I did it Elle <3

west-michigan-origami-lowell-meetup

I lost a friend. She was crazy-smart, very kind, thoughtful, and generous. She was a caring person who I had the good fortune to meet while I was living in CA (before moving to MI). Even after I’d moved we would often post on each other’s walls and  message privately on Facebook. We were going to go camping together, someday. She loved my tiny trailer and envisioned living a simple, downsized, even possibly off-the-grid kind of life someday. I came very close to being able to visit her one last time but was just a bit too late… I was 11 days away from driving through the city she lived in. She passed away unexpectedly last June.

One of the last conversations we had on Facebook was one where she had shared she had found a group of people who were a new community that welcomed her into their fold. When I told her my idea to start an origami folding club, she whole-heartedly encouraged me to do so. She believed being part of a community could be a good thing.

woz-elleOne of her all time favorite pictures, the night she met Woz.

It took about a year but I did it. The folding club’s first meetup was last Saturday. In my heart the club is for the people of West Michigan, but it will also always be a bit of her legacy because even though she’s gone, her support and encouragement will always be a part of it.

I miss our chats and I miss you Elle. You are gone but not forgotten 😦


To see the schedule and RSVP to be a part of the West Michigan Origami Folding Club you can visit its web-page or join the Facebook Group:

http://www.WestMichiganOrigami.org
http://www.Facebook.com/groups/westmichiganorigami

Our hosting venue is the:
Kent District Library
200 N Monroe St
Lowell, MI 49331

The dates of the club’s next meetup is:
Saturday, July 15th 9:30-11:30 AM

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Art.Downtown 2017, Grand Rapids, MI

tinygami-origami-tamaki-artdowntown-2017Last Saturday I spent the day on Division Ave. S in downtown Grand Rapids for the annual Art.Downtown event. It’s kind of like a mini ArtPrize except there is no voting/contest aspect and it only lasts for a single day from noon to 9:00 PM.

There were four artist’s sharing their work at the venue where I was invited to participate. Our curator, Zahara Avalon, also set up an interactive aspect asking people to write down on a restaurant order pad “What does it mean to be American?” The guests were then invited to hang their responses on string strung throughout the venue. The responses ranged from sobering:

“Despite having already been enrolled at GVSU… I had to provide my birth certificate to take one class at LMU. Why couldn’t they have accepted my transcript?”

To cynical:
“Being American means ignoring the needs of those less fortunate and being self centered. Then I Tweet it!”

To humorous:
“I eat burgers and hotdogs”

artdowntown-2017-public-art-grand-rapids-miFor me, Art.Downtown was quite different than ArtPrize mostly because instead of bringing mobiles of thousands of tiny cranes that represent Japanese traditions and customs I created three small framed pieces (11″x14″ frames) that told a very personal story. Would people like them as much?

I honestly didn’t know what to expect. I was in a pop-up space, a former (and future) restaurant that is currently unoccupied. That’s it to the left in the picture above. Would there be 20 visitors? 200? 2000? I didn’t count but can say I spoke to more than 20 and less than 2000 people and they were all great! I knew some, met many new art lovers, and had the most fun I’ve had, well, probably since ArtPrize last fall 🙂

avenue-for-the-arts-origami-artdowntownThe thing that made me happiest was that quite a few people who had seen my past ArtPrize entries commented they recognized me or my work and said that this exhibit was “so different,” “more personal/powerful/heartfelt,” and that they loved the framed format, that it “suited” the miniature scale of my work. I truly couldn’t have hoped for a better response. That people connected with my work and appreciated that these pieces had required more thought and vulnerability made me glad I took the chance and strayed outside of my ArtPrize-mobiles-comfort zone.

If you wanted to come but couldn’t make it, here is the exhibit and the words I printed onto small signs to set above each framed piece along with my artist’s statement and a renzuru diagram so that people would understand that the strand of cranes in the “Interned” piece was folded from a single sheet of paper.


art-show-business-cards-tamaki-grand-rapids-miNEVER FORGET
(Artist’s Statement)

This collection comes from a more personal place than the sets of 1000 miniature cranes I’ve made in the past. When people I know say “We should round them (people of MiddleEastern descent and/or Muslims) up and put them in a camp in the desert” or that my family was interned to “keep them safe,” I am reminded that I need to continue to speak out about the injustices imposed on American citizens when 75 years ago President Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066 leading to the incarceration of over 110,000 Japanese Americans.

My reply is always that they are perpetuating the same fear and/or hatred that led to my family being placed behind barbed wire, with armed guards who would have shot them if they tried to leave, and losing over two years of their freedom. It was as wrong then as it would be to repeat the same injustice today.

My dad (a Private First Class in the United States Army) was also held behind barbed wire after his company was sacrificed to protect two retreating companies during the Korean War. He was captured on January 1, 1951 and held until August 6, 1953 after the signing of the Armistice. When he returned he faced racism even as a decorated POW-MIA veteran because he looked like the enemy, even though he was neither North Korean or Chinese.

