Corinne Okada Takara

As a child, I was frequently tucked into the car and wrapped in a patchwork quilt of kimonos, rice bags and faded Hawaiian aloha prints. On long cross country drives to a new home on one side of the country or the other, I carefully studied the fabrics rolling in small hills across my knees. They whispered of rustling sugar cane fields, great aunts cooling off in rice bag slips, and kimono doll dresses made of apple wrappers. The fabrics were warm reminders of family life and blended cultures on islands far away. Quilts and family stories are the inspiration for my mixed media art today.

I blend precious fabrics, rice bags and simple discards such as food wrappers to bring to light the cascade of cultures people experienced through the sharing of food, clothing, and tales. The sculptures explore the disassembling and reassembling of modern day artifacts. My works range greatly in size from large eight foot tall kimonos and butterflies for the main lobbies of Kaiser Permanente Hospital in Santa Clara and Boston Children’s Hospital to small floral broaches and hats for fashion events. These pieces have shown in galleries across the country and are in private collections in San Francisco, Chicago, Boston and Paris.
My art aims to inspire reflection upon the reuse and recycling traditions of generations past, and to encourage viewers to celebrate the beauty in the creative reuse of materials. The whimsical incorporation of recycled objects into my pieces surprises and invites viewers to observe discards in a new light and inspires the reuse of resources in their daily lives. The intimate histories, legends and cultural metaphors in my work also inform viewers of histories often overlooked or under examined.

I have developed a unique process for creating my large collage textile art. I use wire, hand stitched fabrics, glazed food wrappers and other artifacts. Each piece begins with paper and digital sketches. Paper templates are made and traced onto a large sheet of cardboard. I twist long strands of magnet wire to mimic twisted thread fibers. I then form the wire following the guidelines on the cardboard. The completed wire framework is removed from the cardboard and attached to a large custom stand. Next, waste canvas is hand stitched over the wire to create a base support for other hand stitched fabric layers. Wrappers and other repurposed artifacts are attached either by stitching or using archival glues.

I have contributed much to the arts enrichment of Santa Clara and San Francisco through a range of exhibitions, public art installations, art lectures, workshops and assemblies for both schools and museums. I have taught fiber related children’s craft workshops at the San Jose Museum of Quilts and Textiles, the Asian Art Museum, the de Young Museum, the Montalvo Arts Center and through the Euphrat Museum’s Arts and Schools Program. I have guest lectured at Stanford University in the History Department presenting Japanese American history through the lenses of an artist. As an arts educator, I have conducted workshops and assemblies in public elementary schools and high schools.
Many of my programs focus on the historical repurposing of textiles. The examination of the blending of cultures in Hawaii is a useful mirror through which children can examine the unique evolving and blending cultures of their communities.

My art is rooted in the knowledge that textiles and patterns can anchor us to cultural memories and help shape new identities. I will always be that child gazing in wonder at the diverse fabrics patched into the rolling landscapes of my life.