Youngmin Lee and Bojagi

April 23, 2014
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Bay Area–based artist Youngmin Lee is currently consulting the Community Bojagi Project in the Boone Children’s Gallery at LACMA. She’s also conducting a series of Korean textile workshops titled Wrapped Up—Korean Textile Workshop. Her expertise is essential to the Community Bojagi Project: she teaches valuable skills to Boone staff, who, in turn, are able to demonstrate what they learn to all who visit the Boone. It is a great privilege to work directly with an artist who provides such valuable skills to a project that welcomes museumgoers. Youngmin talks to me about how she began her craft and the importance of sharing it with the world.

Youngmin Lee showing students at the workshop a bojagi that has been passed down for generations. Youngmin Lee showing students at the workshop a bojagi that has been passed down for generations.

“I have been making bojagi for about 10–12 years. I started this craft after I moved to the U.S. from my native country. I actually worked as a fashion designer before I moved to the U.S. In the States, I was so busy learning everything in this very different culture. One day I found myself very eager to create works as I used to do and thought about making bojagi as a way to rediscover my forgotten culture (at least for me). Now bojagi is my way of reconnecting with my culture’s arts and crafts.”

Youngmin holds a bachelor’s degree in clothing and textile and a master’s in fashion design. She has held numerous workshops and demonstrations around the Bay Area in places such as the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco and the Oakland Museum of California. She shares her culture with the world, and, at LACMA, with visitors during our bojagi workshops. Children and adults have participated in her workshops with much enthusiasm and appreciation for the art. During her workshops, Youngmin tells her students that making bojagi is an invaluable way to express creativity.

“I teach bojagi to children in San Francisco and teach workshops to adults too. They all think I teach them, but actually they teach me many things too. In a different age group and culture, people interpret bojagi very differently. I love to see them pick their colors for their bojagi. This is my fun part, watching them have fun with colors!”

In the Boone Children’s Gallery, visitors may choose their own fabrics in a variety of colors and patterns. They have personalized their fabrics by drawing, painting, and even stitching a message. In her workshops, Youngmin tells her students that picking their own fabric and colors is part of the creative process.

Detail of a personalized fabric, now part of the larger bojagi Detail of a personalized fabric, now part of the larger bojagi

“Many people interpret bojagi in many different ways. From reusing the fabric for practical purposes to more abstract art forms to a way of expressing an individual’s art. But actually, these are not new concepts. Women during the Joseon dynasty created bojagi to pursue their artistic and creative energy.”

The Boone Children’s Gallery has extended an invitation to new NexGen members who have signed up online for the free membership. Along with their welcome letter and brand-new NexGen card, new members are also receiving a blank piece of fabric in the mail. We’re inviting them to decorate their fabric and bring it back to the Boone to add it to the Community Bojagi. Youngmin Lee has also corresponded by mail with audiences who wanted to learn more about bojagi.

“I have a friend who is a quilter in Mexico City. She found my website and asked me to teach her how to bojagi. We sent mail back and forth many times as I taught her. Now she is my good friend, and she shares her bojagi with her quilting students. Another person in Malaysia contacted me. I feel that sharing and teaching bojagi is my life mission on this side of the Earth. One art teacher in Michigan sent me an email one day, and told me that she is teaching bojagi as her art lesson. How wonderful to be found by people all over the world!”

Boone Children’s Gallery receives decorated fabrics by mail Boone Children’s Gallery receives decorated fabrics by mail

We hope to get many more participants to contribute. Our bojagi could possibly be the largest in the world with a record amount of participants! We invite everyone to stop by the Boone Children’s Gallery and sew or decorate your own fabric piece. Much like Youngmin, LACMA staff has had a great experience sharing this form of art with our visitors.

Says Youngmin, “I wish each participant well being and happiness. They added not only pieces of fabric, but a wish of happiness and good fortune. Many thanks to LACMA for letting me have these precious moments.”

Youngmin Lee with Boone staff Youngmin Lee with Boone staff

This project is made possible by a grant from The John B. and Nelly Llanos Kilroy Foundation.

The Boone Children's Gallery is made possible in part by the MaryLou and George Boone Children's Gallery Endowment Fund.

Jeanny Sandoval, Boone Children’s Gallery Supervisor