"What does Bojagi mean to me?"
Chunghie Lee, the organizer of the 'Korea Bojagi Forum' and the 'International Bojagi and Beyond' Exhibitions, always requests each of the invited Bojagi artists, for every exhibition, to write a paragraph on "What does Bojagi mean to me?".
Reflecting on this, in August 2014, I realize it is the experience of my journey on the meandering pathways and the incredible people I meet who teach and inspire me. Unexpected encounters with people and cultures, and, unplanned connections - with serendipity - through art.
In the '90s, I studied the techniques of painting on fabric with Dye and Gutta with Susan Louise Moyer, Shibori with Ana Lisa Hedstrom and Joan Morris, and rozome with Betsy Sterling Benjamin aka Kiranada. The latter conducted a study tour in 2001 of renowned rozome artists' studios in Kyoto and Arimatsu in Japan which exposed me to a sublime world of art that resonated with me,
During this period until 2003, I also studied painting objects of the Decorative Arts at The Isabel O'Neil Studio in Manhattan, New York. I learned to appreciate the exquisite beauty and history of craftsmanship and design in the 18th and 19th Century, when Europe was first exposed and influenced by the Asian arts of Chinoiserie, Japonism and Vizagapatam in China, Japan and India.
In 2003, my friend, Cornelia Baker, became my mentor and sponsored me for my first solo textile show in Franklin Lakes, New Jersey. She taught me the fundamentals of producing and hanging a professional exhibition and my friend, Kiyoko Sakai encouraged me to reveal emotion.
In 2006, I studied Bojagi with Chunghie Lee and found my metier. It took 16 years to get here.
In 2008, I had my first International Solo Exhibition at the UCT Irma Stern Museum in Cape Town, South Africa, and my work in Contemporary Bojagi emerged.
My friends, Esmeralda Lyn and Agnes Hassell from New York decided to attend. When Esmeralda's friend, Marie Luarca-Reyes heard about this, she extended an invitation to me to exhibit my work at the Philippine Embassy in Pretoria. Her husband was the Philippine Ambassador to South Africa.
At the cocktail reception in the official residence of the Philippine Ambassador, the South Korean Ambassador, Kim Han-Soo and his wife, Kim Mi-Hae descended the stairs followed a few minutes later by the North Korean Ambassador An-hui Jong and his wife, Pang Kum Chun. It was the very first time they met, as the Philippine Ambassador Virgil Reyes and his wife Marie Luarca-Reyes, introduced them to each other, and to my husband, Mark Castelino and me.
They entered the Gallery. It was momentous. They were unaware that the Exhibition included Bojagi. Each told me what an emotional experience it was for them to view and talk about each work of art - together. It broke the ice. It was their cultural art celebrated in Contemporary Bojagi by an American artist in South Africa.
I was moved. For the first time I believed that my art had value. It transcended the individual.
So what does Bojagi mean to me? People, serendipity, passion, magic.