Youngmin Lee, Contemporary Craft’s October visiting artist is traveling all the way from the Bay area and treating us with a workshop on the art of Bojagi, a Korean wrapping cloth. In anticipation for her arrival we ask Youngmin to answer a few questions about her life and practice.
Contemporary Craft (CC): Tell us a little bit about your educational background and/or a brief biography.
Youngmin Lee (YL): I’am a Korean textile artist living in the San Francisco Bay Area. With a BA in Clothing and Textile (Inha University, Incheon, Korea) and an MA in Fashion Design (Ehwa Womans University,Seoul, Korea), I have worked in the fashion industry as a fashion designer in Korea. After moving to California in 1996, I’ve presented numerous workshops, classes and demonstrations on Korean Textile Arts including workshops at the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco, Oakland Museum, Pacific International Quilt Festival in Santa Clara, Sonoma County Museum, East Bay Heritage Quilters, Wearable Art Connection of Southern California and Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) in Los Angeles, California.
I will be teaching bojagi workshops at Richmond Art Center and Mendocino Art Center in 2015 and 2016.
My bojagi works were shown at the Asian Art Museum’s Asia Alive program in San Francisco (2005), Bojagi show at the Muckenthaler Center in Fullerton CA (2012), Korea Bojagi Forum in Jeju and Seoul in Korea (2014), Hands of Korea in Romania (2015) and The Natural Dye Showcase in Mendocino Art Center (2015).
CC: Why textiles? What about this specific medium speaks to you as an artist? What specific processes do you explore as a textile artist?
YL: Textiles are medium that I studied from college. I was paying more attention to the western style fashion construction in earlier days but bojagi made my direction to go back to my own heritage and culture which feels more comfortable and natural.
Textiles give me freedom to connect my current and past, traditions and culture that I belonged before and now. They also connect my imagination with reality. I cut, arrange, and put textile pieces together to find the way that I move along.
CC: Can you talk about your conceptual inquiries? Have these themes remained a constant in you work or have they evolved over time?
YL: Using the traditional techniques and materials I explore my existence in a different time and place.
CC: What is a bojagi? Can you talk about the cultural significance and its importance in your own work?
YL: Bojagi (Wrapping Cloths) is perhaps the most unique form of Korean textile art. It is also strikingly contemporary: the designs and colors of bojagi remind one of the works of some modern abstract artists. Indeed, the bojagi can be described as a true form of abstract expressionism.
Bojagi are Korean textiles that pieced together from small scraps of cloth. They were used to wrap or carry everything from precious ritual objects to everyday clothes and common household goods and also to cover foods from ritual offerings to dining tables and trays.
Bojagi are usually square and come in a range of sizes. Fabrics used in bojagi include silk, cotton, hemp and ramie. There are many different types of bojagi including lined or unlined, embroidered, painted, gold-leafed, quilted. Bojagi is a process of making something useful out of leftover and give another life. And it contains the philosophy of wishing happiness for the recipients. I follow the traditional method of making bojagi but my bojagi reflects change of my life. It reflects my state of mind and keeps me from losing my identity.
CC: What challenges do you face as an artist? And what advice might you give young artists?
YL: Balancing is always important for me.
Youngmin Lee will be teaching, Bojagi & Body Ornament, on October 3 & 4, 2015 from 10am- 5pm. You can register for this workshop here.