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Convergence of Art and Self - Awareness

Posted by Prosy Delacruz

“ Is there such a thing as women’s painting? Although the model is graceful and suggests all that might rightly be said to belong to the weaker sex, the artist endows the sitter with qualities we previously ignored in her, chooses a pose and decides on the colouring….composes a work that will transcend nature without the artifice appearing unusual. The outcome of this creative energy is a masterpiece, and it matters little whether the maker is man or woman. “ Louise –Elizabeth Vigee-Lebrun, 1755-1842.

She is not of the arts nor does she call herself artistic. But she might as well be. Her atelier aka dress shop in Sherman Oaks reminded me of Villa Cirta in France I visited, a simple family home filled with arts, each piece laid out with distinction, in multiple squares of a built-in wall gallery, with a well –groomed organic herbs and produce garden, regularly harvested for cooking classes. Nearby, a father drove the tractor-mower plowing the land, a toddler on his lap whom he enjoyed, and his baby squealed in laughter as he made turns to mow the grass.

This was the image seared in my mind, that I now recall while inside Thumbelina Designs, Inc. in Sherman Oaks, located in a row of french style boutiques, restaurants, jewelry stores, all fine handcrafted artisan made products in Los Angeles.

Each piece is a work of art, a fine amount of love stitched into each dress. The beaded work is so fine that there is not a piece out of place. She crafts them as if they are vintage pieces of art. Remember the French flea markets, where the vintage accessories remind you of the glorious days of Grace Kelly or of Monaco, from where we conjure images of understated elegance.

But I am in Los Angeles, yet Monaco’s flea markets seem vivid, as I glance at these finest accessories, finest in the way they were put together, the craftsmanship stellar and shouting the hundreds of man-hours that were put in to make them. Yet time is not of the essence, craftsmanship is!

A sense of style converges in her craft in terms of colors, patterns, beadwork, fabrics. With her careful hands, she designs them into fine pieces of artistic bouidoir. These talents are in the persona of a Filipina-American, Carlyn Nuyda – Callaway, all gifts from the Creator.

She humbly shares that she grew up watching 2008 National Artist Ben Cab paint nudes in the corner of her uncle’s house, Justin Nuyda, who is also a national artist of the Philippines.

Carlyn's vision is to bring Paris to Los Angeles, much like Carmen Salindong's dream bringing Little Paris to Pico by way of La Maison Du Pain Bakery.

Carlyn is familiar with the allure of Paris, having been exposed to the Parisian's lifestyle and ways by her fashionista mother, Rocio Nuyda, andher father.

She went to high school in De La Salle Zobel in Alabang, the school which recently had a Hollywood theme in their alumni reunion, organized by John Mina and John Davis. Her family taught her to temper her words, which she applied in her art, “ to purposefully leave out one element to be understated. “

Of course, her sensibilities were nurtured by the works of artists like Ogie Cordero, Ben Ferrales, Ramon Valera, whose gowns found space in her mom’s atelier in the Philippines. Even then, she knew what fine style wasand today, she would even say she learned from world-class artists, her mom and her lola.

She chuckled at imagining a design challenge, “ Give a piece of fabric andpair these masters: Rene Salud with Valentino, she is almost certain who would be the winner. Well, for us, we imagined the winner and his initials are…..

She graduated at Cal State University in Northridge to satisfy her parents’ desire for higher education. But, the artist’s calling was strong, so for a hobby, she started making tiaras. She could not find one that she likes to wear for her wedding, so she fashioned her own. Even her wedding gown had to be styled by Philippines-based designer, Rene Salud, 13 years ago. When your eyes have seen art, there is no going back.

We struck a convergence, my love for Rene Salud’s barongs, I donot own a single one, but wish I had one, for each time I bumped into John Mina with the latest Salud’s finest barongs at community events. The Salud name will stay with you once you see his work, just like Carlyn Nuyda-Callaway’s work.

Once you see her atelier, there is no going back, for now your sensibilities are aware and you declare that this is the finest craftsmanship one can find in Los Angeles. And of course, the consensus comes from her clients and how she has been featured in public: Julia Roberts wore her tiara when she got married, InStyle Magazine and Book on Weddings include her work, The View, Along Came Polly, Bridal Magazine, Wedding Bells and her accessories are part of designer’s collections and trunk shows: Amsale in New York, Vera Wang in New York, Monique Lhuillier in Los Angeles, even once in Barney’s New York.

She's been accepted at Ecole Lesage the house where all the designers assign their work to: House of Chanel, House of Dior, House of Ungaro, House of Balmain, to be the first Filipina master craftsman to learn the finest form of beadwork and embroidery. Come October next year,Carlyn, along with her two young daughters and Rocio, her mother will relocate, so Carlyn can learn the finest art of stitching garments, an artisan art that is slowly losing life among the next generations in Paris, but are now being protected by “ the authority," (aka “Par Affection” in Paris).

Carlyn is finding it difficult to learn the French language now but she will try her hand at learning the highest level of beadwork and embroidery andcraftsmanship from the master artisans in Paris.

To gain acceptance at Ecole Lesage, she had to go through hurdles to prove her merit, that she is already in a league of her own, though perhaps not quite validated with a certificate to be called a master artisan andcraftsman, like Valentino.

But soon, she will perhaps emulate the inspiration she's gained from the finest styles of Rene Salud and Valentino into her very own Nuyday-Callaway collection.

Behind her success, she has the full support and encouragement of her husband, Nathaniel Callaway, who watched her design her pieces andsaid, “ if Los Angeles wedding designers do not like your work, go to New York, they will know what is the finest."

Armed with a positive and winning attitude (thanks to the mentorship of Loida Nicolas Lewis) Carlyn took her tiaras to Amsale, who booked her first order, and to Vera Wang, who wanted their own look and booked the next order.

Thirteen years later, she has a thriving business with her own manager, five artisan garment makers (each with their own specialty). The rest is resplendent, luminous, fine works of arts, reminding me of what I saw were the finest at Nelie’s bedroom, in Jacquemart-Andre Museum in Paris, France and the National Museum of the Philippines, during a John Silva-guided tour.

Paris has indeed arrived in Thumbelina Designs, Inc. in Sherman Oaks. And this Sunday, I invited her to join me to eat breakfast at my favorite destination, our own Little Paris on Pico bakery, called La Maison du Pain, where art meets platinum flavors to create little morsels of love! Our Parisian dreams have converged.

And for, Carlyn, her world-class Filipino sensibilities will be merged with the finest Parisian artisan craftsmanship.


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