Quilted Clothes 132 × 127 cm

The Korean word, “Nubi”, refers to a traditional Korean sewing method through which two overlapped layers of cloth are needled together making vertical stitches. This quilt-work originates from the longsleeved, gray robes that Buddhist monks used to wear. The poor, ascetic monks repaired their old, worn out robes by stitching them. Nubi quilting was mainly used for making winter clothes, and also for making bedding and other smaller things. In ancient times, people believed that those careful stitches, which were laid one by one, would bring health and luck to the person who wore the cloth. The needlework of quilting avoids ornamentation or fancy techniques, and requires only stitching. It does not let even a single stitch be skipped, and it requires high concentration. Thus it is not simply a method of stitching, but signifies Koreans’ patience and religious nature. However, as modern life has become mechanized, the tradition of Nubi quilting has unfortunately been lost.

Born in Gimcheon, Kyongbuk in 1952, Kim Hae Ja learned sewing from a young age. While she was making Hanbok (meaning traditional Korean clothes), she came upon a Buddhist robe that was made by Nubi quilting, and she became fascinated with it. At first, she studied Nubi quilting through antiquities and documents at museums. Then she studied with a Buddhist monk for three months to learn the traditional Nubi method, originally handed down orally by palace maids of the Korean Empire, before she embarked on making Nubi works. She was not satisfied with the monk’s habit alone. In order to make ordinary clothes that could be worn in everyday life, she visited museums and studied traditional clothes by examining artifacts there. Finally, in the middle of the 1980’s, using the traditional Nubi quilting method, she succeeded in reproducing the Important Folk Cultural Asset no. 114, the Clothing of Gwangju Yi Clan lady excated in Gwacheon. The original clothing has stitches 3 millimeters apart. But Kim Hae Ja could space the stiches 2.8 millimeters apart. The same clothing brought her the honor of the Prime Minister’s Award at the Traditional Korean Handicraft Art Exhibition in 1992. She has been promoting the newly rediscovered quilting method of Nubi, and was designated the Important Intangible Cultural Treasure no. 107 as Master of Nubi quilting in 1996.

“Nubi quilted clothing is a product of one of our traditional values – sincerity. The person who stitches the quilted clothing prays for health, achievement and longevity of the person who will wear it.”

The only Master of Nubi quilting, she transmits her sincerity through the needle at her fingertips. Although she rediscovered that particular quilting tradition, she does not think of it as hers alone. She has taught the traditional method to people for the last twenty years and has been active in spreading the merits of quilting.

Biography

Kim Hae Ja was born in Gimcheon, Kyongbuk in 1952. While she studied Nubi quilting independently, by examining artifacts and documents at museums, she presented a work at the Traditional Korean Handicraft Art Exhibition in 1992. This work was a reproduction of the Important Folk Cultural Asset no. 114, the Clothing of Gwangju Yi Clan lady excated in Gwacheon, and was possessed by Professor Seok Ju Seon at Dankook University. It was her first presentation of her work, and she won the Prime Minister’s Award. In 1996, four years after she started making clothes using Nubi quilting, she was designated the Important Intangible Cultural Treasure no. 107 as Master of Nubi quilting. She worked as a researcher and teacher in Royal clothing and the production of traditional clothing at Sungkyunkwan University. She is currently serving as a professor in the Korean Traditional Costume Research Institute, and in the College of Human Ecology at Pusan National University. In 1984, she was invited to present her works at a special exhibition at the Traditional Crafts Center inside the Gyeongbok Palace, administered by the Korea Cultural Heritage Foundation. Since then, she has had more than fifty exhibitions at venues such as the Gongpyeong Art Center, the Gana Art Center, the Culture EXPO in Gyeongju, and the Yokohama Quilt Exposition in Japan. In addition, she has given a special lecture at the Korean Cultural Center in Beijing, and a demonstration lecture at the Gyeongju National Museum, and she has presented her works at the Society Gallery in New York, and at the Gem of One Thousand Years: Korean Nubi, Jeogori exhibition at the Kyungin Museum of Fine Art in Seoul.