Pojagi is an ancient Korean art form. The first documented mention of it was in AD 42, so it is about 2000 years old – much older than western quilts. A pojagi is a cloth that is used to wrap, carry and store things. They are traditionally square. In antique collections, the smallest measure about 35 cm (about 14 inches) square, but they went up to ten times that size.
Pojagi were used by all classes in Korean history and made with all different fabrics – silk, cotton, and ramie. In the palace, each new item of clothing came wrapped in its own pojagi. People used pojagi to store family heirlooms and valuables and to give gifts. The wrapping ensured love and good wishes were part of the gift. They were and still are also used to carry things – the original reusable shopping bag. At Korean weddings, traditional carved ducks are wrapped in pojagi. They are still used today in Korean parliament to present important documents.
There are different ways to describe pojagi. Kung po is the word for pojagi used in the palace and min po is pojagi used by commoners. Kyop po (meaning double) is lined pojagi, hot po (meaning single) is unlined or reversible pojagi, som po is padded pojagi, and nubi po is quilted pojagi. Chogak po is patchwork pojagi and su po is embroidered. Each piece could be referred to in more than one way. If it was a lined, embroidered pojagi for a princess, it could be called su po, kyop po or kung po.
Chogak po (patchwork) was only used by common people. You can imagine a Korean woman of long ago sorting out scraps leftover from clothes-making and laying out beautiful patterns and designs. Although they were a world apart and had very different materials, these women made beautiful things with what they had just like their western sisters did with quilting and other women around the world do with other art forms.
The techniques used in traditional pojagi are used today to make many different things – not just wrapping cloths. The purpose of this site is to share both the beauty of the traditional art and also modern interpretations.
1. Rapt in Colour: Korean textiles and costumes of the Choson dynasty, published in 1998 by the Powerhouse Museum (Australia) and The Museum of Korean Embroidery
2. Wrappings of Happiness: A Traditional Korean Art Form, published in 2003 by the Honolulu Academy of Arts and The Museum of Korean Embroidery