Of the many possible fates for old issues of Style Weekly, what Karmalita Bawar does with them may be the most attractive. Instead of using the publications to start fires or line bird cages, she fashions them into flower brooches. “They look nice on hats, scarves, purses,” Bawar says. “They're just a nice, unique accessory.”
A Suzuki piano teacher since 1989, Bawar periodically travels to Japan to study this type of paper art. Last April she stayed with a Japanese family in Matsumoto. The grandmother taught her the craft of making paper flowers, sending her home with a bamboo skewer, templates cut out of a discarded box, and the “green electrical plastic tube things” that she uses to crimp the paper. They promptly broke, so she took them to Lowe's, replacing them with something she found near the nuts and bolts section. Exactly what the new plastic tubes are called or what their given purpose is remains a mystery.
The flowers started out as something she just made and gave away. “After six hours a day of teaching piano, I want silence,” Bawar says. “So this is a really quiet, personal thing.” People began asking if they could buy them, “and next thing you know, I'm cranking them out.”
She adds her own touch to the process, using glitter in the form of nail polish to accent the flowers. “When I got my hands on them, I thought I needed to make it American and fun and colorful,” she says. “The grandmother who taught me would just scream if she saw these. These are very gaudy for Japan.”
Style works as a medium, she says, because of the colorful photos and because she can pick up a free one anywhere. (She swears that she reads the issue first and then chooses pages based on color combinations.) Carefully cut shapes from the Dec. 8 issue feature centenarian Virginia Ann Henry Shelton, actor Katrinah Lewis and musician Prabir Mehta. Under her deft fingers, they quickly become a paper flower. “It's a great group of local people,” Bawar says. “You can't get them together at a party, but you can get them together in a brooch.”
Karmalita Bawar's handmade Japanese flower brooches are featured at Artemis Gallery, 1601 W. Main St. For information, call 353-2676.