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A Complex Chogakpo Pojagi: Delicacy in Cloth from Korea

March 30, 2011

As you probably have picked up from some previous postings, I love Korean pojagi, traditional wrapping cloths that are hand stitched from scraps of ramie or moshi cloth.  Today I am showing one of the favorite pieces in my collection.
At first glance this chogak po style pojagi, or one made of scraps, is deceptively simple in design, with its seemingly regular vertical stacks of diagonally-sliced blocks.  But keep looking.Notice how the stacked blocks become compressed at a certain point and then give way; how long, leaning diagonals cut through the blocks, providing a kind of counter-rhythm to the “melody,” as it were. Whoever stitched this pojagi had magnificent skill and deft fingers: some of the pieces of ramie cloth are so small that it’s a wonder that they didn’t simply unravel in her hands.

This probably dates to the middle swath of the twentieth century.   It measures 29″ x 28″ or 73.5 cm x 71 cm.  And it’s beautiful.And a quick update on the new webshop: we’re behind schedule, but hopeful for an unveiling within the next ten days.

THANK YOU for your patience and for visiting this blog, and please don’t give up yet: the shop will be up soon, and it will be showing some of the new finds from Japan, which I’m getting organized as I type this.

If you’d like to sign up for our weekly email announcing new items added to the shop, please send me an email: stephen@srithreads.com


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A Cascade of Korean Pojagi: Playing with Light

December 10, 2009

I have a fairly extensive and diverse collection of Korean pojagi or the hand stitched wrapping cloths that were sewn from scraps of ramie and hemp cloth in almost every household in old Korea.  I decided to hang a selection from the group in an arrangement that would filter light and also create a play of color and pattern.
I hung six pieces, the largest of which is the white, pink and orange chogakpo pojagi in the center: it measures 46″ x 43″ or 117 cm x 109 cm.


Each dates to the first half of the twentieth century, or thereabouts.  Chogakpo is a kind of pojagi that is made in the home for home use, to put it very simply.  Some pojagi were used by noblemen and women and were of luxurious, embroidered silks; these luxury items bear little resemblance to the humble pojagi shown here.

In general, seams are folded and sewn with whip stitches: the “black” piece shown in detail here is really a collage of extremely inky purple and very dark green colors.  In this pojagi, there are some cotton scraps mixed in with ramie pieces so in the right light there is a nice contrast of semi-opaque to semi-translucent.

The attraction to pojagi nowadays may be their uncanny resemblance to Modernist aesthetic, much like our fascination with Japanese boro textiles.  The pojagi shown here resemble early Mondrian paintings or maybe a Frank Lloyd Wright window.

Below you’ll see the backs of the pojagi.  The raking light shows off the seams very nicely.


Just beautiful, aren’t they?



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A Black Ramie Pojagi against a Large Mat of Boro Sakabukuro

April 3, 2009

This first image on today’s post may be a bit hard to understand as it must appear at first glance to be nothing more than contrasting  color and texture.

This post revisits an earlier post where I showed a large mat sewn from twelve sakabukuro.  I was scrolling through some of my old photos and I found these images of a black, Korean pojagi set against the backdrop of the mat of sakabukuro and I liked the way the color and texture played against one anotherand I also thought it would be an interesting study in similarity and contrast: I’m sure you will see what I mean.

Because these images show some details of the black pojagi that has appeared in the margins of photos in previous posts,  I thought they would be informative toward describing a bit more about  the pojagi–and I hope you enjoy looking.





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“Unwrapping the Secrets of Korean Textiles: An Exhibition of Pojagi” at the Korea Society, New York

March 22, 2009

In the gallery at New York’s  Korea Society there is a small but fantastic exhibition of pojagi, traditional wrapping cloths of Korea.  Each of the items in the exhibition is from one of several New York collections who lent pieces to this show.

The pojagi included in this exhibition are a range of types: from piece-constructed utilitarian examples stitched from leftover ramie cloth to those which are artfully constructed of brilliantly colored silks to heavily embroidered examples used for ceremonies such as weddings.

The exhibition also shows related material such as Korean embroidery, objects from daily life, and cultural kin to pojagi from sources outside Korea such as American style quilt squares and Japanese fukusa.

On March 18th the Korea Society presented a panel discussion entitled “Pojagi: Cloth, Color and Beyond” which examined the history of pojagi in Korea, its impact on international contemporary fiber arts and a glance at the universal impulse toward patchwork, focusing on American pieced quilts.

Presenters were Lee Talbot, Assistant Curator of Eastern Hemisphere Collections at The Textile Museum, Washington, DC;  Seta K.Wehbé, Assistant Collection Manager of the Antonio Ratti Textile Center at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; and Chunghie Lee, the well-known artist whose own work is based in the pojagi tradition.

Below is a 20th century chogak po pojagi made of ramie (moshi) from Koo New York.

On my website, I have a beautiful, small, ramie pojagi for sale: even though it is small and deceptively simple-looking, the skill necessary to stitch the “petal-like” forms on the cloth is quite extraordinary.  Have a look here.

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A Somber Day and a Black Pojagi

January 7, 2009

January in New York is upon us, and there is a certain introspective mood conveyed by these overcast skies and somber days: it is winter, after all, and the silver light of a rainy, cold afternoon has its own kind of attractive melancholy.

I suppose writing this introduction is an apology for wanting to post a new, sun-drenched entry, but this is a diary of sorts, so things are what they are.  And they aren’t so bad.

