The Korean art of Bojagi

Sara Cook

We had a fascinating talk this month by Sara Cook, on the Korean art of Bojagi. Sara is a quilter, tutor and quilting judge, who was drawn to this specialist technique after seeing an exhibition of Korean textiles. She was already an experienced quilter, and this particular technique caught her imagination straight away – so much so that she booked a trip to the Korean Bojagi Forum in 2016 (in Korea) to study it first-hand. Since then she has developed her own interpretation of this ancient technique and has taught the subject all over the world.

Work by Sara Cook

Bojagi originates from the art of wrapping, both for practical/functional reasons and also for decorative reasons such as giving presents. It was used for every-day use such as food storage, sometimes waxed to seal the food and keep it fresh. It was also used to store personal belongings, since space was at a premium and homes were cleared of personal items when they weren’t in use. Thicker layered cloths were made for warmth, usually from silk as it is warm in winter and cool in summer. Functional items could also be very decorative, like the heavily stitched thumbles below (the second photo is a thimble-making kit that you can buy via Sara’s website)

Kit by Sara Cook

Sara spoke about the role of women in traditional Korean society. Women were expected to obey firstly their father, secondly their husband, and thirdly their son. Education was not permitted, and women could not leave the house without a male escort. When a woman married, she would leave her family home and would probably never see her family again, so the cloths made with her mother and sisters may have had particular significance in her new home. The giving of gifts was highly symbolic: for example ducks and geese, with blue and red to symbolise yin and yang.

By Sara Cook

Korean cultural traditions changed significantly since occupation and the war years. The position of women has improved, but alongside that there ha been concern about losing cultural traditions as society modernises. Korea introduced an innovative cultural heritage programme. People with  traditional skills are appointed as ‘national treasures’ and are given subsidised studios that enabled them to pass on their skills. This has led to techniques such as Bojagi being kept alive across the world. Sara has developed her own style of work using traditional Bojagi techniques. It involves a very particular and precise type of seam, and is worked to be hung against the light so that it’s translucent qualities are shown off to best advantage. You can see more of her work on her website at

New art from old treasures

Thanks to Chris for this description of Tuesday’s talk by Anne Kelly.

‘Today we had an interesting talk from textile artist and Author Anne Kelly. Anne is resident artist at Sussex Prairie gardens and lots of our members have been there to workshops with her. Anne brought lots of examples of her unique style of art using paper, hand and machine embroidery and reclaimed fabrics. She is a well travelled artist, originating in Canada and putting on shows in Australia, France and India to name but a few places. She likes to exhibit her work in places like hospitals and hospices and not just art galleries. Anne does lots of commissions and likes working on old maps which she treats with PVA glue and tissue paper before stitching onto them. She feels strongly about reusing old fabrics and putting them to new use. Lots of her work had bits of old embroidery stitched into it. She has an exhibition in Hackney coming up’.

The details of Anne’s exhibition in October are in the poster below. Scroll down below that for lots of photos of the work that Anne brought with her to show the group, and there are more lovely things to look at on her website

Tea and scones

Instead of the summer picnic that we had for our August meeting in the last two years, this year we decided to have a catered ‘posh tea’ instead. This turned out to be a stroke of luck, given the wind and rain that afternoon. Thankfully we weren’t holding on to gazebos that were trying to take off into the field! Valerie kindly organised the caterer, as well as finishing touches such as floral tea cups and table-cloths. Thanks to Margaret for providing floral table-decorations (despite the fact that she was on her way to catch a flight). We were treated to scones with jam and cream, a selection of sandwiches, several different cakes, and strawberries and cream. Naughty but nice! There was a little bit of stitching before tea was served, but when sticky things appeared the sewing was mainly put away. Here are a selection of photos of us stitching beforehand, and then enjoying the feast. If anyone is looking for a cake-maker or caterer, she is Janet Spoor at ‘Janet’s celebration Cakes and Catering’.

‘If I concentrate hard enough, maybe a scone will spontaneously jump onto my plate?

Dustbin lids and cabbage leaves…

Members enjoyed a fascinating and stimulating talk by textile artist Esther Collins at our June meeting. Esther is a local artist whose work is influenced by her interests in the History of Art, and also by her previous work in graphic design. Design influences include the natural environment, walking in the South Downs and local history.

I was so disappointed to miss Esther’s talk, and feedback from members has been very enthusiastic. Sadly I can’t add my own reflections on the talk as I usually do, but the talk generated appreciative comments from members, a couple of which I’ll add here: ‘I loved the leaf brooches and was inspired by the use of gold leaf in her decoupage work’ and ‘Esther produces beautiful work combining stitch, textiles and mixed media. I’ve never met any artist that gets inspiration from dustbin lids and cabbage leaves and then goes onto produce stunning pieces of creative work’. I’ll leave you with some images of Esther’s work taken by Maria Griggs and Margaret Borbone (thank you). Esther’s work can speak for itself! If you would like to see more of Esther’s work, and the courses she runs, you can go to her website at




Worthing Artists Open Houses

SCS members are taking part in several different venues in Worthing Artists Open Houses in June / July.
Venue 40: Jane Baskerville, Jane Robinson, Julia Brown (with Julia Berry and Alison Brown). Textile art, Embroidered Landscapes, Mixed Media, Ceramics, Print, Paintings, cards and gifts. Tea and cake in the garden in aid of Care for Veterans. Details above.
Venue 23: Alison Crosthwaite and others. Alison makes colourful hand-dyed and woven garments and decorated papers and cards. A wide range of different work from the other artists at the venue.
Venue 27: Coastal Threads, many of whom are also SCS members (17th and 18th June only). Textiles, Crochet and Mixed Media by members aged 8-85. See details in a previous post.
Hope you can visit as many of the venues as possible. More details at
If you are taking part in the WAOH and you’re not listed here, drop me a message and I will add you.

