Sunday 30 August 2009

Pojagi -Chunghie Lee Masterclass

I have for many years been interested in Korean patchwork where the seams in transparent cloth are an integral part of abstract designs. I made this door curtain for my previous flat, printing images of gum leaves onto silk organza using the computer and trapping silk leaves between 2 layers. I used French seams on the machine to join the pieces (not knowing how it was done 'properly' - it turns out this is one of the methods used) When I was in Japan with Susan Briscoe in 2006, I bought Pojagi books (in Japanese but very clear diagrams) , a couple of kits and old kimonos in lightweight gauzy fabric which looked like they'd be a suitable substitute for the hemps that are used.

I'd heard from Australian quilters who'd been involved in workshops and collaborative projects with Chunghie Lee what an inspiration she was and certainly the pieces I'd seen in the V&A
sparked my interest further. I joined the Surface Design Association as I knew she'd taught at their conferences and hoped to get to one someday. So I was delighted to see that she was coming with an exhibition to the Festival of Quilts - and that she would be teaching a masterclass. I signed up as soon as booking opened - it involved a long day trip by train but worth it.

For the class, Chunghie had brought along a selection of old and new pojagi (po-jah-ki) wrapping cloths and our first task was to learn how to wrap items and tie them properly -ingenious and so practical as well as beautiful. I coveted the older ones of handwoven hemp in cream and indigo.

She had samples of all the different seam techniques ( including the equivalent of fell seams). The most interesting and what gave the thinnest, stiffest 'line'were the triple stitched 'kekki' seams.
The different methods were systematically taught and we settled down to the quiet rhythm of stitching - a silent hour resulting in a real connection with cloth.

Years ago I used to to be able to stitch finely but with concentrating on large dramatic stitches in my quilts, I've lost the knack. My stitching did improve over the day , especially after I'd shown Chunghie my best efforts and asked whether it was small enough-'Not really' she replied.

At workshops I'm always the one that spreads out and invades other peoples space no matter how much I aim to control it.
Chunghie was realistic is saying that although it was a masterclass, she didn't expect masterpieces . It will take some time to practice and perfect the techniques but I have several ideas of what I'd like to produce - I'm particularly interested in a variations in blacks and dark colours, maybe in degrees of opacity. Having bought a copy of the 'Pojagi and Beyond' I'm starting to think of how I could achieve 3d sculptural pieces.
I also went to her lecture - besides a brief history, the main emphasis was on students work( a taster can be seen on this video clip from Rhode Island School of Design). Most of the students did not have textile backgrounds and they brought an invigorating approach to the pieces produced .The collaborative project with the Silk Road Ensemble looked particularly interesting - I'll think of the huge indigo banners when I next listen to the CD. Also in the talk Chunghie showed some of her own work in varied exhibitions and installations. It was fascinating to see the same pieces that were in her gallery at FoQ hung in different locations and formats.
The combination of homage to traditional techniques and the 'unknown women' who made them , with a rigorous art school aesthetic makes a very powerful statement. More please!!


Olga Norris said...

It sounds as if the masterclass so looked forward to fulfilled even more than expectations. That's wonderful, and I hope that you enjoy taking your developing techniques further.

Thank you for sharing your experience, and for the introduction to the links.

Fibrenell said...

What a wonderful posting - I HAVE to go and find out more now.

Margaret Cooter said...

Ah, reading about the workshop was just like participating - I felt I was back there, and all that was missing was a needle in my hand!

Jared said...

Margaret - I remember seeing your pojagi screen a while back somewhere and being very impressed. I'm glad to have found your blog!

I missed Chunghie Lee's classes in NY not too long ago, but your post has made me even more determined to catch any of her future classes. Thank you for linking to the video provided by RISD.