And yet my parents saw past what they had each endured and held no racism in their hearts. They passed their tolerance and shared belief in treating people as individuals (not labeled groups) on to me. As a result my life is wonderfully rich, filled with a wide range of friends more diverse than they could have ever expected or hoped for me to have.

Never forget. Speak out. Be kind. Have faith.

– Stacie Tamaki

tamaki-enemy-origami-crane-artdowntown

ENEMY

American? This is how Japanese American citizens were commonly viewed by the government and public after Pearl Harbor. Instead of seeing individuals, they were reduced to (and judged by) the color of their skin.

tinygami-japanese-american-internment-family-portrait-heart-mountain-wy

INTERNED

Families were given less than a week to vacate their homes and report to a “relocation center” bringing only what they could carry in a single suitcase per person. This is my family in the camp at Heart Mountain, Wyoming where they were held for more than two years.

tinygami-stacie-tamaki-miniature-origami-artistBLENDING IN

As a child I wanted to blend in. I often felt conspicuously Asian. Now? I look around and see people embracing diversity rather than tolerating it. Over time I’ve reached a point where I’m more interested in being authentic and sharing my heritage rather than ignoring or hiding it. There is beauty in every culture, my art is my way of expressing mine.


avenue-for-the-arts-origami-made-by-guestsAnd just like ArtPrize, because I was making a few cranes to put on the display table thanks to the suggestion of a guest, several other guests asked for paper and made me things! I love that I always go home with more art than I arrived with when I participate in public events 😀 A huge THANK YOU to everyone who shared their talent with me!

avenue-for-the-arts-grand-rapids-miTo be honest I don’t really know that much about the Avenue for the Arts, the host of Art.Downtown. I will have to learn more about them on their website.

Thank you to Avenue for the Arts, my curator Zahara Avalon, and all of the guests, volunteers, and the artists I shared space with Carlos Gomez, Abigail Yoo, and Erick Picardo who made Art.Downtown such a fun and special event!

This weekend: Art.Downtown 2017

Coming to Grand Rapids, MI this Saturday? If you are maybe I’ll see you. I’m participating in the Art.Downtown one day event hosted by Avenue for the Arts and will be at my venue (122 Division St S) from noon until 5:00 PM though the exhibit runs until 9:00 PM

“AMERICAN” The exhibit asks: “What does it mean to be American? The space focuses on intersections of Asian and Hispanic/Latinx identities especially in a political climate of anti-culture/color/immigrant.”

american-art-downtown-avenue-for-the-arts-2017

My contribution to the installation will be three framed pieces depicting my maternal family’s experience during the Japanese American internment and how I see myself as an American. The timing was impeccable. It felt as if no sooner had I posted the image above on Instagram to commemorate the signing of Executive Order 9066 on February 19th, the next thing I knew curator Zahara Avalon was contacting me to see if I’d like to be a part of the installation she was producing.

renzuru-pattern-ten-cranes-blog
So I’ll be there. Not with thousands of cranes, just a handful that came from a different, deeper place in my heart ❤

AMERICAN
Facebook Event Page
Saturday April 8, 2017
12:00-9:00 PM (I will be attending from noon until 5:00 PM)
122 Division Ave S
Grand Rapids, MI 49503

Today is the day E.O. 9066 was signed

One of the most disheartening things people who didn’t mean to offend me have said (directly) to me has been post 9/11 when they express their belief that people of Middle Eastern descent, or those who are Muslim, should be “rounded up” and moved out to a deserted area or shipped back to where they came from.

japanese-american-internment-origami-art

My reply to them is always the same: “It is that mentality that led to my family being imprisoned for almost 4 years during WWII. They had done nothing wrong yet they were uprooted from the West Coast and moved to Heart Mountain, WY where they lived behind barbed wire in an uninsulated shack. It was as wrong, unjust, and unAmerican then as it would be to do it again now to a different group of people.”

stacie-tamaki-japanese-american-internementMy Family

I have also had several people tell me it was for my family’s own good, for their protection from racism, that they were interned, their freedom stripped away from them. My reply to them is always that it that were so it would have been a voluntary choice to be moved into the sanctuary of the internment camps if people felt unsafe.

So if you bring up this subject to me please don’t be surprised when I defend any group from being racially or religiously profiled or stereotyped. Not enough people stood up for my family when they were taken away. I will not be one of the quiet ones if it happens again.

I’ll be presenting at the Grand Rapids Asian Festival this summer

Imagine my surprise when I was contacted to see if I’d want to participate as an origami artist at the inaugural “Grand Rapid’s Asian Festival” on June 10th, 2017. My first thought was: Wow, cool! My second thought: There are enough of us to hold a festival? LOL

The Experience Grand Rapids website lists Asians as 2% of the demographic in Grand Rapids with the most predominate ethnic groups being: “…Vietnam, Korea, China and India.” Japanese are only listed near the bottom of the page as cuisine at local restaurants.

