UPDATE 3/7/19: Timpla will be launching their new Filipino cookbook/anthology at the end of the month! If you’re in the NYC area on March 31st, check it out!
Web page: https://nfknyc.splashthat.com/
The Baltimore Asian Pasifika Arts Collective is excited to introduce this new series in 2019. Our Artist Spotlight will introduce to our audience AAPI artists within community whose work shares incredible stories, has impacted their communities, and endeavors to affect change in their societies.
To kick off our inaugural Artist Spotlight, we present: Timpla!
We first met Kristina & Katrina Villavicencio, the artists behind Timpla, at Baltimore’s Charm City Night Market in September 2018. Heavily influenced by their Filipino heritage, they create bold and modern artwork with strong links to the past.
Interview with Timpla
Timpla began in 2015 as a monthly supper club featuring fine-dining expression of Filipino cuisine. The supper club had no more than ten guests per event, who sat around a tiny dining table in an old row house in Petworth. With limited resources but a fire to express our love for Filipino food and culture, Timpla gained much more exposure that we could have ever imagined. We grew to be featured in food-related media articles, pop-ups throughout the city, and became a contributor for a published cookbook on Filipino cuisine.
Our exposure to the power of telling our story through an artistic outlet pushed us to continue expressing ourselves past food — to include visual works and short stories. In 2018, we re-branded Timpla to be more art-centric and focused on immigration, defining family, indigenous history, and contemporary culture.
In the summer of 2005, we went to the Philippines for a three-month vacation. Before the trip ended, Lola pulled us aside and gave some important advice to keep in mind as we returned to our American lives: “Family is the most important thing. Never forget your ties to the Philippines and your culture.” That was the last advice we received from Lola. One month later, they discovered an aneurysm. Several weeks later, she was brought to surgery. Days later, she was listening to us from heaven.
We still remember those words and her voice like it was yesterday. We didn’t know at the time—but surely she did—that this advice was the most important lesson we would need to fully understand who we are and embrace where we came from.
Timpla is both an homage to our Filipino culture and Filipino-American upbringing; and an exploration of self-discovery through creativity.
On your Facebook page, Timpla is classified as a “Food and Beverage Company” but you also make art. Can you tell us more about your supper club series? How does that connect to the artwork you make?
We started off as a monthly supper club creating modern interpretations of Filipino cuisine. Katrina and I focused on the marketing, social media, event organization, and FOH (front-of-house service) for each event. Our other two teammates, Paolo and Aniceto, were chefs who created the menu, purchased ingredients, handled the food prep, and BOH (back-of-house service) for each event.
Each supper club featured a 5-course tasting menu that allowed the chefs to creatively express their study of food, culinary techniques, and unique seasonal ingredients. As they dabbled in the food portion, Katrina and I focused on designing the guest experience: the interior design and ambiance of the space, hosting and entertaining, and presenting the menu in a way that educated the guests on Filipino culture and our upbringing. Outside of the monthly supper clubs, we began writing stories about our love of food, our childhood, and created art that was based on all of it.
The success of the supper club enabled our chef partners to obtain dream jobs in the culinary field, which meant they no longer had time to pursue the supper club with us—what with their 12 hour shifts and 6-7 day work schedules. As a result, Katrina and I began to brainstorm new ways to stay creative and continue our mission of exploring Fil-Am culture past food. The solution was to focus on artwork and writing stories. If it wasn’t for the supper club and all that we learned in those two years, we would have never realized that people were as thirsty as we were to absorb immigrant stories and experiences. The artwork we create today would have never come to fruition.
Tell us about your background – are you immigrants, second generation, biracial? Does that impact your artwork? How so?
We are immigrants. We came here at the age of five and became citizens when we were 15. It does absolutely impact our artwork because we focus on Filipino culture and our immigrant upbringing. Growing up, our family raised us in a traditionally Filipino setting, while we learned how “to be American” through school, media, and friends. We dealt with an identity crisis of never being “Filipino enough” or “American enough.” Therefore, our artwork enables us to explore our multicultural upbringing and be proud of what it means to be an immigrant.
What do you hope to accomplish through Timpla?
We want to learn and preserve the beauty of Philippine culture while pushing the boundaries for immigrants in the US. We want to be the voice for people who are too often underrepresented, and we hope our stories will teach others why immigrants are essential to the American experience.
We want to continue creating original and unique work that inspires us, allows us to push boundaries, and enables infinite learning and exposure to the beauty of Philippine culture. In the long term, we hope the work we do today will foster bigger opportunities to become writers, artists, and advocates for immigration and cultural empathy.
As visual artists, do you have a favorite tool? (I.e. for digital artists, what software do you use? For traditional media, do you have a favorite brand/pen/marker/etc?)
As mixed- and multi-media artists, our tools are more content-based than tool-based. Books that we often reference when making artwork are:
● Filipino Tattoos Ancient to Modern, by Lane Wilcken
● An Introduction to Baybayin, by Kristian Kabuay
Additionally, we interview family members and friends about their journey of coming to America, and closely follow immigrant issues to write our reactions to them.
Are you working on any new projects right now? Can you tell us about them?
We are currently working on a book launch event in NYC for The New Filipino Kitchen on Saturday, March 30. We will send you the Eventbrite page and details once they’re finalized :)
How does your artwork incorporate Filipino culture? How does it incorporate American culture?
Our artwork focuses on aspects of Filipino culture, including indigenous symbols and tribal tattooing, baybayin (indigenous written language), contemporary environmental issues, and beautiful Philippine landscapes. On the other hand, our stories focus on our Fil-Am upbringing and assimilation into American culture, and our thoughts on immigrant issues.