Walking into Bukola’s studio space at the MFA Applied Craft + Design Program in Portland is like crossing the doormat into a treasured family room. Memories and swatches of inspiration dangle from the walls. Every bit of art is handcrafted with care and intent. You get the feeling that a story is begging to be unraveled. Many of the photographs displayed in Bukola’s workspace are of her family. It was clear to me that she draws much of her inspiration from them. Read from Bukola’s perspective how her path led her to this point:
“I come from a close and wonderful family. I grew up in Lagos, Nigeria with my parents, Adeyinka and Kolawole Koiki, and I am the oldest of my mother’s four children. I was always the arty kid growing up, always in a corner drawing pictures or making things. My parents didn’t quite know what to make of me I think, and while it was highly unlikely the kid of middle class Nigerians would end up being an artist, I was suddenly given the opportunity to come to the USA and attend school here to pursue that path. While it must have been hard to send your teenager off across the world on her own, I think my parents must have been relieved frankly, that I would finally get an outlet for my interests. They and my siblings have been nothing but supportive and I get so much inspiration from them because they are all creative in their own right.
My mother has a tailoring business and can make sewing patterns from scratch in minutes. My father is land surveyor and I’m pretty sure I got my eye for detail from him. My immediate younger brother, Tunde has fulfilled his long held dream of becoming a sportscaster on both radio and TV and is a hilarious mimic. The brother after him, Yemi, is currently pursing writing, producing, and performing music as a rap artist. Last but not least, the baby of our family, Busola, is a lawyer whose aptitude for leadership and problem solving is inspiring and is currently pursuing work in international law. I was raised by wonderful parents who managed to provide us with an interesting upbringing and a fantastic education from the little they had. It is my goal in life to honor their sacrifices for my siblings and myself by living the best and most successful life I can.
I originally landed in Texas straight from Nigeria. That was some culture shock I tell you! I first attended community college in Houston, and then transferred to the University of North Texas in Denton to attend their challenging Communication Design Program. I graduated with a BFA in 2006, worked in advertising for a while, but like many people, got laid off with the economic downturn.
I took the opportunity to go back to Nigeria for three whole months and fell in love with the tactility of life there all over again. While the Western notion of fast fashion and disposable commodities is slowly creeping in, there are still a lot of things that people make by hand in Nigeria. While at home, I renewed my deep appreciation for Nigerian textiles such as our wax prints, hand woven strip cloth (Aso Oke) and our indigo dyed cloth (Adire). I enjoy the tactile subtleties of different types of cloth and the graphic designer in me is obsessed with the color and patterns of surface designs.
When I came back to the US, I immediately started taking classes in sewing and bookbinding. In between freelance gigs I also worked at a paper goods store where I learned a lot about handmade paper from around the world. Thus my love for my other passion paper was born. I came to the Applied Craft+Design program because frankly I was not happy being another person pushing pixels around in an office.”
What a story indeed. Bukola and her family have made sacrifice after sacrifice so she could chase her dreams. That’s what we all want, isn’t it? We’re all driven by something: be it textiles and paper, crafting with our hands, or fueling that creative fire that burns in our minds. Muster together the courage to take the steps that get you just a bit closer to your goals. Like Bukola, maybe you can find a path to self-discovery mirrored in your roots and heritage.
Take a look at the photos above to see Bukola lead us through Momigami. This Japanese technique of kneading paper to create a pliable sheet of paper that can be used to make paper clothing, book covers, textile art and much more. Depending on the characteristics of the original paper, you can get a range of lovely end textures: everything from a soft cloth like feel to textures akin to leather.
What you need: newspapers (the more illustrations, diagrams, or patterns—the better), olive oil, a plastic sheet to protect your work area, a small brush, and PVA Glue (that’s an archival glue used in bookbinding and paper projects you can find at your local craft store)
With your surface protected, pour some olive oil into a small bowl and scoop up enough to evenly coat your palms when you rub your hands together. Take your chosen sheet of paper and fold the four corners into the center, crumpling the dry sheet gently first into a loose ball and then slowly squeezing and wrinkly it carefully but firmly into a tighter ball.
To accelerate the distressing, you can use the slickness of the protective plastic to “knead” the paper ball against your work surface. Unfold the sheet and repeat the wrinkling, crumpling and knead processor up to three or four minutes, stopping to coat your hand in more olive oil as needed. Open the sheet up and then rub it between your palms or flatten it out onto the work surface while rubbing the sheet down by applying pressure with your hands in an outward direction from the center of the sheet.
The crumpling, rubbing and stretching may be repeated as many times as you would like until you have achieved your preferred texture. Embrace any tears in the paper as opportunities for creativity. Individual sheets can be incorporated into textile art projects by machine sewing, hand stitching or using them in decoupage.
To create a large wall hanging piece instead, using a little brush, apply a thin layer of PVA (polyvinyl acetate) glue to the edge of your paper and adhere them together in a pleasing configuration. You can hang your creation from a wooden dowel rod or explore other creative hanging solutions like use vintage pant hangers.
*Please note that the kneaded paper will still be oily for a long while after, so you should hang your finished piece out and away from the wall to avoid oil stains.
Bukola’s work wear: Carhartt Women’s Huron Shirt, Calumet V-Neck T-Shirt, Slim-Fit Nyona Jean, & Acrylic Watch Hat