Art alumna Lauren Iida ‘14 had a busy August, with the release of a new picture book, the creation of 30-foot long paper cut installation, and a new commission for the Washington Convention Center.
Since graduating from Cornish College of the Arts, local artist Lauren Iida has spent much of her time traveling between her home in the Pacific Northwest and Cambodia. Her work includes the creation of bilingual picture books with the latest title, Rattan Woman, for the Mondulkiri Resource and Documentation Center (MRDC) released in August.
“I’ve been working on the book for about two years,” said Iida in a phone interview. “I was approached by MRDC, who had seen my first book (In My Village). They were working with Bunong storytellers, preserving ancient folktales from extinction.”
The Bunong indigenous group lives in northeastern Cambodia and their culture is “rapidly being lost,” said Iida. “There’s a lack of resources to preserve these stories. I illustrate these books for their children, and for the world, to understand their culture better.”
After selecting a story told by Bunong storyteller Kna Bar, Iida worked out the illustrations in hand-cut paper and watercolor. “It was important to me to accurately illustrate it,” Iida said. She visited the community to work out the details. “I needed to know the type of clothing that they wore, the jewelry, how they cooked. I wanted to be able to accurately portray their culture.”
The resulting picture book was published by 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, The Antipodes Collective, that Iida founded. The sale of this book directly supports the MRDC and allows The Antipodes Collective to distribute it for free to underprivileged children in Cambodia.
Along with attending book release events in August, Iida completed a 30-foot long project called “Memory Net” in Seattle. Mirroring a work previously done in Cambodia, Iida invited people to visit her in her studio bringing an object that represented the idea of “home.” Iida then cut these objects into her paper net. “I’ve cut palm leaves, an arrow, a teddy bear, a rose from a rose garden, blackberries, and a rice cooker,” she said. “This project allows me to connect with my community and other people.”
In 2019, she will complete a new paper cut project for the expanded Washington State Convention Center in downtown Seattle. The 22 feet wide by 10 feet tall paper cut will be reproduced in metal by using a plasma cutter and then installed at the Convention Center. “This is my second public art installation and larger than the one on Aurora Avenue,” said Iida.
Along with her other work, she is planning to lead tours in early 2019 to Cambodia. “There’s a fantastic budding arts community there,” said Iida. “It is a very exciting time to travel there. This is the third year [of the tours] and it’s for anyone who is interested in learning about Cambodia in a different way.”
More information about Iida’s projects can be found at her website.