Embroiderer to introduce Korean craftsmen overseas

By Korea Herald
  • Published : May 7, 2012 - 19:42
  • Updated : May 7, 2012 - 19:42
A New York-based textile historian said she would introduce Korean craft overseas as part of her life-long efforts to introduce the beauty of relatively unknown Korean arts.

Chung Young-yang, a Korean-born embroiderer and the founder of the Seol Won Foundation in the U.S., launched the Seoul branch of the organization last week to open channels for struggling craftsmen here.

“My heart hurts when seeing many talented Korean craftsmen giving up their careers because they cannot make a living,” Chung told The Korea Herald in a recent interview.
Chung Young-yang, founder of Seol Won Foundation (Lee Eun-ju)

“It is my mission to help those artists find ways to gain recognition both in and outside the country and sell their works so that they can continue their artistic careers,” she said.

Chung was in Seoul last week to open Seol Won Foundation in Seoul and give lectures to Korean students on the history of Asian embroidery. A fundraising gala organized by her close friends featured composer-musician Jasun Martz, famous for his collaboration with pop music legend Michael Jackson.

The New York-based artist is also known as an accomplished painter and sculptor. He has exhibited “raw expressionist” paintings and papier-mache sculptures inspired by the passengers, encountered in the subways of New York, Los Angeles, London and Seoul. At the gala, he donated the proceeds from the sale of some of his paintings to the foundation.
Men’s ceremonial skirt from Qing Dynasty, China(Sookmyung Women’s University)

Born in 1936 in Onyang, South Chungcheong Province, Chung started to learn embroidery at the age of 13. It became her profession but there was no class or school to fulfill her passion to learn more about embroidery on an academic level.

In 1968, she left the country for New York and received an M.A. and Ph.D. in Art Education from New York University in the 1970s. For more than 40 years, the 75-year-old artist has been active in introducing Korean embroidery techniques and other Asian work to the United States, particularly those in high society.

Last year, she brought a Korean embroidery master to showcase her artworks at a museum in New York.

“It wowed the audience there. And it gave me confidence to carry on my mission to introduce talented Korean craftsmen on international level,” she said.

Chung published the first English-language history of the textiles of Korea, Japan and China.

Her other groundbreaking publications include “The Art of Oriental Embroidery (1979),” “Painting with a Needle: Learning the Art of Silk Embroidery with Young Yang Chung (2003),” and “Silken Thread: A History of Embroidery in China, Korea, Japan and Vietnam (2005).”

Chung has been teaching Americans of all age groups in private classes, at schools and museums.

“For them, embroidery is not only an art genre but also a recreational activity that offers time to meditate in peace,” Chung said.

She hopes that she can do something for students in Korea wanting to learn more about embroidery. In 2004, Chung opened the Chung Young Yang Embroidery Museum at Sookmyung Women’s University in Seoul with hundreds of precious relics she had collected while traveling the world.

By Cho Chung-un (