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Craft News: Stitches and Stories

An interview with writer, artist, and crafter Maya Calica-Collins

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Maya Calica-Collins has a way with words, as she has authored books, and has edited Candy, Seventeen Philippines, and Smile magazines. Most recently, she wears a new hat as an artist with her exhibit “Sew and Tell,” which ran at plush toy and décor store La Pomme. In the exhibit, Maya combines her skill with words, needlework, and farming memories to create delightful “narrative embroidery.”

Her whimsical images are hand-embroidered onto natural-dyed cloth. On one delicate, tea-stained canvas, a tiny girl takes flight on a giant bird with crocheted wings. On another large canvas, seven sisters in appliquéd dresses comfort each other. Accompanying stories about each piece are read separately, while a recording of the artist reading them out loud plays in the background. Here, Maya tells us more about her lovely visual stories.

Real Living: You’ve worked in publishing for a long time. What prompted you to sew?

Maya Calica-Collins: When I moved to New Zealand to join my husband in 2011, I was working freelance and finally had the free time to dabble in hobbies, such as sewing. Two friends, one of them being Apol Lejano-Massebieau of La Pomme, turned me on to sewing. I began with a sewing machine I borrowed from my sister Rina and then took it from there. 

RL: What inspired you to launch your own exhibit?

MCC: Apol was at my book launch for Good Night, Lala (Adarna House) last July 2013. She was really impressed with the hand-embroidered artworks of the book, and asked me if I wanted to do a group show with her. Of course, I said "yes!" That was basically it. I took her word for it, and we kept in touch via email. I would do some artworks and email them to her. Then we met in Manila in June 2014 so she could see the pieces in person.

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RL: All of your sewn works tell a story; some of them from your own personal experiences. Did the exhibit guests discover some that rung true to their own experiences?

MCC: I called the show "Sew and Tell" because the stories got written out in my head while I sewed the artworks (Apol coined the term "narrative embroidery," which I thought was brilliant). There were a few personal experiences there, i.e. "I, Wallflower," about a girl who doesn't get asked to dance at a party, "Seven Sisters" which was inspired by when we all gathered together at my mom's funeral, and "Something Blue"—about a mature bride. Quite a few connected with "Omiyage (The Gift),” which was about a woman who cared for stray animals who is gifted with a human child one day. The surprise gift sends a conflict of emotions coursing through her veins –she rejoices and mourns. I have felt that too, as a stepmom. Others who did love it were mothers, adoptive moms, or moms to animals. I think it's the universal emotion of wanting to be the best we can be to the little ones that come into our lives.

RL: Will we be seeing more of your creative works as a “sewing story-teller?” 

MCC: I certainly hope so! I feel I've only just begun, and there are definitely more stories inside me.

Learn more about Maya’s work at www.mayacalica.com. You can inquire about her art locally at www.lapommehome.com

Artwork photos by Toto Labrador. La Pomme photo by Dairy Darilag.

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