BLUE DURUMAGI patchwork bojagi by Chunghie Lee.

2012 Korea
Bojagi Forum

textile arts



First sewn in roughly the fifteenth century and a skill passed on by all classes of women through the generations, bojagi is the traditional Korean folk art of making wrapping cloths. Bojagi textiles are composed of pieces of fabric, traditionally scraps from a woman’s domestic life, and the construction technique is a type of patchwork. Wrapping cloths were functional but also decorative; square and rectangular, they served as coverings for food, beds, tables, jewelry. Wrappers were made for special occasions like weddings, funerals, prayer ceremonies, and Buddhist rites, and made of materials like silk, satin, damask, ramie, hemp, wool, and paper. Minimalist in form, the wrapping cloth contrasted its simple shape with the rich use of color. Stitching the pieces together honors the concepts of longevity, prosperity, good health, a virtuous and honorable life. Symbols like the peony were wishes for prosperity, the tree for long life, bats attracted good luck and repelled bad luck. Chinese characters for the same symbols were also used.

CHUNGHIE LEE, organizer of the 2012 Korea Bojagi Forum, in collaborative sponsorship with other international organizations.

For Chunghie Lee, organizer of the 2012 Korea Bojagi Forum, her personal interpretation of the meaning of bojagi is “to connect beautifully with others,” and as a “metaphor for human life.” She writes in her book Bojagi & Beyond that “we may feel like random pieces of fabric, alone and without meaning, but God’s hand places us together in a beautiful composition which has great harmony and meaning.” She is an internationally renowned fiber artist, and a master and pioneer in bojagi’s more contemporary interpretations. A frequent traveler between South Korea and the United States, she teaches at the Rhode Island School of Design. Lee also spends much of her time as an instructor in the art of bojagi in other countries through workshops and exhibitions.

Lee never planned to work in any of the traditional artforms but in the early 1990s she was a participant in a cultural exchange event where she was asked to speak about a Korean folk art. She went on to make an intensive study of bojagi, “in order to give a proper lecture.” Lee found herself immersed in the subject beyond her initial goal, and says, “At the Museum of Korean Embroidery I learned of its history from director Donghwa Hur, who has devoted his life to preserving the folk arts. Although I learned enough to give a lecture, I realized that I also needed hands-on experience. Without making it with my hands, I could not truly speak about the technique. I enjoyed the transparency of the silk and hemp fabrics, and later realized the universality of stitching.” Now, Lee has seen the traditional wrapping cloth morph into a diverse variety of expressions and reinterpretations from clothing, fine art, sculpture, theater sets to outdoor installations.

TRADITIONAL BOJAGI used in korean wedding ceremonies.

In 1999 Lee was invited by the Rhode Island School of Design to teach a course in bojagi after studying there on a Fulbright International Exchange Grant in 1994. And she has been teaching an annual course at the noted school ever since. Soon she began traveling and teaching workshops throughout the United States, Europe and Australia. “Without realizing it,” she remembers, “I found myself spreading awareness about bojagi. The simple act of sewing, of transforming scraps into something beautiful is a universal activity. I see this sewing as a symbol of our interconnectedness. Through this common activity I meet people and form connections to them in the same way that scraps form a beautiful patchwork. Those connections through sewing go beyond country, age and education to a more common understanding.”

The last two decades spent exhibiting, teaching and lecturing, Lee sees as preparing for something larger, which has culminated in the 2012 Korea Bojagi Forum, meeting in Seoul, South Korea. “I see the Forum,” she believes, “as a celebration of the simple act of sewing, of bringing to my home country this wonderful international patchwork of people who work with this artform.

JOOMCHI ARTWORK by Jiyoung Chung, one of the Forum’s participants.

“As a cultural exchange event,” she continues, “I hope to increase understanding and visibility of Korean folk art traditions and to forge stronger links among the countries represented.” Besides seeing “the potential in small things,” Lee hopes the Forum will succeed in forming an international association that will also share and communicate via the internet.

The four-day Forum, August 22 - 26, is sited at the Heyri Artists Community, a unique settlement of artists, designers and architects, located on the outskirts of Seoul, near the Demilitarized Zone. While the Bojagi Forum features speakers from several continents, the official language is English to facilitate the communication of bojagi’s origin and tradition, materials, uses, historical background, and creative transformations in the hands of contemporary artists utilizing fabric and paper.

There will be exhibitions showing the works of artists from Asia, Europe and the United States in multiple galleries, and trips to museums such as the National Folk Museum of Korea and Museum of Korean Embroidery. Workshops and demonstrations abound, some of them taking place in the ancient Suwon Hwaseong Fortress, a UNESCO Designated Cultural Site. There will be trips to the famous Insadong arts district and Seoul’s large Dongdaemun Market, a source of traditional and contemporary fabrics.

The Forum opening will be held at the Heyri Art Factory, with a reception held at the Shuim Museum, a museum dedicated to Korean funerary practices. Another reception will be hosted by Sung Kim, the United States Ambassador to Korea, at the ambassador’s residence.

Conference news and updates are on the Facebook page, Registration information and form, and more are located at the website, Other information is available by emailing



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