance grazes the tip of the nose. To put it simply, Jihwa, which is paper flower, is a craftwork created by cutting and folding papers into the shape of a flower. Paper flowers have been a traditional craftwork of Korea from long ago to pray for prosperity and fortune.
There are various kinds of paper flowers, including “gahwa” for aristocrats, used to pray for wealth, prosperity and health of the family, “muhwa” that shamans used during their rituals, “gungjung sanghwa” that were used during court events, and “bulgyo janghwa” for temples.
It takes about fifteen days, 10 hours a day, to make one paper flower. Since it requires a long time and painstaking effort, it is not easy for us to experience and see such paper flowers in our society. At Incheon Intangible Cultural Asset Learning Education Center, however, anyone can directly experience paper flower centering on the paper flower master, Eun-ok Kim. Among the many types of paper flowers, she mainly produces gahwa (domestic flower) and muhwa (shaman’s flower), which include peonies that are believed to bring prosperity, sansam, Enhydra lutris, and suranyeon. From dyeing Korean paper to making petals and completing flower stalks and tassels, every process requires her touch.
Keeping Tradition of Paper Flowers
The flowers she blooms are made in a traditional way, beginning from dyeing hanji (Korean traditional paper), instead of cutting and pasting paper on the table. She dyes the paper using traditional methods with natural pigments such as mussels, sappan wood, schisandra, and gardenia. She tells us that this is what makes it difficult to continue the tradition of paper flowers.
“To make it traditionally, you have to start from dyeing the paper. It takes much time to get the color you want. This is because the color changes by temperature, weather and wind. The process also takes a long time and you have to keep an eye on it for two months.”
She adheres to traditional methods, from natural dyeing to flower assembly. She uses bamboo to make the flower stalk and attaches petals and tassels with rice paste. Eun-ok Kim, a paper flower master, says that she should stick to traditional ways even more strictly because traditions are fading away. Her efforts became recognized by people around her, and she was eventually designated as Incheon Intangible Cultural Heritage 25.
Adding Light to Paper Flowers
She adds light to flowers to make paper flower more appealing to people. She made a lamp by adding a light bulb inside the paper flower.. In addition to paper flowers that were transmitted traditionally, she creates a variety of other works. She makes bride's bouquets and bridegroom’s candles with paper flowers, and exhibits works that people can keep in their houses such as those that can be hung on the wall. She hopes to attract the attention of many people by making paper flowers as familiar items that can be found in everyday life.
“The ones that I am going to produce are paper flowers arranged in the form of a frame. I'm trying to make a frame out of Korean paper, put paper flowers inside, and hang the frame. I’m trying to combine paper flowers with various items so that people can easily enjoy them in their everyday surroundings.”
There is a place that is filled with her affection for paper flowers. 'Coffee Antique' is a gallery and café that she runs. When you enter the gallery and cafe, you will see a brilliant yellow paper flower. In fact, the whole café is decorated with green plants and colorful paper flowers creating a beautiful scenery. From the creases on the petals to the shape of the trunk of trees, they display the naturalness of the real flower. The place is filled with lots of things to see from paper flowers produced in the traditional way, lamps made with paper flowers emitting a subtle light, and paper flowers made for exhibitions.
“It’s important to keep the tradition and to transmit it. I maintain the traditional way while trying new things to let many people know about paper flowers. I hope it becomes a chance for many people to come and see paper flowers and gain an attraction for them.”
‘Coffee Antique’, the paper flower master’s gallery café, is located in Jung-gu, Incheon and its emitting its beautiful scent that is richer than coffee, waiting for visitors.
TIP. Paper Flower Master’s Gallery Café
Address: 3, Uhyeon-ro 62 beon-gil, Jung-gu, Incheon
Hours: Weekdays 12:00 ~ 22:00, Sundays 11:00 ~ 21:00
(Closed on Mondays and Tuesdays)