Living off her hobby – Kwon’s foray into quilting

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Mira Kwon, selling her products woman at the RoC market. Picture: JONA KONATACI

Aside from its throng of tents and stalls, the monthly RoC market in Suva is a unique sea of cuisine and craftwork.

But among the hustle and bustle of the RoC crowd, you will find Mira Kwon seated, almost hidden behind a wall of quilted bags, pouches and toys – all hand-crafted to perfection.

Her products are a stunning attraction at the art fair.

In fact, Kwon’s skill has made her a rather familiar face around the monthly market day. She uses the platform to spread the word about quilting and encourage people to learn.

Each time she arrives at the RoC Market, she prints out and carries information sheets about the quilting classes she offers in Nabua.

Despite the strides she made in building her successful brand, Kwon’s foray into quilting was tumultuous, to say the least. Growing up in a strict family in Seoul, Korea, her father disapproved of her intent to begin a career in the arts.

“I wanted to be a painter but my father didn’t allow me, saying one couldn’t make money through the arts,” she shared with laugh.

In 1982, she graduated as a nurse from Kyung Hee University. However, her passion for sewing and the creative remained with her.

Ultimately, she turned to quilting as a hobby. In 1993, she joined the Quilt House in Korea and was under the tutelage of renowned teacher, Koo Jaesook.

Her debut came just two years later after she participated in her first exhibition, Midnight Blue.

She later received a tutoring certificate and in 2007, arrived in Fiji with her family. Here, she saw the scope of art and was inspired to quilt using her Korean heritage, Japanese and American influences in the products she created.

“I take classes often. Before, I was in Garden City but I moved. During COVID, everything was closed and it was really difficult but last year, I started taking classes again and now, my studio is in Nabua.

“I usually come here (RoC Market) to introduce my class and I make bags, pouches, toys and show them to people and my customers come and buy.”

The mother-of-three says while quilting is a hobby, she has turned it into a small business. She also would like to encourage others to learn the new skill.

However, many fail to commit fully to this exercise.

“I see many people who join but some ladies never come back because it’s boring. It’s a hand-sewing craft and I don’t want to make my products using a machine.

“Of course, I know it’s very easy to make things with a sewing machine but I like to make this by hand. It is hard work but it’s very rewarding.

“Quilting is a slow process, that’s why some leave it but there are many ladies who really enjoy it. I sometimes have 10, 20 ladies in my classroom and we learn how to sew, how to join, match colours etc.

“When I’m at the RoC market, a lot of young girls and ladies also come up to me and say they want to learn. That makes me happy.”

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