When I opened the email that included an invitation from Chunghie Lee to speak at this year’s Korea Bojagi Forum, I was floored and humbled. My reply to her was, “Yes, yes! See you in Seoul!”
You see, Chunghie Lee has been a presence at Fiber Art Now, even from our early days. When she told me about her Korea Bojagi Forum (about five years ago), we featured it in the magazine. Since those early days, we also have published a story on Chunghie Lee’s personal work (thanks to author Maria Tulokas), and a story on her daughter’s work, too (Jyoung Chung’s Joomchi work). I also have crossed paths with her at several events and various fiber-related happenings. Now I would be going to Seoul myself to attend the Forum! Unbelievable.
As editor of Fiber Art Now, many events and the news of exciting fiber-related conferences and events come across my desk every day. However, I am only able to attend a portion of the amazing events I see every year. I’m typically a passive participant, watching it all happen from the other side of my computer screen. But not this time!
My experience at the Korea Bojagi Forum included several days of absorbing the exhibitions, including antique Bojagi from the Suwon iPark Art Museum collection, contemporary Bojagi featuring works by Korean artists and Reinterpreted Bojagi by international artists, and the Textile Study Group of New York Miniature Exhibition, featuring 30 artists, coordinated by Patricia Malarcher. Even more, there were ancillary exhibitions that were staged throughout Suwon in small art galleries and even on a side street block-long window, for the entire community to see!
I attended as many of the talks as I could, which were not only interesting and varied, but also included spending time with a raft of lively new friends from around the world. Another piece of the Korea trip was the discovery of so many genteel and gracious hosts. I use the term “hosts” very liberally here, because every new Korean friend I met during that trip seemed to feel a personal mission to connect in an authentic way and help me have a positive and warm experience in Suwon and Korea in general -and I think I can speak with confidence for other non-Korean attendees and speakers, which included people from France, Japan, Finland, the UK, and Israel, among others, who likely had a similar positive and warm experience.
I was grateful to also have been given the opportunity of meeting with the Korean members of SAQA (Studio Art Quilt Associates). When I became a board member of SAQA, I had no idea about how much it would enrich my creative and professional life. Connecting with these contemporary fiber artists was such a treat!
Take a look at this treasure that I received from Young-Ran Chang, a professor at the University of Suwon (and Chairman of the International Crafts Committee, Chairman of the Ewha Fiber Arts Association, and member of the Korean Fine Arts Association). She handmade each precious bookmark with the tiniest, most perfect stitches. One afternoon we saw an exhibition of traditional Korean needle arts. It turns out that she has collected hundreds of these historical relics over many years and this was the very first time for them to be displayed in public! She also is an accomplished contemporary fiber artist herself.
I firmly believe that we find the universal in the specific. This rule has withstood the test of time and place for me. Ms. Young-Ran Chang, with the treasure that she so caringly made for each one of us, shows us the universal truth of the worldwide fiber community, expressed in one specific gift.
If you are planning your conference attendance for the next couple of years, I recommend that you include the Korea Bojagi Forum, which will be held next in 2018. www.koreabojagiforum.com.