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.

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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!

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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.

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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 🙂

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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.

A space of my own

I think it would be fair to say that most artists and crafters dream of having their own work studio. A space separate from their living area whether it’s a room, the basement, or even better, completely detached from their home.

tinygami-art-studio-1-build-site

Well, that dream is becoming a reality for this origami artist. Earlier this summer the ground was broken (and graded) to accommodate the 16’x20′ build site where I will have not only a work studio but a screened porch (to protect me from the mosquitos, noseeums, deer fly, and black flies) as well.

tinygami-art-studio-2-walls

I am fortunate that some of Fred’s friends (now my friends too) are helping Fred with the build. One has come with a tractor and back hoe, professional equipment to finish the concrete for the foundation, and his invaluable expertise. Oscar has made many long trips out to Greenville to burn and oil the wood siding. He will be a Shou Sugi Ban expert by the time he’s done. Scratch that. He already is 🙂 I cannot thank them each of them enough.

The walls went up…

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And then the rafters and roof over the studio area…

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The cedar boards and windows arrived. The cedar smells sooooooo good!

My favorite window is this one…

tinygami-origami-studio-moon-window

It’s a 5′ round window to evoke the “moon” windows and doors in Japan. The round shape is used as a frame to create a vignette through which a beautiful garden view can be enjoyed in all four seasons. It is going into the large square framed area below. Basically, I’ll be sitting right in front of it almost level with the bottom of it because my work area will be on an 18″ high platform which accomplishes two things:

  1. The platform will create storage space beneath it because storage space is hard to come by in the 8’x12′ I’ve designated as my work area.
  2. Because even as I type this I am sitting on the couch as if I’m sitting on the floor, and because I even sit at the dining table in a chair as if I’m sitting on the floor (legs tucked beneath or in front of me) I decided to forego having chairs and simply install a dropped foot well in the platform, like in a Japanese restaurant tatami room. Then if I want to sit upright I can. Having a soft cushion to curl up or sit on instead of a chair will save a lot of space!

tinygami-art-studio-5-windows-shou-sugi-ban

For the exterior we are using a Japanese wood preparation/preservation technique called Shou Sugi Ban (pronounced: show-sue-gē-bawn). Everywhere I’ve read about this technique (aka yakisugi) it is said the treatment leaves the wood fire, moisture, and insect resistant and the benefits can last as long as 85 years. The tung oil can be reapplied as needed to further protect the wood. Fred suggested using cedar shiplap siding vs tongue and groove as most of the tongue and groove is beveled on the side edge and wouldn’t look flat like this.

The steps go like this:

  1. Burn board with a propane tank weed burner – Video on Instagram
  2. Scrubbing off the charred wood with a brush
  3. Rinse board with water
  4. Allow board to dry
  5. Brush board with tung oil and wipe with rag
  6. Allow oil to dry
  7. Repeat step 5

It is labor intensive but the results are beautiful. The burnt wood is dark brown and blackish when the sun isn’t shining directly upon it. With direct sunlight the wood becomes almost metallic looking with a rich organic appearance as the oiled finish highlights the natural wood grain and knots.

tinygami-art-studio-6-shou-sugi-ban-siding

Eventually the brown in the boards will fade to grey the way cedar naturally fades and the blackness will soften as the particles of soot still trapped in the wood grain weather off over time.

tinygami-art-studio-7-screen-porch-framing

We opted to leave the porch posts, beams, and rafters unburnt to create contrast with the siding. I didn’t want things too matchy-matchy.

tinygami-art-studio-8-porch-rafters

Right now the warm red color of the cedar provides a sharp contrast. I’m looking forward to when it greys and the contrast isn’t so pronounced.

tinygami-work-area

To date everything I’ve made for ArtPrize the past three years has been made working at this 2’x3’coffee table in the living room with my supplies divided between two upstairs rooms and the basement. It is organized chaos. It will be so nice to have a formal workspace sometime next year 🙂

summer-sandhill-cranes-michigan

But even more important than having my dream studio come to life is that I’ve found a place (The Place) where my creativity isn’t crushed or stifled because of my environment. Instead, or maybe I should say finally, it’s been released in a torrent of ideas brought to fruition.

Above is the pair of Sandhill Cranes that nest in the marsh behind the property I live on. Sometimes they call to each other from the marsh before and as they leave in the morning. When I hear them I rush out to the back deck to watch them fly away for the day.

tinygami-origami-studio-west-michigan

It took my whole life, many mistakes, self-reflection, learning how to let go of fear, and a giant leap of faith but I’ve finally found true happiness out here in this beautiful landscape I now call home ❤

Working on my Etsy shop

Aside from making dozens of crane and menko sets I’ve been a busy bee both shipping some out to thank friends who gave me product feedback I had asked for late last week as well as figure out how to photograph my offerings on Etsy.

mini-origami-cranes-etsy-tinygami

I’m happy to say I think I’ve come up with my “look” on Etsy.

miniature-origami-crane-tinygami

What do you think?

how-to-photograp-products-etsy

I’ll be offering up several different standard products:

  • Tiny Cranes that are 3/4″ high
  • Itty Bitty Cranes that are 3/8″ high
  • Tiny Frogs that are 3/4″ in diameter

 

All orders will include:

origami-menko-etsy-step-by-step

A menko envelope to protect your order during shipping. That is the “Tiny” sized crane and menko pictured above. To open the menko simply pull free any section and it will unfold. To re-close the menko fold it back down to the picture on the lower left then choose any section and press it flat. Follow folding the rest down in clockwise order and tuck in the fourth section beneath the flap of the first one you folded down.

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2. A personalized note (especially nice if you’re giving a gift)!

At the encouragement of friends I’m adding in the option of a complimentary (free), personalized, fortune cookie styled note (3/8″ high and no longer than 3.75″) that is folded and tucked into the menko. I thought I’d have to come up with a portable laser printer for the job but I was told a handwritten note is more personal. What do you think? I think I’m going to have to work on my penmanship a bit!

3. (This promotion has ended as of November 2016) Free shipping within the U.S. (and no charge for additional items after a small fee for international orders)

It’s progress!