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 3 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 3 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.”

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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.

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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

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.

Surprise! It’s a box!

After sending out a dozen or so Tinygami gift boxes I realized there was a perception problem. . . Or is there? I came up with a solution for what I now think may not be a problem at all.

I’d given my tiny boxes cute and clever little names like “Littly Lily Box” and “Bunny Box” when I should have just called them “Accidental Surprise Boxes.”

tinygami-origami-surprise-gift-boxes

My friend Mark calls it “The curse of knowledge” when you assume others know what you know. Turns out unless people had been following my Tinygami Instagram feed or Tinygami Facebook page they most likely weren’t going to realize that the origami box they received was, in fact, a box. I think most assumed it was a display stand and the tiny model on top was a decoration I had sent them.

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The funny thing is that some even took them places to show people, like a dear friend who took hers to work, never realizing the box was filled with tinygamis! I understand how it happens because even though they’re full of miniature origami models everything is so light you can’t tell by weight there is anything in the box.

Think The Tardis effect. The boxes are so small expecting there’s more inside just isn’t the natural conclusion one would jump to. It’s rather fun really. It’s like they’re little magic boxes.

tinygami-inside-miniature-origami-gift-box

And one of the first patrons to my Etsy Shop messaged back to say the person she had me send a filled Bunny Box to as a gift had no idea there were more surprises inside. Which made it all a lot more fun for her to be on the phone and hear the astonishment in her recipient’s voice when she realized the stand was a box and there were more tinygamis yet to be discovered. LOL

So now there will be two options going forward:

  1. People can order their boxes with a small lift that raises the lid and distinguishes the lid from the bottom of the box. I’ll probably make those in contrasting papers as well like in the first photo.
  2. Or, you can order a surprise style box and call or message your recipient after to ask “Did you look inside?”

 

tinygami-origami-gift-box-instagram
This photo was posted on Instagram by my friend Shellie after she received her Tinygami gift box 🙂

Because the tinygamis are so small the boxes can be filled with an incredible number of items even though they are only 1″x 1″ or 1/2″ x 1/2″ in diameter. The one that surprised me most was this Little Lily Box. It held 6 tiny origami frogs, a tiny paper heart, an Itty Bitty 3/8″ crane tucked inside a menko to protect the crane, and a fortune cookie style banner with my website address on it. All inside of the 1″x 1″ x 1/2″ box!

What I have learned is regardless of whether people realize they boxes are boxes (or not) the one thing that has been 100% is that they’ve brightened the day of everyone who has received one. Which means a lot to me to know my work is out there in the world making people happy 🙂

If you’re curious you’ll find the boxes and more are now available at my almost complete Etsy Shop.

Renzuru

tinygami-renzuru-origami-cranes-frogs

Years ago I purchased a book that featured the Japanese art of “Renzuru” which is to fold multiple, connected, origami cranes from a single sheet of paper. When I saw @kenji_kujime‘s Instagram feed it reminded me how I had experimented with renzuru in the past but that was many, years ago.

stacie-tamaki-renzuru-crane-frog-origami

I was inspired to try again but this time to be a bit more creative and combine two of my favorite folds being the tiny 3/4″ origami frog with a paper crane. The smaller (1.5″ high crane) on the right was my first attempt which led me to try a second time making a larger crane (2″ high) and suspending the frog by its front leg rather than its rear leg. Am quite happy with the result. Not sure how this will factor into future designs but it’s always fun to challenge myself with things I’m not certain can be done.

The finished models remind me very much of when I used to visit the Colusa Wildlife Refuge in California and Monterey Bay and would see herons and egrets catching their meals in shallow water.

Wishing you a Valentine’s Day. . .

tinygami-origami-valentines-day-crane.JPG

An original design idea inspired by a piece of gift wrap cellophane that would be going into the trash. Could I make a crane from it? It turned out yes, yes I could! My very next thought was: “Hmmmmm. . . What can I put inside the hollow of the body?” Immediately I realized I wanted to fold a tiny origami heart and slip it into the crane. I tried it just in time for Valentine’s Day and was very pleased it worked!

This is a design idea I will be exploring further. There are so many possibilities! The cellophane is difficult to fold, as was the 1/4″ diameter origami heart. But the moment I finished the first one all I could think was it was well worth the effort.

How to open an origami crane

closed-flattened-origami-crane-tinygami

If you’ve ever received a Tinygami crane that was folded flat you may wonder how to spread its wings without damaging it.

The picture above on the left shows how even when unopened the crane will usually stand on its own. But the picture on the right shows how you are able to appreciate the delicacy of this model when its wings are spread open. The problem is once you spread the wings apart the crane (often) will no longer stand up and tips to one side or the other.

underside-origami-crane

The trick is found on the base/underside of the model. When folded flat the base of the wings are parallel to each other which won’t always give enough stability for a crane to be able to stand on its own.

Three things must happen to create the same stable base once the wings are opened:

how-to-open-origami-crane-tinygami

1. The wings must be pulled both down and outward. I do this by placing my thumbs on the topside of each wing right up against the body to add some support as I gently pull the wings down and out. Pull too hard and you can tear the wings where they attach to the body, so slowly and carefully is the best way to do this.

origami-crane-body-inflates-air

2. Once the wings are down the body should have inflated with air to create a pillow effect.

freestanding-origami-crane-tutorial

3. Whether the wings are closed or open the base needs to spread open (a little or a lot) to create the four contact points that stabilize the crane. I create them by gently pinching the base of each wing between my thumbs and index fingers at the same time to create this pronounced X shape.

tinygami-how-to-open-origami-crane

The wings will look like the top right figure above just after pinching the base because doing so pinches the wing to its tip. To flatten out the wing I simply smooth the crease out, again pinching with the same two fingers but this time above and below the wing to flatten it. But be careful not to lose the X shape at the base.

Some papers are easy to re-flatten the crane again. The now inflated body will simply fold back down along its original creases. But others aren’t so pliable and the body will crush instead of re-fold so be careful if you decide to flatten the crane again once you’ve opened it.

I hope this tutorial is helpful to you. If you have any questions or need clarification feel free to leave a comment or contact me privately by CLICKING HERE.