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.

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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.

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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…

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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 🙂

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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.

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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 ❤

LowellArts! Artprize: Second Glance 2016

If you missed seeing my miniature origami cranes at ArtPrize 2015 this is your second chance at the “ArtPrize: Second Glance” exhibit currently hosted at LowellArts! King Gallery in downtown Lowell, MI. Exhibition details are at the end of the post.

I have to say I’m very happy and honored to have been invited to exhibit “4000 Culture Cranes,” particularly in a gallery.

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Over the years in California I’d found that there was a certain pretentiousness when some “art establishment” people saw both pictures of my work and my work in person. “Oh, this isn’t fine art” more than one told me, “This is crafts.” Um, ok, but people like it no matter what you label it, I’d think to myself. One person in particular immediately undervalued my work to the point I didn’t want to show it to anyone professional ever again saying in his expert opinion it was worth around $75.00. I’d like to say what they thought didn’t matter to me, but it did. It caused me to think my work didn’t belong in a gallery, that it wasn’t good enough.

Happily, thanks to my two ArtPrize experiences and LowellArts! that misimpression is gone for good. I guess the lesson I’ve learned is to believe in myself even when others don’t. My art is made with so much love and is such a personal part of me, a reflection of who I am, that I’ll admit I’m much more thinned skinned about it than most other aspects about my “self” when it comes to criticism. I know it’s not for everyone, and there will always be critics but (for me) the good news is they will no longer stop me from putting my work out there. I owe those who love and believe in my work (and me) a huge THANK YOU for that.

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I even had custom acrylic display cases made to protect the cranes from dust and damage. I was particularly pleased with how they look in the gallery.

This is just part of the show description on the LowellArts! website:

“This is the third exhibition of this kind to be held at LowellArts!, and gives a great snapshot of artwork by local artists. Artists featured are from: Kentwood, Grand Rapids, East Grand Rapids, Ada, Lowell, Rockford, Comstock Park, and Greenville. 

This is an invitational exhibition, and artists were selected by the LowellArts! Gallery Committee. The committee reviewed over 300 pieces of artwork by artists who fit the geographical criteria – both by visiting works in person during ArtPrize and by utilizing the ArtPrize website.

This is a wonderful opportunity to re-visit artwork, or see for the first time artwork by local artists who worked hard to be prepare for and be a part of ArtPrize 2015. Many great pieces were tucked away in venues less visited by ArtPrize crowds. Or, in hustle and bustle of the event, other great pieces were not admired as long as they should.”

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The 21 featured Artists include: Ann Dyer, Charles Smalligan, Colleen Kole, Colleen O’Rourke, Frank Speyers, Gerard Wood, Jay Constantine, Jeffrey Jan Lende, Jill Risner, Leanne McGann, Margaret Farrell, Maria Joy Lemon, MaryJo Fox Fell, Monica Stegeman, Ron Lichtenstein, Ross Mccrory, Sarah Knill, Stacie Tamaki, Stone Peng, Susan L Anderson.

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ArtPrize: A Second Glance – website
Jan 9-Feb 15, 2016
The LowellArts! King Gallery
149 S. Hudson Street
lowell, MI 49331 – map
Tuesday through Friday 10:00 AM – 6:00 PM
Saturday: 1:00 PM – 4:00 PM