Written by Anna Chambers
Edited by Kara Apel
Columbia-area artist Bohumila Augustinova has made a name for herself in the "recyclable" fashion arena, but this Czech-born fashion designer and jeweler was making waves in the local arts scene before her fashions ever hit the runway.
She works exclusively with wire, metal and other unconventional materials, producing an unusual blend of art and clothing.
Augustinova, 35, manager of the museum shop at the Columbia Museum of Art, came to Columbia from the Czech Republic a little over 12 years ago.
She won the Runaway Runway fashion show in 2009 with a wedding dress made entirely out of plastic shopping bags. As a child in the Czech Republic, she frequently participated in costume contests with designs her mother created.
"I always won because my mom made the coolest costumes," Augustinova said.
Augustinova doesn't compete anymore but has turned her focus to creating wire-and-metal fashion designs and jewelry.
She recently sat down with the Carolina Reporter to discuss her work, her influences and what she thinks of the Columbia arts scene. Parts have been edited for brevity.
Were the arts a big influence in your life before you came to America?
Yes, always. Especially fashion.
What influenced you?
My mom. She always made clothes and our costumes. That was the main thing – was the costumes she made when we were kids. Like clothes, I could sew since I was like 8, but the way she made costumes, I always felt like nobody could do that like that. And I can still do that like she always have, but mine are different.
What did she make the costumes for?
Different masked balls and masquerade parties and stuff like that. …
One year I was a Baroque princess, and I had a big, white powdered wig with like feathers and pearls in it and a big fan, and she made it all, like that was all made from scratch.
Is that what influences you in your Runaway Runway stuff?
Not necessarily Runaway Runway because I make fashion sculpture anyway. Like I just made for this big show two wire dresses. That's not recycle, that is a brand new wire, but that's what I like to do. …
How did you get into making jewelry? Is that sort of the fashion part?
It was a very interesting story where I was visiting back home one summer and one of my friends was running this summer camp for moms with little children, like preschoolers, really small children. And in order for me to see her, I had to go there for a few days. So I grabbed my niece that was the perfect age and went there for three days just to hang out, and it was like in a little cabin, you know, like a summer camp. And when the kids were taking their like after-lunch naps or when they went to bed, they were teaching different craft classes, and so they teach us; one of the classes was working with wire, and I picked it up, and it felt immediately like that's what I should be doing. …
What else do you like to work with? What other materials?
I don't like to work with fabric, so anything that's different. I like to work with materials that are challenging to work with, you know? Plastic is fun; metal is a lot of fun for me. I think metal; I actually would love to take blacksmithing class and, you know, stuff like that.
What is your opinion on arts as a whole in Columbia? I know a lot of people will be like, Columbia is not really kind of a place for arts, but what do you think?
I think that, as small as this town is, the arts scene here is incredible. There's a lot of talent, there's a lot of great events, and I think that what's going on here, especially in the past few years, has been so great. A lot of big cities don't have so much art as we do here. And so many events, like the first Thursday on Main, it's all about art. The What's Love [festival and art show], I mean, what a great show, you know? And of course there's the museum, which is amazing, but this is not as much about the local art, you know, but no, I think the arts scene is really great here.
Do you think it has a big impact on the community?
I think so. I think it's getting stronger and stronger, too. And it's so cool because a lot of the artists like to work together here. It seems like, you know, it's a lot of collaborations and events that you do together, and I like that. It's not about competition here. I hope not.