Paper is a special medium. From sketch artists to book printers, paper goods are the backbone of arts and culture. Some episodes in paper history are legendary—including the Heidelberg letterpress. Between 1923 and 1985, the Original Heidelberg Platen Press was used around the world to churn out newspapers and other printed goods. In homage to this storied machine, Korean paper artist Lee Ji-hee created a full-size replica of the letterpress, crafted from carefully twisted, meshed, and rolled paper.
Ji-hee is no stranger to paper sculpture. She has sculpted an incredible paper train stretching eight meters (26.3 feet) in length; she even crafted a beautiful tablescape of flowers and cakes. To prepare for the challenge of the Heidelberg letterpress, Ji-hee studied the original model, including its trademark windmill paper feed. Through careful cutting and construction, she then recreated almost every detail with paper and corrugated cardboard in varying colors.
The project took Ji-hee three months to complete, and it was created it as a tribute to the long-flourishing printing industry on Chungmuri and Euljiro Streets in Seoul, South Korea. The work was part of the Urban Development project in Seoul, where the artist's office is located in the printing quarter of the city. This is fitting, as Korean printing history is far more ancient than in Europe. Hundreds of years before Gutenberg printed Bibles in Europe, Korean woodblock printers were creating magnificent Buddhist texts.