grand-rapids-asian-festival-michigan

One of the most different things about moving from the West Coast to the Midwest is how infrequently I see other people of Asian descents. In Santa Clara County where I lived in California the demographics for Asians is currently 35.6% here in Montcalm County where I now live we are .5% of the population. Note that isn’t 5.0% but 0.5%. In the city of Greenville, according to the Census.gov website, there are X (which I assume means 0… I just looked, it means “not applicable”) percentage of Asians currently living here. So I count for nothing? LOL

At most I see another Asian person every other month (or so) usually at the grocery store. If I drive an hour into Grand Rapids I may see one Asian person while I’m there. But not every time. It’s kind of like being a unicorn, but Asian. In the Midwest 🙂

midwest-montage-culture

I also find myself wanting to promote multi-culturalism. I’ve learned so much about how to be a Midwesterner! For starters I’ve learned how to make Ebelskiver and planted tulips because the Danish and Dutch cultures are well represented in this area. Fred suggested I also needed to learn how to make an entire meat and potatoes meal on a BBQ grill. So I did. I shovel snow like a boss, learned to make creamed corn with the bagfuls our neighbor gives us each year, learned to garden, bake pies, and climbed “The Dune.”

So this is a chance for me to give back and share some of my culturural heritage with the people of West Michigan. I immediately confirmed “yes” I would like to participate. Partly because I know for a fact that many people here in Michigan who come to ArtPrize are avid paper folders themselves. And quite a few people have asked me to teach classes. So to host a complimentary workshop at an Asian Festival seems like a great idea!

Activities that day will include:
– Martial artists
– Lion Dancers
– Singers
– Cultural Dancers
– Karaoke Contest
– Band & DJ line up
– And more…

I hope you can attend. It should be both fun and from what I’m seeing on the Facebook Group’s wall, quite delicious and entertaining!

CLICK HERE to follow the official event page on Facebook.

Click this link to follow Participant’s Group Page which asks:

Participants:
This is where you come in. Help us make the Asian festival become Amazing! Suggest below on unique / great Asian performers/acts plus contact info if you have it.

Also looking for off stage performers. Asian street performers of arts, dance, cultural performance, calligraphy, sports exhibitions (like sepak takraw), etc.

Sponsors:
If you are interested in being a sponsor you can join the GRAF2017 Facebook group and ask to have a packet sent to you.

Save the date: May 27th and July 22nd, 2017

artist-pop-up-market-west-michigan

Well, I’ve done it. I’ve taken another step launching Tinygami as my full time career. I signed up to participate at the:

Made In Michigan Pop-Up Market
Saturday May 27th and July 22nd, 2017
Each day from 9:00 AM to 4:00 PM
435 Ionia Ave. SW
Grand Rapids, MI 49503

So, if seeing Tinygamis in person is something you’ve been wanting to do just save either of the two dates and come see them in downtown Grand Rapids.

tinygami-miniature-origami-500w

Between now and then I’ll be making lots of items (that you can currently see/purchase in the Tinygami Etsy Shop) to bring with me. My prices for strands of cranes and frogs, jewelry, origami boxes, and individual cranes, frogs, and rabbits will range from $5-$75 for most items.

As markets go this feels like a good place to start. Because I signed up to sell beneath the portico in the photo above I won’t need a big tent/booth to transport and set up in the street. Most likely I’ll show up with a folding table and greeting card stand (the wire kind that spins).

made-in-michigan-pop-up-marketplace

Planning the booth display will be fun! I’m thinking a simple table with a jewelry stand and some sort of miniature shelving for the tiny boxes. And to haul everything there?

tinygami-strands-boxes-earrings

I’ll most likely bring my tiny travel trailer “The Glampette!” I’ll have to measure her from my car’s front bumper to her rear door. If together the car and trailer measure 18′ or less they’ll fit perfectly into the parking spot adjacent to my booth area! I hope they’ll fit. It would be both fun and easy to load her up and bring her to Grand Rapids for the day.

cute-tiny-glamping-trailer-rv-teardrop-size

A handful of ArtPrize visitors know the whole story about The Glampette and how she’s why I first came to Michigan, learned about ArtPrize, and ended up relocating here from Northern California.

So if you want to shop for Tinygamis, take a peek at The Glampette, or want to stop by just to say “Hi!” please do! I’ll be looking for you 🙂

Tiniest Renzuru?

So, here’s what’s been happening over on my Instagram feed. Studio build updates (the ceiling is almost up) and new mini glass cloches that can be used as small decorative items or as pendants for necklaces that I’ll soon be adding to my Etsy shop.

tinygami-valentines-day-origami

One photo in particular yesterday received more attention than my usual posts…

miniature-renzuru-origami-cranes

It’s the tiniest renzuru I’ve ever made, or seen for that matter. It’s two 3/8″ high and wide cranes folded from one piece of paper. They’re connected at their beaks. The paper was a 1.5″ x 3/4″ high rectangle. I didn’t know if it was possible to fold them that small without tearing the paper apart at the contact point. Was thrilled it worked!

As always, for me, folding is less about perfection and more about exploring possibilities. They aren’t flawless, and man I should have used some hand lotion before taking this picture, but that’s ok! Prototypes are rarely perfect but they are, because they were the first attempt, always a bit more precious 🙂