Artist in Residence with Jessica Yoo of Design Meem

Mi Hyeon Yoo, Jessica M.H Yoo
Mi Hyeon Yoo, Jessica M.H Yoo

Little may know that Korea possesses a long history of quilting. Jogakbo, or Korean patchwork, dates back to about 200 years and is a custom that comes very naturally. The silhouette of hanbok (Korean traditional clothing) is curved, like the rounded sleeves, there were always pieces of fabric left. Naturally, women made use of them but now you can find Korean patchwork in all forms; from blankets to clothing and bojagi art (multipurpose square cloth).

Jessica Mi Hyeon Yoo is the owner and principal designer of Design Meem. Her Jogakbo works are ethereal vessels through time. Born and raised in Korea, Jessica attended Hong Ik University, majoring in visual communication design. Since her early years of art education, she had been thoroughly interested in fiber/fabric art. But what held her interest especially were traditional Korean crafts, Bojagi and Jogakbo. Since then, she has spent 15 years recreating and reinventing them into modernized designs. We got the chance to interview Jessica this past week to somehow get a better looks at her beautiful designs and inspirations.

Mi Hyeon Yoo, Jessica M.H Yoo — Meem Designs
Mi Hyeon Yoo, Jessica M.H Yoo — Meem Designs

Where do you live in Korea and what it is like there today (sounds, smells, colors)?

I currently live in Seoul, Gangnam, perhaps the busiest part of Korea. Here, it’s always hectic, waves of people working with purpose. I can say that the atmosphere is motivational but I do get away from the city to get inspirations- nature always has its way of effecting me more than the city.

In addition to the tradition of Jogakbo — what else helped developed your aesthetic?

I guess I have to say the environment I was in when I was in the process of developing Jogakbo really contributed to my aesthetic. Although my art career started in Korea, the life in Vancouver, Canada influenced my work. Waking up to the beach everyday, rain or shine, always gave me new colors and emotions. I could say I’ve seen lots of products and studied arts but I think environmental influence is bigger.

What would be the proper way for LOCZIdesign’s clients like to use your Jogakbo designs?

Jogakbo’s qualities- color, texture, transparency- are best exposed in light, so I would advise clients to consider having it in natural light. Window treatment items are specifically for made for this reason, as it becomes a curtain, screen as well as a soft filter into nature at your window.

Mi Hyeon Yoo, Jessica M.H Yoo — Meem Designs
Mi Hyeon Yoo, Jessica M.H Yoo — Meem Designs

Tell me a little more about yourself, Jessica J What is your background in art, design and Jogakbo?

I started my art career from communication design/ visual design. I majored and graduated from a design university in Seoul called, Hong Ik University. Actually I was interested in editing (layouts and graphic design) at first and worked as an editor in a magazine company for a while. But since I had more interest in textile design – and life came in the way with 2 daughters- I let the editing go. Later, I saw Jogakbo in galleries in Korea and rediscovered my passion towards textile art. This is where I knew I wanted to bring it to life. I learned that Jogakbo had survived by prominent artists and it was actually created by the housewives’ patch work from left over fabric back in 1800’s. I thought it was something to show the world in a more approachable concept.

As a designer, what brings you the most joy?

I think as a designer, fundamentally it’s amazing when what I imagined in my mind is produced but it brings me most joy when it is introduced and viewers or customers are able to understand the concept of my work. I guess I don’t expect a lot but when the exact reaction I crave, is received, it creates a beautiful communication.

What else are you passionate about in life?

There’s only one other thing: family. My family consists of very ambitious husband and daughters.. I just want to help them achieve their goals as well as mine!

Mi Hyeon Yoo, Jessica M.H Yoo — Meem Designs
Mi Hyeon Yoo, Jessica M.H Yoo — Meem Designs

Do you hand make all of your patchwork pieces? Does it get in the way of manicures?!

They are all handmade! And thankfully, I gave up on keeping my nails intact a long time ago haha.

The Korean Times recently states that Jogakbo dates back to about 200 years ago, what was it about this particular style that grabs you?

I think the idea of patch work, which is essentially putting pieces together to make a harmony is quite modern to me. This is what was surprising and gravitating about Jogakbo. Although the ones that were made 200 years ago were from perhaps financially lacking situations of housewives (trying to save every piece of fabric they had) it created a form that is actually aesthetically pleasing once the whole piece is done. I found it challenging and still do, to put together shapes and specific colors to produce a certain atmosphere within each piece of Jogakbo I make.

Mi Hyeon Yoo, Jessica M.H Yoo — Meem Designs
Mi Hyeon Yoo, Jessica M.H Yoo — Meem Designs

Are there any other designs that you’re excited about that you’re currently working on? Can you describe and or send photos of your process?!

These days, I’ve been working on developing window treatments that have 2 translucent pieces put in front of the other to maximize the variety of color and lines when seen through natural lighting. I’m trying to put form these in a approachable items such as roll screens and room dividers.

Have your designs been showcased anywhere that we should know about? Do you have any upcoming shows you’d like to tell us about?

There is one current exhibition I did as an artist not so much as a designer in West Vancouver titled, Korean Patchwork-JOGAKBO'. I plan on doing one in Korea, along the way to NS Tower — a land mark in the Nam San mountain in the city. I want to display Jogakbo in nature and I think this will be the best environment to do it in.

Jessica Yoo's work can be purchased here or her site, as well as the ability to collaborate on projects. We're definitely excited to see where we can showcase her work in the homes of our future remodel clients!