The fabrics I work with — silk chiffon or silk organza — there’s really nothing fancy about them. I’m starting with a white piece of cloth, dyeing it in the studio, and then doing all the intricate stitchwork, which is basically about tearing the fabric up completely only to put it back together in a very different way. I’m taking shibori and ancient Japanese dyeing techniques and pushing them further by adding that thread, that dimension, that sculptural quality. As an art major, I spent a lot of time welding and building and making sculptural things. Texture takes so much more time, but that’s what makes the soul of the piece. When people touch my work, they say, “Wow. How did you do that?”
I do everything that people have all done before — slashing has been around since the 1400s — but you can do something incredible if you work it. Like you wouldn’t look at something from the Victorian era and be reminded of my work, but there is a connection. I’m informed by historical costuming, but as an artist, the way that I put things together and manipulate these ancient techniques is what makes it modern.
When I first moved to Boston, I discovered the Society of Arts and Crafts and volunteered there, and the exposure really helped me as an artist. This year, I was accepted in the Smithsonian Craft Show in D.C., one of the most selective and prestigious in the country. It’s such an honor! My work is in a new book, Kimono Now, and I’m part of (Fort Point) open studios and (Midway Channel Gallery’s) fashion show in May. To continue to produce beautiful things using age-old arts and techniques, and being able to keep them sustainable and relevant, it’s incredibly exciting. I love keeping craft going.
FOR MORE Visit Nguyen at the Fort Point Arts open studios May 15 to 17, and see her work at Midway Channel Gallery’s free fashion show on Friday. 617-423-4299; fortpointarts.org