Korean artists first began embroidering during the Goryeo Dynasty, between 918 and 1392. The resulting pieces of work turned into centuries of precious art that reflects Korea's vast history. The characteristics of the art form from Korea include differences in the colorful threads and the interpretive themes.
Royal Court Embroidery
Many embroidered items were created to serve the royal court. Royal embroidered items included decorative drapes, wall tapestries, ceremonial and royal clothes and pouches for incense or writing brushes. The embroidery was completed by every woman, from the empress to the servants. Some popular works were done by the Empress Myeongsong.
Folk embroidery served more practical purposes than decorative. Folk people created drapes to divide small living quarters into separate rooms. Embroidered designs were used for clothing and nighttime coverings. Windows were covered in the winter with embroidered art. Some folk women possessed embroidered dresses and accessories; however, a typical folk woman only possessed one embroidered dress for special occasions.
Korean embroidery is traditionally a very colorful art form. Early embroidery gained color from the dying process. Natural dyes, which came from flowers and herbs, were pressed into weaving fabrics to add vivid dimension to the embroidery. Gold-colored thread appears in water images around the contours, adding depth to the water imagery. Reds, blues, yellows and greens were common in traditional embroidery, which catch the eye and draw the observer into the work of art.
Themes commonly include animals, nature scenes, Korean deities and words of wisdom or sayings. The animals are typically birds such as the great crane or hummingbirds. Nature scenes are often water, clouds, skies and mountains with snowcaps. Deities include the Buddha as well as other important individuals in the Buddhist religion. Words are most often found at the bottom of an embroidered image; rarely are Korean embroidered words found without an accompanying image.
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