Interview: Artist Maya Caulfield
Maya Caulfield is a woman of many talents. She recently made some headlines with her handmade Kimono, made out of plaids to represent her unique heritage of Half-Japanese-American/Half-Scottish.
She is an artist from Denver, Colorado and also works in textiles.
Maya was awesome enough to take the time to chat with us about her unique kimono and her heritage.
What makes you Hapa? Did you grow up hearing that term? Is it how you identify?
I grew up hearing the term Hapa, along with dozens of other terms for people of mixed ethnic heritage. As a teenager, I resented it. I think many people of mixed heritage can relate; I was too white for the Asian kids and too Asian for the white kids. When you don’t fit into a specific group, you become an easy target as an outsider. It took me a while, but I finally realized that the things that made me different are unalterable, and they can either become an insecurity or an asset. Now I am proud to be mixed race, and I want my heritage to be at the forefront of the things I create. Being Hapa is a distinction, and distinctive things are beautiful– we don’t go to museums or galleries to look at the ordinary.
What inspired your kimono? Are the plaids you used to make your kimono related to your Scottish heritage at all?
Last year I got into the streetwear community and learned about designers like Rick Owens and Rei Kawakubo, who integrate traditional clothing into avant-garde fashion. From there I was inspired to include traditional clothing from both my Scottish and my Japanese background, and the idea came together to make a patchwork kimono. All of the plaids come from men’s shirts and boxer shorts that I picked up from local thrift stores; unfortunately, my clan’s tartan is not represented in the kimono.
I’m personally obsessed with the books/tv series Outlander. How far back can you trace your Scottish Heritage?
I can trace my Scottish heritage at least as far back as the 1500s, with Clan Donechaid (Robertson). Most of my Scottish relatives currently live over by Glasgow.
Since the Day of Remembrance is coming up, I’m curious was your Japanese side interned?
My grandfather and his parents were sent from California to Arkansas when he was five or six. I’m not very clear on the details as he is a quiet man and doesn’t like to discuss the past, but he was there for at least two years. After the internment, my great-grandfather moved back to Japan but my grandfather stayed and moved back to California. Unfortunately, I see the same racism and culture of fear that prompted internment camps rising again in certain circles. I hope that if we can take anything positive away from what my grandfather experienced, it can be a lesson for the future.
Where do you find your inspiration for your other artistic ventures? What inspires you? And what do you hope people will walk away with after viewing your work?
They say you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with, and my art reflects that. I draw inspiration from the people I am close with because I think that relationships– good or bad– are the most important and integral part of human life. If I take the most meaningful pieces of my friendships and relationships and turn them into an art piece, there’s a chance it will stick with someone. The ultimate goal is to make my art and my life inseparable.
I hope that people walk away from my work feeling some sort of kinship with it. Maybe it expresses a feeling the viewer thought they were alone in experiencing, or it triggers a memory within them, but I want them to relate a personal memory to what I’ve created. In the end, my art is just a way of trying to connect with other people.
Any projects you are currently working on?
I always have five to ten projects in the works, and only one of them will come to fruition in the end. It’s important for me to experiment with different techniques until I find the best vehicle to communicate whatever my message is. It’s my version of therapy: working through my emotions or an event in my life in seven different ways at once. Right now I’m using block printing, embroidery, and painting to try and work on my own personal insecurities.
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Alex Chester is the creator and producer of the theatre company WeSoHapa - a theatre based on diversity and inclusion. She is a New York City based columnist for On Stage Blog and contributing writer for ManhattanDigest.com and HuffPo. She also hosts a podcast with fellow writer Melissa Slaughter, We're Not All Ninjas. Follow her on Twitter/Instagram @AlexFChester if you like food and cats.