This is what you see when you first enter Sri in Brooklyn.  In the entrance way to the showroom there is an antique, rustic, elm wood Chinese daybed which serves to display many of the objects and textiles in my collection.

Today this little mise-en-scene has the look of a Flemish interior probably from this winter light…but it’s that fabulous, black Korean pojagi that is suspended high above the daybed that is the most interesting part of this photo–to me, at least.

I love pojagi and this one could be the favorite from my whole collection.

This pojagi is of the variety called chogak po; it’s completely hand stitched, it’s made of ramie scraps and it is probably dyed in a charcoal-based ink.  Its original purpose was to serve as a kind of storage wrapping cloth. Even though these home made pojagi are utilitarian by design and implementation, they still held esteem in the Korean household and were passed down through generations.

The randomness of the design is so wonderful, as is its color.  The seams are all closed by minute whip stitches and the hours and days and weeks that it took to make this pojagi is impressive, to say the least.

I urge those visiting New York to stop by a privately operated Korean museum in New York’s Korean neighborhood, the Lee Young Hee Museum of Korean Culture. It’s a little jewel in the middle of a very busy, bumptious section of Manhattan—and plan to lunch at one of the many Korean restaurants which line the street where the museum is located. For far-too-long I’ve been meaning to visit Mandoo Bar for the dumplings that I’ve heard so much about–maybe one day…

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A Beautiful Nobori: Crashing Waves and Family Crest

September 27, 2008

This is a gorgeous, somewhat mysterious nobori, or a kind of standard/ banner, that is flown in the open air in Japan.  By mysterious I mean that it does not appear to be of the kind flown during Boys’ Day as the iconography–a crashing wave done here in resist dyed indigo–is not in keeping with the lexicon of motives used for traditional Boys’ Day banners.  Even though I’ve owned this nobori for a few years, I’ve hesitated posting it for sale on my site as I couldn’t explain it properly, so I thought I’d just enjoy it until something came to light.

Light was shed recently as I was looking through an amazing book called “Avvolti nel Mito: Tessuti e costumi tra Settecento e Novecento” which was given to me by my friend, Annie M. van Assche, the curator of the exhibition the book accompanies.  The exhibition is that of the collection of Jeffrey Montgomery and was shown in Genoa, Italy in 2005.  In “Avvolti nel Mito” there is shown a set of four nobori remarkably like this one: the accompanying caption says this kind of banner could have been used to celebrate a large catch (in fishing villages).  The encircled cross on this banner is a traditional Japanese family crest, however in the days when Christianity was not allowed in Japan, sometimes this same crest was used as a surreptitious communication between Christians.

In “Avvolti nel Mito”, the foreward is written by the brilliant Japanese cultural historian, Gian Carlo Calza, whose book, “Japan Style” one should seriously consider adding to one’s library.

Getting back to this particular nobori, it may have been cut down from a larger piece, but I am not sure.  It’s done on beautifully rustic hand spun, hand loomed cotton, probably dates from the mid-to-late nineteenth century–I think I’ll post this for sale in the next few weeks.

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A Korean Pojagi

September 17, 2008

In the foreground is Lord Ganesha, the Hindu god who removes obstacles and whose name is invoked before beginning anything at all.  Ganesha occupies a central place at Sri.  The painted Ganesha is a Tanjore painting, a distinctive style known for its built-up gold details and its encrustation with “jewels.”

Beyond him, suspended in front of a window, is a large, beautiful Korean pojagi, a wrapping cloth which has been fashioned of ramie scraps and is entirely hand stitched.  Korean ramie cloth is extremely fine and their Hansan moshi, or ramie cloth from Hansan, is of especially high quality.

I’m completely smitten with pojagi and I have a substantial collection of them.  I love the intricacy of construction–whip stitched seams–and that pojagi project a “Modernist” look, even though they were made in the home for home use, and were intended to be passed on to future generations.  Notice how the top and bottom halves of this pojagi are repetitions of each other.  Pretty fascinating.

This one measures about 36″ x 36″/ 92 cm x 92 cm and I think it’s one of the best ones in my collection.  It dates from the early twentieth century.

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Welcome to Sri Threads!

September 15, 2008

Welcome to Sri Threads
a companion to Sri, a website that sells antique Japanese folk textiles and vintage Indian textiles, primarily.

I’m starting this blog to provide a glimpse into my gallery for those who live too far away to visit Sri in Brooklyn, New York–and to encourage those who are coming to New York City to make an appointment to visit.

Here at Sri Threads I’m hoping to give a broader sense of Sri’s inventory and to talk about some special pieces from my own personal collection of Japanese folk textiles.

I’ll be updating this site regularly, and I’m looking forward to showing things that are interesting to me and, hopefully, to you.

Of course, if you see something of interest to you, do inquire about it as most (but not all) are available and some things seen on this site will not be offered for sale on the Sri website–don’t hesitate to contact me.

Have a look around, and thanks for stopping by.

Here’s a long view into Sri, with an antique katazome yogi, or sleeping kimono, on the far wall.

This is a beautiful Korean pojagi suspended in front of a magnificent Japanese ‘mino’ shibori yukata: the shibori technique is called that because it mimics a mino, or Japanese rain cape.

Here’s a closer view on the mino shibori yukata, which most likely dates to the late nineteenth, early twentieth century. Certainly it was made in Japan’s unofficial shibori ‘capital’, Arimatsu.

This is a corner of Sri with two folk images of Ebisu and Daikoku, Japanese gods of fortune.

Another long view into Sri gallery–stop by again!

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