I had the great opportunity to get an interview with another talented artist here on Fil-Am Ako. Christine Balza is a talented Fil-Am artist that all of you should get to know and you should definitely check out her work at Suku, New Sun Artistry.
Please tell us who you are.
Christine Balza, I live east of San Francisco, with my husband and four fabulous kids and a stay at home Mother, part time artist. I have worked in the fashion industry as a hair designer and makeup artist. A self taught crafts-woman in whatever medium catches my fancy. I have learned and mastered ceramic, metal, wood carving and wire works and also skilled in crochet, sewing and love to paint in a variety of mediums. However, my favorite thing to do is immersing myself into a craft I know little about.
I grew up a military brat, my father in the Air Force, moving every 2 to 3 years with a few tours of duty at Clark AFB, living there for almost 9 years. I have had the privilege to visit my father’s hometown of Las Pinas, Rizal and my mother’s, Ilocos Norte. And the family beach in Pasuquin; now called Sexy Beach. I haven’t been back since 1981.
Please tell us about your work and how you were introduced to traditional Filipino art like Baybayin?
My work has been evolving since I was a child, always with my hands in clay or paint. The US military offers cultural information in the schools on base. There, I got a small course on Baybayin. It remained in my thoughts like the game, Sungka. It wasn’t until my early 20’s before I saw a news clipping in a Filipino soup house, Lingnam and soon after I hooked up with my cousin, who proudly showed me his alibata tattoo.
What inspired you to start Suku-Art?
I obsessed for years on finding as much information as I could find. Very little was to be found in the early 90’s. Now, with so much information on the internet and too much time on my hands, I spent many hours researching Filipino History. As a creative gift idea, I made my sister a Baybayin pendant for Mother’s Day. Within a month, her necklace was noticed by a t shirt vendor and I took off from there. The name, Suku, is of the ancient Sun Goddess and the myths of new beginnings rang close to my heart.
Where can people see your work or even buy Suku-Art products?
I often pop up a booth at local Bay Area festivals and provide a Baybayin workshop on occasion. Check my website: http://www.suku-art.com Information and links on Baybayin are available, as well as a photo gallery of my work. I am currently updating the online store and should be up soon. But don’t hesitate to contact me firstname.lastname@example.org for orders. I can also arrange for a private workshop at the clients convenience.
What does being Filipino-American mean to you?
I associated Filipino-American to a common thread I see among those who experienced a similar upbringing. The mixture (halo halo) of core beliefs handed down from relatives directly from the islands and the American notions learned outside the home. It is a contradiction in terms that colors and confuses us at any given moment. Sometimes it leaves many feeling misunderstood and misplaced. The struggle to define oneself becomes cluttered with wanting to please the family oriented culture along with finding individuality advocated in American commercialism. I am not defined as FilAm but enjoy and appreciate the experience.
What do you feel needs to change with Filipinos and how the world views Pinoys?
Change is necessary but I am not qualified to make that assessment. Education and expression of our roots is where my venue to add knowledge and color to our awareness.
In the US and many parts of the world, people have a stereotypical view of Filipinas (subservient, hyper-sexualized) which many of us take offense to. How does your art work empower Filipinas and do you have any words of wisdom for our young Pinay readers?
My daughters are beautiful Pinays. As a Mother I wish to give them the core belief of our culture. We are from a matriarchal community, where strong women possess the ability to manage large families and community. We model after the women we live with, Lolas and Titas. Enlightening people of the nature and character of our ancestors show through in the sentiment I add to my art. “lakas loob” meaning, “inner strength” is a popular piece, no matter what I write it on.
Every culture and communities suffer from the labeling and stereotyping made by society. Subservient and hypersexual images plague many groups besides Filipina’s. It is the exploitation of women and children that needs to be dealt with. These stereotypes shouldn’t be commercialized and marketed in any media.
Do you look up to any famous Filipinos as role models?
When reflecting on what famous Filipino’s I knew of, I realized that I could only scratched the surface of Who’s Who in our history. Rizal, Lapo Lapo, Aquino, Nora Anour, Sharron Coneta, comedians and athletes in public view. My role model is my Grandmother, Saturnina Silverio, a strong force in our family. A single Mother of 5 children; 4 girls and my father, she was a support for underground activity during the Japanese occupation. I’ve heard that is why my Grandfather, Bonifacio Silverio, a officer in the Army divorced her.
Thanks to the Pinays in my life who influenced me; my Mother in law, mom, sister and aunties.
What is your favorite Filipino dish?
Bring me a menu or stand me in front of a banquet and I’d have difficulty choosing. Desserts; halo halo, ginitan, bibingka…. Mmmmmm
Is there any additional information you would like to share with us?
Custom orders take up to 3 weeks to make for ceramic items, so order now for Christmas!
Consider having favors for you special event done in Baybayin! Family name or hometown for Kababayin reunions, a newlywed’s sentiment or a babies name to share at your party!
Thank you for this opportunity to express myself.
Suku, New Sun Artistry