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AIMEE: First, I harvest milkweed by hand one by one and then I remove all the leaves and pods from the stalks because I want the fiber from the stalks, from the stems. Then I have to trim all of the stems to fit into a pot so I can steam them for a couple hours and then I’m going… that helps the baste fiber pull away from the inner woody core and I don’t want the core so after it’s been steamed, when it’s still hot, I pull away the outer layer and then compost the cores and then those, um, pieces of stem that I have peeled away I cook in a solution of water and soda ash. Traditionally, you use pot ash but you use anything that has a high enough pH that it can neutralize things that are in the plant like, gums, pectin’s, lignin’s and waxes that would decay and become acidic because we’re trying to avoid acid in the paper to have acid free pH neutral paper. So, once I’ve cooked for about an hour then I can test the fibers to make sure they pull apart, uh, easily against the grain and then I will rinse the fibers so that I can rinse away all the caustic solution and then I can go ahead and beat the fiber. So, if I want very, very clean paper before I, um, cook the fiber I’d want to scrape off any parts of the plant that are dark or discolored but usually with milkweed I’ll use the whole thing and I will then beat. So, when I start beating the fiber, it’s on a board and I use wooden sticks or wooden mallets and you just beat on that until it doesn’t look like individual stem fiber anymore it just looks like a big ball of pulp and there’s a way of testing that. Um, but usually at this point I know by feel about when I’m ready and then… that pulp is ready to add to the vat. So, to make paper I need to have a vat big enough to fit my screen that’s gonna move in several different directions and I need to fill that vat with water and then I need to add the fiber that I’ve just beaten and then I need to stir up that fiber and then after I’ve done that for usually you’re supposed to do that for 20, 30 minutes. Then, there’s an extra mucilage that you need to add that is crucial to make any, any kind of Korean paper, any kind of Asian paper. It’s a mucilage that traditionally used to come from the roots of Hibiscus plants or Hollyhock. You could get it from Kiwi branches. Here we… you know, you can buy frozen okra and let that goo kind of, um, strain out in pantyhose but I use a polymer that’s easier to mix up and it’s, um, something that will suspend the fibers evenly in the water because the fibers denser than water and it tends to want to sink and you want to have it all suspended so you can have… do this special kind of formation. And, so you add the goo, you stir it up for another 20, 30 minutes and then you can attach your frame and your screen to start making paper. So, Korean style you’re gonna hold this bamboo screen on top of this wooden frame and you’re only holding the front of it with your thumbs and you have to be able to control it so that it doesn’t slide around or fall off the, the frame which is really unique. Most other paper making traditions have at least sticks that are called deckle sticks or a frame that’s called a deckle that sits on top of the bamboo screen to keep it from going anywhere but Korean paper doesn’t have that. So, you have to take it from front to back essential. So, there’s… that fibers are running perpendicular to the bamboo splints then you’re gonna go side to side and you’re doing multiple dips and each time you dip, you’re laying on more layers of paper so you’re almost making this laminated sheet of many different layers and that’s what makes this paper so strong. And, then after you’ve done your last dip which you let slough off in a diagonal then you can take your screen and take it off the frame and then you need to remove the wet sheet from the screen to your cooching post. So, there’s a little table next to you and there’s a board and a wet, uh, felt or blanket and then you want to get the wet sheet off of the screen so you can use the screen again. So, you put the screen down in a very particular way, so you don’t get air bubbles. You run traditionally a wooden log over the back of the screen to reduce air bubbles. I just use PVC piping that’s cut to size and then you can just do a little snap at the front edge stick of the screen and then pull it way and the sheet should stay on the blanket and then your screen is clear for you to put back on the frame and then start again. And, in Korean paper making there’s a special way of working where every other sheet you have to actually flip a 180 degrees so that it meets the other sheet so this is a little tricky to understand but essentially in the first dip because the frame is suspended by a rope to a cross bar that’s above the vat you can’t… you can only dip from front to back, you can’t go from back to front so when you take up all the slurry in the front it’s… it has all of the material and then it rushes down the diagonal and as it rushed down it keeps depositing pulp and so there’s less and less and less and less. So, there’s… the sheet is a little thicker in the front, a little thinner in the back. So, the Koreans wanted a perfectly even sheet and so you would put down one sheet then the next sheet you would have to flip so that the thicker edge meets the thinner edge of the previous sheet then you put down a ribbon or a string and that will delineate every, every… you come down every other time so that you have always two sheets of paper between each string or ribbon. So, then after I’ve made a big stack of paper which we call a post then you will put another felt or a blanket on top, another board and then you want to press the excess water out of it. So, traditionally Koreans would just put rocks on top for days and you know, just add more weight and then a winch system, they figured out a screw press system. These days we use hydraulics. When I’m working outdoors or when I’m travelling and there isn’t access to a hydraulic press, I sometimes can just use clamps. Sometimes people will stand on it, but the nice thing is you don’t actually need as much pressure as you would think for maybe a Western style sheet. So, you put on the clamps, you press out as much water as possible but not too much cause then the sheets will stick together, then you remove the top layers, you actually flip the entire post so that you can start working from the very first sheet of paper you made. And, then at that point because I’ve laid down ribbons in a way where it’s longer on one end, I can clamp that end of the ribbon and then from the front I need to be able to figure out which is the very first ribbon and then I put a rod next to that ribbon on top of the entire stack, pull out the ribbon and that will release the top edge of that first sheet. And, then that I let it stick to the dowel, the wooden stick and then I pull the stick away and that will pull away the entire sheet evenly and then I can take a large brush and take the damp piece of paper and walk it over to a board and then brush it on and then let it dry. And, so when it’s dry depending on the humidity and temperature levels that, that could take an hour in direct sun and hot weather, dry weather or it could take, you’d wait overnight but usually the next day I’ll go and I peel off all the sheets and then I… then I go ahead and curate the paper, meaning, I check each sheet of paper in the light and I see are there any, uh, imperfections? Did I have a weird air bubble here? Did I have a wrinkle when I was drying? Did a sheet tear? And, then I can sort the paper. So, I have my firsts, I have the seconds and then I have broke which actually most of the people who buy paper from me enjoy buying what I consider the damaged paper what they consider paper with a lot of personality.
Traditions: Ohio Heritage Fellows
Episode Number
Raw Footage
Aimee Lee Interview, Camera 2, Part 3 of 4
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ThinkTV (Dayton, Ohio)
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Raw Footage Description
Raw interview with Aimee Lee, master practitioner of Korean papermaking. Lee spends the entirety of this segment describing the paper making process in detail from start to finish. Footage from second of 2 cameras, part 3 of 4.
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Fine Arts
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Moving Image
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Interviewee: Lee, Aimee
Producing Organization: ThinkTV
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Identifier: cpb-aacip-9fb6f985b8b (Filename)
Format: Hard Drive
Duration: 00:09:28
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Chicago: “Traditions: Ohio Heritage Fellows; 401; Aimee Lee Interview, Camera 2, Part 3 of 4,” 2019-10-16, ThinkTV, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed May 27, 2024,
MLA: “Traditions: Ohio Heritage Fellows; 401; Aimee Lee Interview, Camera 2, Part 3 of 4.” 2019-10-16. ThinkTV, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. May 27, 2024. <>.
APA: Traditions: Ohio Heritage Fellows; 401; Aimee Lee Interview, Camera 2, Part 3 of 4. Boston, MA: ThinkTV, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from