Silk ribbon embroidery

What a lovely afternoon stitching during our April sit-and-sew meeting. Jan Angove demonstrated silk-ribbon shading, and a large group of members joined her for that. Jan had hand-dyed the silk ribbon in advance, so each person’s piece will be unique. This is an example of a finished piece. There was a peaceful buzz of conversation all afternoon. Isn’t it lovely to stitch in company? There are more photos of the afternoon below. Annette reminded members that the AGM is next month, and we would like more people on the committee. It would be fine for a new committee member to join us without taking on a specific role, so that they can find out how things work before deciding if they want to take on more. One of the main things is to have new people with new ideas. The role isn’t too time-consuming; usually one committee meeting per month, and additional roles only if you want them. Don’t be put off if you’re a new member: many of us on the committee were roped in very soon after joining. We would also welcome any long-standing members who might be interested.

‘Those who understand, teach’.

Daisy-Like cheer 2 (detail)

Thank you to Amanda Duke for an interesting and entertaining talk at our January meeting. Amanda was an art teacher for many years and was head of art at Steyning Grammar School. The focus of her talk was debunking the claim by George Bernard Shaw that ‘Those who can, do; those who can’t, teach’. During her talk, Amanda spoke about the transition from teacher to full-time artist, and the process of building confidence in both. Amanda spoke about how fortunate she felt to have good art teaching herself as a student, and how passionate she feels about passing this on. There are quite a few teachers in our group, so there were many nodding heads as Amanda talked.

Simply Abundant (detail1

Amanda talked us through her lifetime of ‘Art Doing’ and ‘Art Teaching’. Starting with a fine art training, becoming a teacher for 36 years including being head of art; and only fairly recently (the last few years) becoming a full-time artist. Her practice has mainly been in fine art and collage, and it is mainly the last five years or so that she has become a textile artist. It was surprising (and strangely reassuring) to hear Amanda talk about Imposter Syndrome as an artist in her own right. This isn’t something that you expect to hear from someone who is art college trained, taught art for 36 years, produces such amazing work, has won a prize at the Festival of Quilts, been an exhibitor with different prestigious exhibiting groups, set up and run two large exhibitions at the FOG and other achievements. If someone feels this despite having such clearly established professional art credentials, then there is hope for the rest of us! In fact that was one of the main themes of Amanda’s talk – how to find the courage to just get on and do it, take a risk, and ‘put yourself out there’.

Stitched textiles are a relatively new departure for Amanda, whose main interests until a few years ago had been in fine art, and paper collage. An interest in stitch and quilting began to develop when she facilitated the Steyning Grammar School Heritage Quilts. This was a project that was supported by a Heritage Lottery grant, and was a community project that brought in 500 local people of all ages. It led to setting up the ‘Steyning So and Sews’, when the group had enjoyed themselves so much that they didn’t want to stop when the project was completed.

In 2014 Amanda went part-time at school and started teaching adults too. Over the last four or five years, Amanda has been increasingly drawn to fabric and stitch. Like many SCS members she did a course with Wendy Dolan, which gave her the skills to machine-embroider over her fabric collages. Being Artist in Residence at Sussex Prairie Gardens in 2017 encouraged her to think big, and she was inspired by the flowers and leaves, as well as the experience of ‘meandering’ through the paths and flower-beds. She developed techniques and skills in plant-rubbings and eco-print, which she incorporated into the exhibition.

Being the artist-leader on a Colouricious holiday to India threw Amanda into a full sensory experience, and in response her work moved away from the more subtle browns and greens and became a riot of colour. She moved to using Procion-dyed fabrics rather than natural-dyes, and enjoyed the vibrant colours that these produce.

Autumn Fire

Amanda joined Leslie Morgan at the Committed to Cloth studio, and felt she had found ‘her tribe’. She enjoyed the sense of purpose, productivity and play, which in turn she passes on to her own students. Unfortunately this was around the time of Covid lockdowns, so Amanda was then suddenly working on her own in her garden studio, and having to think about what direction she wanted to go in. Over time she began to draw together her two quite different styles of work – the natural dye processes and the Procion dye processes. Spending lockdown time in her garden led to realising that the reason the flower colours ‘pop’ and look so bright is that they are offset by the more neutral colours of leaves and earth. This led her to combine the two styles together.

Having been invited to exhibit at the Festival of Quilts, Amanda found herself taking responsibility for the gallery since the founder of the group was unwell. This was a very big learning curve. At the same FOQ she also entered one of her quilts to the open competition and was delighted to win a prize (anyone who has been to the FOQ will know what an achievement this is). Amanda described the combination of excitement, nerves and achievement that this experience gave. She encouraged everyone to seize opportunities and ‘go for it’.

Daisy-like cheer

Amanda has largely seen off any ‘Imposter Syndrome’ now that she has been able to develop her own practice and has seen that people respond to her work. However, she is passionate about encouraging other people to learn and enjoy art and textiles, and remains a teacher at heart. She is also now able to confidently describe herself as ‘An artist’. Her story brought her talk back to the original sneer that ‘Those who can’t, teach’ and highlights the much better quote from Aristotle that ‘Those who know, do: Those who understand, teach’.