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Percy So: Art of Papers – Continuity of Antique Beauty

In our grannies’ era, when things wore out, they would find ways to fix them. Yet nowadays, when things are broken, most of us will simply replace them with new ones. No wonder when people learn that Percy are knowledgeable about repairing old books, they would instantly picture her as a granny coming from a family of scholars. Percy has been an artisan of bookbinding, book restoration and paper art for almost 10 years. ‘When I tell people about my job, they would be intrigued and think it is fun,’ she smiled.

Before she became a bookbinder, Percy was into paper art in the very first place. ‘Whenever Chinese New Year comes around, my grandma would always cut out auspicious Chinese characters with papers to decorate our home. Grew up watching her craft, I have gradually developed an interest in collecting paper art pieces. For those art assignments in my secondary school and university, I also chose to do something related to paper art. As I have so much love towards papers, I even stepped into the world of bookbinding,’ she told us. From a thin sheet of paper to a thick stack of books, Percy’s passion for papers have been unabated.

Recalling the days when she first entered the industry, Percy considers herself a lucky girl. She started off being successfully admitted to her favourite overseas bookbinding programme despite a short preparation time, and then established her own studio and got contacted by different people, bringing her plenty of valuable exchange and work opportunities. Percy shared, ‘In one case, I met a friend who works in a university library’s book restoration division. Later, I was also referred by him to help out. In another case, a British book collector found me on the Internet. He then brought his wife along to meet me, and his wife appeared to be particularly interested in my work. It turned out his wife is a famous foreign bookbinder! I only found out about this after the meet-up!’ She laughed at her ignorance back then but expressed her thankfulness for receiving so much recognition about her works from people within and outside the industry.

Apart from providing old book restoration services, these days Percy would also collaborate with different arts practitioners to hold workshops. From time to time, she would also join overseas bookbinding competitions – which require her to first understand the books’ content and then design and craft the book covers entirely by herself. ‘I enjoy producing a book from scratches as well as restoring old books. Each book presents unique and brand-new challenges to me. When I immerse myself in books and papers, I can totally forget about time,’ she stated.

She has been basing herself at her Causeway Bay studio for 10 years now. Reaching the 10th anniversary of her career, she said she has witnessed some changes in this area. ‘In early days, this area was flooded with jewellery shops and pharmacies. Yet in recent years, we have noticed that many art and cultural units have also moved in and are operating in upper floor shops. You may see art studios and libraries of humanities, which are bringing positive changes here,’ she said. Percy told us she also looks forward to meeting more artists in the area and hopes that could bring new chemistry to her creations.

Percy So | Paper & Book Artist: 5/F, 12 Matheson Street, Causeway Bay