Interview with Vietnamese-American Origami Artist Nga Trinh

How do you come up with an idea for each piece of art you create? 

My idea of a piece would pop up when a combination of these come together:  the fold and the available recycled paper with interesting colors and patterns.  How big the piece would depend on how much recycled paper I have on hand.

How long have you been creating these origami pieces, and where do you come up with the idea for them? 

I’ve been creating these origami pieces for about twenty four years since the days that I had to stay home to take care of my two young sons.  At that time, companies which sell clothing, household items, and flowers would often send catalogs to sell their products. Some of these were very colorful and pretty.  It’s my nature not to easily throw things away, so I saved and cut these pictures from the catalogs and started folding them.  Some of the tenants in the building where I stayed  would throw their unwanted picture frames away when they moved out, so I collected and used these as my canvas to arrange my origami folds.  That is how it all began and ideas keep flowing out since then.

How has your asian identity influenced your art? 

As a child growing up in Sai Gon, Viet Nam, I learned how to fold from the neighborhood friends.  We made our own toys out of recycled homework paper, flyers or available banana  and bamboo leaves and stems.  Folding was the  way of life during my childhood in my very poor country at that time and it came naturally to me as breathing itself.

Do you ever feel like your art is not “asian enough.” If so, is there a way you combat these thoughts during the creative process? 

No, I am an Asian so everything that I create comes from within.  If you were an Asian and you dyed your hair blond, would that make you not Asian?

Is there anything else you would like to tell us about your art? 

I’m very passionate about the use of recycled materials in my artwork,  and I would love to spread this message to others, especially young people – that you don’t need fancy, new and expensive materials to make an interesting, unique and beautiful artwork; just look around your environment.

Written by Misha Patel

This interview originally appeared in the October 2020 Issue of The Asian American Arts Zine

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