Korean Patchwork, Jogakbo
By Lee Hyo-won
Korea possesses a long history of quilting. Jogakbo, or Korean patchwork, dates back to about 200 years, according to quilt specialist Kim Soon-hee, 75, director of the Chojun Textile & Quilt Art Museum in Seoul. She is also a board member of the International Quilt Study Center at the University of Nebraska.
``It's a custom that comes very naturally. Because the silhouette of hanbok (Korean traditional clothing) is curved, like the rounded sleeves, there were always pieces of fabric left. Naturally, women made use of them,'' Kim told The Korea Times. Korean patchwork can be found in all forms, from blankets to clothing and bojagi (multipurpose square cloth).
Chojun Textile & Quilt Art Museum houses a small but colorful collection of quilts and other fabric relics from all over the world. You can find both South and North Korean patchwork, 200-year-old quilt costumes from China, a classic 19th century American crazy quilt and an Amish one as well. There are also fun contemporary pieces, like one created by pieces of men's neckties.
There is currently a special exhibition in celebration of United Nations Day. You can admire works by two artists from the diplomatic circle here: Lisa Vershbow, wife of the American ambassador to Korea, and Eva Vargo, wife of the Swedish ambassador.
Vershbow, ``a metal smith by day and a quilt maker by night,'' has been making quilts for 35 years now. Her works on display reflect her impressions of the places she has lived in.
For the one she made in Seoul, Vershbowhe incorporated hangeul or the Korean alphabet into the design. She used local fabric, such as a stone gray cloth that is used to make the attire of Buddhist monk, yellow fabric made from natural mud dye and purchases from Gwangjang market. It's an American crazy quilt but ``captures the colors of Korea,'' she told The Korea Times.
Vargo also displayed works she made at different points in her life. She is a professional weaver and has been making quilts for about 20 years now, and her corner of the exhibition showcases various pieces such as a beautiful silk scarf she made in Japan and a quilted coat. Also notable is a small black and white depiction of one of the trigrams from the Korean flag, which she made using pages from antique books ― a traditional method used here to recycle old books.
The exhibition runs through Nov. 24. The museum is located near exit 3 of Myeong-dong station on line 4. Enter the alleyway to the right of the Pacific Hotel, and look for brown signs leading to the museum. Call (02) 753-4075. Open 10 a.m.-5 p.m. everyday except Sundays and holidays. Admission: 5,000 won for adults, 3,000 won for teenagers and soldiers and 2,000 won for children and senior citizens. Group discounts are also available. You can also visit jculture.co.kr/museum (in Korean only).
Want to learn the delicate needlework yourself? You can experience the art of Korean patchwork such as jogakbo at Woori Kyubang in Insa-dong, central Seoul. This is just the place, even for foreigners.
Woori Kyubang recommends those who are interested to try out Package Day, which takes place 1-5 p.m. every Saturday. For 15,000 won you can sample all sorts of different patchwork. If a particular needlework strikes your fancy, you can sign up for classes that are taught by English-speaking instructors. The shop is located near exit 6 of Anguk station on subway line 3, near Crown Bakery. Call (02) 725-7030. Visit www.woorikyubang.co.kr (Korean only).