Better known by her designer moniker Juanita Tortilla, Juanita Choo-Koh creates funky and original bags, purses and glass coasters by reusing materials and textiles. In our latest spotlight, Juanita tells us about her eco-friendly practises and her favourite local galleries.
Q: Hello Juanita! Can you please tell us a bit about yourself?
A: I am a shamelessly self-proclaimed artist. Born in Singapore, I majored in Biology and have always had a keen interest in creating and making things with my hands. Currently, I am enjoying the experience as a new transplant to South Australia where I am able to comfortably immerse myself in the wonderful artistic community!
Q: Who inspires you? What inspires your art?
A: Reducing waste is the golden rule of thumb I apply to my work, so I love the challenge of repurposing, collaging fabric scraps, “upcycling” and transforming them into something different, practical and useful. What inspires me is watching people’s positive reactions, hearing comments of my surprising and unexpected use of material, and also having artists appreciate my work.
Q: Do you have a preferred medium?
A: I am basically interested in anything that has colour and texture: fabric and paint. Often I enjoy combining both!
Q: How would you describe your style?
A: Random and eclectic. Neither contemporary nor classical. I simply enjoy creating something pretty, fun or absurd, depending on the mood of the day I am in!
Q: Can you please describe your artistic and creative process i.e.: from lingering idea to putting it into practice?
A: Usually a small random seed falls into my brain before I fall asleep. If I remember the next day, I will then spend copious amounts of time nurturing the challenge (or challenges) of translating it into something tangible. I will keep experimenting and working on something for as long as the fun remains. Also, in principal, I like to make things that I would personally like or use, and the process can only come to completion until I am satisfied, and satisfaction is always subjective. Constantly repurposing, (to sew, cut, re-print, etc.), I have several incomplete pieces lying in a pile!
Q: Where do you see your art practice taking you in the next five years?
A: As a travelling tribe – my husband, myself and our cats – we never really know what our 5-year plan is, to be honest. Pursuing this creative practice has allowed me to meet like-minded folks wherever we go. In my dream, I would love to see myself mastering a few new skills, establishing myself as a textile artist, and perhaps have an exhibition or two under my belt.
Q: If you could recommend one artist, who would it be?
A: Every artist in all forms of media deserves full admiration, in my opinion. And because I am terrible with names, with the world of art being so diverse and immense, I can hardly put a finger to one name that I can recommend! I have learned to appreciate every effort, message and creativity behind each work.
Q: What is your favourite gallery?
A: Playing up the blow-in card, I am looking forward to discovering more galleries in Adelaide and the region. So far, I have visited the Art Gallery of South Australia, The Hahndorf Academy, and Barossa Regional Gallery. I am always impressed by the level of genius there is in the art world.
Q: Where can we find more of your work?
A: Most of my work can be found at my two Etsy shops. My personal musings, updates and rants can be found on Instagram and Facebook. And I blog occasionally to keep my mother and friends overseas up to date.
Q: What is your favourite summertime activity?
A: My favourite summertime activity in the weekends would be hiding indoors, away from the sun with my feet up at the sofa, enjoying a good movie or two with hubby, munching on chips and overloading on sugary drinks! On weekdays, where I consider them work days, I love to use the wonderful summer sunshine as product photography sessions. Living amongst the rain, mist and trees of Adelaide Hills has made me more appreciative of sunny days for that natural lighting!
– Masya Zabidi