By Patricia Belyea
SEATTLE WA When Jiyoung Chung began her demo at ArtXchange Gallery yesterday, she mentioned making joomchi anywhere and everywhere—riding on the bus or waiting at the airport. What was she talking about?
Jiyoung was referring to the traditional Korean papermaking technique of layering 100% mulberry paper into thicker sheets of fiber. In older times, folk clothing was made from two- to three-layered joomchi—laminated together with only water, agitated until bonded and then rubbed until leather-like.
To de-mystify the process Jiyoung wet three pieces of colored mulberry paper, one on top of another, and then wadded them up. She squeezed the fiber like a stress ball—tossing it back and forth between her left hand and right hand. When the wad became a little dry, Jiyoung dipped it into the container of water. Jiyoung continued for a few minutes but in reality she agitates her joomchi projects for at least 30 minutes before slapping and kneading it—to rebreak and reconnect the fibers.
Passionate about making joomchi, Jiyoung doesn’t stop. Hence a ziploc® bag with an in-process wad of mulberry fiber and a little water often travels with her.
Jiyoung has turned this traditional fiber craft into an art form. Her pieces hanging in the ArtXchange show, “Tradition Unwrapped,” display intriguing color combinations and textures.
In 2012, Jiyoung was awarded an Award of Excellence by American Craft Council and her works are in major permanent collections. Jiyoung has also written an ambitious book on the subject, Joomchi & Beyond.
The show at ArtXchange also features Jiyoung’s mother, Chunghie Lee and her bojagi art. Internationally known for transforming the Korean tradition of patchwork wrapping cloths into sophisticated works, Chunghie spoke to a rapt group of gallery goers.
Not that many generations ago, when cotton, hemp or ramie weren’t available, Koreans used joomchi to make clothing. Fabric was precious and scraps were patched together to make bojagi. Seeing this mother-daughter duo embrace these two facets of “women’s work” and elevate them to stunning pieces of art mesmerized me.
512 First Avenue S, just south of King Street
Pioneer Square, Seattle
Tradition Unwrapped: Korean Bojagi and Joomchi Now
Feb 6-Feb 28, 2014