My version of a traditional Korean wrapping cloth, only made in stone. It now sits in my minigarden, the lone product of my mosaic ambitions.

Bojagi: Korean traditional wrapping gets its day in the sun

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My version of a traditional Korean wrapping cloth, only made in stone. It now sits in my minigarden, the lone product of my mosaic ambitions.

A crafty friend just sent me a link to an upcoming exhibit at SF’s Museum of Craft and Folk Art. Opening on June 17 and on display through Oct. 23, “Wrapping Traditions: Korean Textiles Now” puts b(p)ojagi, traditional Korean wrapping cloths, front and center. I saw my first bojagi at the British Museum  in London in 2001. It was included in an exhibit on the art and archaeology of Korea, part of the museum’s general collection. I loved the piece so much, I bought the accompanying book. (See below.)

"Harmony" by Eun-Ji Lee; Silk, natural dyeing, 25.6 in x 21.7 in

The SF exhibit, which comprises works by more than 30 Korean artists and dozens of others from countries as diverse as Finland and Japan, features some amazing traditional and non-traditional takes on the artform. Two of my favorites by Eun-Ji Lee and Yeon-Joon Chang take wildly different interpretations of the bojagi concept.

For years I wanted to make something that honored this same tradition, but, alas, I did not inherit my mother and my halmoni‘s sewing genes. I tried to convince an old roommate who’d become obsessed with quilting to make some bojagi. But despite her Korean roots, she was more into making traditional Western quilts and the like.

"Matrix 0909" by Yeon-Soon Chang; Abaca fiber, indigo dye, machine sewn, 13.4in x 13.2in x 5.3in

Then in 2009, just after moving West to California, I enrolled in a mosaic’s class. I can’t draw, paint or sew, but I can arrange, darn it! And so I made the best homage I could out of broken tiles and mortar. I realized that I will never be a great mosaicist, but the stepping stone makes a nice addition to my porch garden.

The Museum of Craft and Folk Art is located at 51 Yerba Buena Lane, San Francisco, California. Museum hours are Wed. through Sat. 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. (closed Sun. to Tues.). Admission is $5 for general public, $4 for seniors, (62 and older).  For more information call (415) 227-4888 or visit www.mocfa.org.

The inspiration for my mosaic bojagi from Korea: Art and archaelogy, p. 157.


Written by Jane Portal, Korea: Art and archaeology was published by the British Museum Press in 2000.

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