As a Textile designer, I had a great experience working with various large companies in Colombia. I was a certified Textile Inspector at SGS and Bureau Veritas Colombia, the world’s leading inspection, verification, testing, and Certification Companies. These experiences provided me with the opportunity to learn about marketing and advertising, as well as the ability to work with some of the biggest Colombian companies in this field such as Efectimedios S.A., and Grupo Latino de Publicidad. I also had the opportunity to run my own advertising company. Over dinner one night, my husband and I made the decision to move to Canada to improve our quality of life. We applied as professional skilled workers and waited for almost five years to get permanent resident status. I was convinced that in Canada I would be even more successful than I was in Colombia. When I arrived in Canada I realized that establishing myself as a professional worker was not as easy as I thought it would be. I started to get frustrated and depressed. I had to face many difficult challenges associated with being a newcomer, including learning a new culture and a new language. Rebuilding my life from the ground up was not a simple endeavour.
The early stages of my eco-art journey began while I was living in Canada. One day, by chance, I happened upon disposed material from a textile company. I identified multiple garbage bags filled to the brim with unused Karate belts that the company had deemed unsellable. During my previous life as a textile designer, my favorite subject was Experimental Technique in fibers, which focused on the creation of items using materials with rouge, organic, and wool textures. I called upon my previous work experience and started to design and create unique colorful bags and wallets made entirely from the recycled Karate belts that I had found. It brought me a sense of contentment and joy knowing that my products were created in an environmentally conscious manner. With the income generated from selling various handmade eco-friendly products, I was able to purchase two industrial sewing machines. After that, a very good friend of mine helped me to set up an event called Splash Winter with Colour in downtown Toronto to promote and sell my bags. That day, the reception and appreciation for my bags were overwhelming, I sold around 60 units. My second product was organic jewelry made of citrus wasted peels, and months later I was invited to join a non-profit Canadian art organization, Raw Artist, which has helped me to build my brand and extend my audience throughout North America. Toronto’s acceptance and support of my art and my vision gave me the courage to follow my passion and strive to make a positive difference in the world through my continued creation of eco-art.
After 3 years in Canada working with persistence and perseverance as an environmentally conscious artist, accompanied by my greatest frustration “English”, motivated by my 5 years old son, I decided to volunteer at my son’s school, Blessed Trinity Catholic School, which gave me the opportunity to volunteer doing art workshops for their students. During this time in my life, I was having a very difficult time learning the English language so my biggest priority was to practice my language skills so I could be a better advocate and ambassador for my textile work. Through my volunteer experience I found an environment that enabled me to improve my English but I also unexpectedly discovered a new vocation. I was utterly captivated by the love, solidarity, and passion of the children of whom I had the privilege of working with. Bearing witness to their desire to learn and to help me, was a life-altering experience for me. A few months later, I decided to act upon the inspiration gifted to me by both my own son and the children at Blessed Trinity Catholic School. I began brainstorming and eventually designing an Eco-Art program for kids, Orfe eco-art program was born with the support of my husband, my son, and the director of the Blessed Trinity Ms. Beverly Lawrence.
The Orfe EcoArt program has now been successfully included in the educational communities of several Catholic and Public schools in Toronto, Canada.