Bojagi (Wrapping Cloths) is perhaps the most unique form of Korean textile art. It is also strikingly contemporary: the designs and colors of bojagi remind one of the works of some modern abstract artists. Indeed, the bojagi can be described as a true form of abstract expressionism. Bojagi are Korean textiles which pieced together from small scraps of cloth.
Bojagi occupied a prominent place in the daily lives of Koreans of all classes. They were used to wrap or carry everything from precious ritual objects to everyday clothes and common household goods and also to cover foodstuffs from ritual offerings to dining tables and trays.
Many different bojagi can be categorized by the class of users, make-up, design, material and size.
Gungbo is the bojagi used in the royal palace to wrap various kinds of goods. It was produced by the artisan organizations that were specializes in each step in the whole process-weaving, dyeing, drawing, sewing and etc.
Minbo is the bojagi used by common people. There were many kinds of minbo as diverse as the items wrapped in. People used bojagi for daily use purposes, weddings, special events and rituals.
Bojagi are usually square and come in a range of sizes. Fabrics used in bojagi include silk, cotton, hemp and ramie. There are many different types of bojagi including lined or unlined, embroidered, painted, gold-leafed, quilted.
Patchwork bojagi (jogakbo) were made exclusively by and for the common people using various colors of small remnants. Jogakbo are comparable to modern abstract paintings. The talent and aesthetic sense that created a work of art from discarded scraps of cloths were sufficient to make jogakbo excellent works of art.
While making jogakbo, women wished for the recipients’ good luck and happiness. This is why bojagi were also called bok meaning both a wrapping cloth and good luck in Korean. Something made with much care was believed to bring good luck and happiness. Thus, it seems that making a great effort to patch together the scraps of cloth was regarded as a medium for asking for good luck. In addition, connecting small pieces of cloths was associated with long life.
Embroidered bojagi (subo) were used for special occasions such as engagements and weddings. The most popular embroidered bojagi were those made to wrap a wooden goose presented on the wedding day by bridegroom to the bride’s family as his pledge to be faithful and a good provider. The motifs on these pieces are simplified and abstracted shapes of trees, fruits, butterflies and birds related to wishes for temporal prosperity and happiness.
Source: Hur, Dong-hwa, Bojagi’s Simple Elegance (Seoul; The museum of Korean Embroidery, 2004)