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Crafti Babii and the Artistic Beauty of Filipinx American Heritage through Sustainable Art

Photo: Ashley Villanueva @lustingforlight
Caralie Wegeng on January 28, 2023 in Sacramento, CA. The printmaker, jeweler, and founder of Crafti Babii works with recycled materials to promote environmental sustainability. Photo: Ashley Villanueva @lustingforlight

Caralie Wegeng is a Sacramento-based printmaker and jeweler on a journey to foreground the beauty of Filipinx American experiences through environmentally sustainable art.

Wegeng founded Crafti Babii in January 2022 after connecting with the grassroots organization Sacramento Filipinx LGBTQIA+, or Sac Fil. Their work continues a process of artistic introspection fueled by an ardent curiosity about their intersectional Filipinx American heritage and identity.

“I’ve grown up in a Filipino American culture,” Wegeng emphasized. “This exploration is definitely influential in my art. I didn’t go into Crafti Babii intentionally doing this. It’s just very intuitive.”

Wegeng channels their intuition into pieces that beautifully capture the gentle nostalgia of Filipinx Americana. Block prints of guava leaves and calamansi evoke the healing power of Philippine plants; lumpia and chili sauce prints attached to upholstered canvas conjure diasporic memories of grandmothers’ kitchens; handheld fan (pamaypay) prints are mounted on recycled paper Wegeng Eco dyes themselves with berries and dead flowers.

“I don’t want to throw it away because it can turn into something really beautiful,” Wegeng said.

This last medium reflects Wegeng’s attempts to bridge their artistic sensibilities with scholarly interests that culminated in a master’s degree in water and environmental law from the University of the Pacific.

“Right now, a lot of my work relates to Filipino culture. But one thing I would like to communicate in my art is that I’m really passionate about environmental sustainability in terms of supporting biodiversity by supporting native plants,” they said. “I’m still working on that connection, and I’ve been patient with it because it relates to my desire to make art more accessible.”

Photo: @lustingforlight

To this end, Wegeng started vending their wares at pop-ups around Sacramento in February 2022. Since then, Crafti Babii has opened an online store on Etsy and sells prints at Queer Shoppe on Sacramento’s Stockton Blvd. This is just the beginning for Crafti Babii.

Wegeng credits Sac Fil with giving them a platform to expand their artistic selves more fully. Sac Fil also introduced them to peers who validate their multifaceted identities.

“I’ve been around the queer community for the first time in my life, and it’s been really refreshing,” Wegeng said of their ongoing self-discovery. “I’m around so many queer Filipinos now, learning my own personal history and uplifting and empowering the people I love in the community.”

This love translates into another of Crafti Babii’s current endeavors to promote the beauty of dark-skinned Filipinx women of all shapes and sizes. Wegeng recently shared a painting of an Austronesian Filipina with ancestral tattoos to their social media page, hoping to expand the piece into a series. Wegeng described how their mother is one of the principal inspirations for this latest project.

“My mom is dark and beautiful,” Wegeng said. “Her beauty and the beauty of other dark-skinned women have been totally underestimated and just absolutely trashed.”

Wegeng asserts that beginning their education in Philippine and Filipinx American histories in 2016 motivated them to share as much of this newfound knowledge as possible.

“It’s the connecting part. It’s just having the conversations,” Wegeng explained. “If I can do a little part to promote that beauty — it’s vital to me.”

Crafti Babii manifests Wegeng’s sincere love for their cultural identity into tangible, accessible art. Wegeng assures others looking to take a similar artistic leap that an energizing cycle of revalidation awaits.

“I’ve been making this Filipino art that’s been really inspiring,” Wegeng said. “I’m inspiring myself. We should do that. Inspire yourself to make more and connect it to something personal.”

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