So - Ra Lee
Born in 1967 in North Chungcheong province, Lee is a self-taught artist who uses fine hand stitching to make Jogakbo - wall hangings composed of multiple sections of 'Oksa' - a natural silk known for its raw, translucent properties. The silk is hand-dyed using botanical ingredients including home-grown herbs, resulting, after repeated processes of dying and drying in a soft natural palette. The fabric is then cut into smaller pieces and stiffened and strengthened with rice starch before being hemmed twice and sewn together using tiny stitches called 'gekki'.
So-Ra stiches in silence, working without a planned arrangement or sketch, approaching each stage of making as a mental pilgrimage, edging closer towards purity of thought with the finished piece. Her work is held in many private and public collections, and has hung in museums including the Honolulu Museum of Art, Vancouver Museum and the Museum of Craft & Folk Art in San Francisco.
Jogakbo is a traditional style of Korean patchwork, dating to the Joseon dynasty (1392 - 1910) Adhering to the principles of virtuous frugality and the pursuit of simplicity and purity that were advocated for women during that period, left-over fabrics were retained and used to create Jogakbo by piecing scraps together into larger squares and rectangles, to create cloths for use in domestic wrappings (known as bojagi) costumes and bedding.
The pieces are intricately joined into Jogakbo using triple-stitched, sealed and flattened seems resulting in their distinctive 'window pane' appearance.