Badawang Art was born almost by accident. Maybe it was fate. I never planned to own a retail art gallery/boutique. During the 80's I was a working artist, holding three jobs when, in 1989, I went overseas for the first time with my mother.
My mother, who was a teacher and world traveler, took me on a buying trip to Bali, Indonesia. When I stepped off the plane , I had an epiphany. I was in my element. There was no turning back. I was just enthralled. After that trip, I decided to travel again and again. I could not get enough of the education I was receiving from travel. I explored new cultures, their art, their food, their ceremonies and traditions. I was so taken by the traditional textiles, jewelry, masks, dances, music, food and the people. In Art school, it had been African, Far Eastern and Modern Art that had captured my imagination. Now I was actually experiencing some of it first hand. I explored, collected and designed things to bring back. My mother and I took some momentous trips to Bhutan, Tibet, Nepal, Cambodia and Bali. I did some of my travel with my mother, but most of it was done alone and that in itself, opened up a whole new world. Each trip was a personal journey and it added to my education about the areas I went to, the people, the art, the culture and ultimately changed me. To date, I have taken over 35 trips overseas to research, create and buy treasures that I find exotic, sophisticated and elegant.
After my first trip, I started a little business out of my apartment in Cleveland Heights, Ohio. I found that people wanted the things I had brought back for myself. Not thinking that it would really turn into a living, I starting selling things out of my home, doing small evening showings by appointment. Soon store displays took over my dining room and living room. People would be trying on clothing in my bedroom that I had brought back from the Far East. Large crates started to arrive from Asia, taking over my living room.
I got laid off from my gallery management job and decided it was time to open a real gallery/boutique of my own. Even though I had no formal training in business, I had worn so many hats in the jobs that I had worked at up until that point, somehow I knew I had enough experience to make it on my own. My passion for what I was doing was what guided me. My background in art and design would surely help me in this endeavor.
Badawang Art moved into the Murray Hill School in Cleveland's Little Italy in 1991. Little Italy is a well known destination area in Cleveland, Ohio, being the home of over 30 galleries and studios. Badawang started out in the lower level of the old school house, which was renovated for commercial space. It had been the old boiler room of the school. It was actually underground, with high windows and pipes running through the ceiling. Lots of character. I was bringing back an eclectic mix of masks, jewelry, handicrafts and wearables from my trips at that time. Asian art of this kind was not in mainstream American stores yet. I started designing fabric for a line of clothing exclusive to Badawang Art and having other handicrafts custom made for the gallery. I was living my dream come true. Working in the arts, traveling, designing and collecting incredibly beautiful things from America and all the way to the Far East.
The location of Cleveland's Badawang offered me room to have regular evening openings. Many a Friday night was spent hosting new exhibits from a recent trip to the Far East. I presented a slide show of my travels, food and wine. Our Friday night openings were memorable, hip, social, shopping events.
In 1997, Badawang moved upstairs in the Murray Hill School to the main floor with a whole new look. With the help of my artist friends and neighbors, we designed and built the new store with it's fixtures. This room also had huge windows, high ceilings, a wood floor and lots of charm. We had fabulous openings, benefits and slide shows from 1997 to 2004 in this location. There were seasonal Art Walks in Cleveland, that still happen. Thousands of people come out to visit the thirty art galleries/studios and enjoy Little Italy's restaurants and bakeries three weekends out of the year.
In 2004 Badawang Art moved to Summit, New Jersey, where it now has a storefront on the street level. Summit is a wonderful walking town, near the mid-town direct train to New York City. After twenty years, I still follow my passion, continuing to hunt for the most unique handmade treasures from around the world. I still support artists and small businesses like my own in the USA and around the world. I feel it is paramount to support women, small cottage industries, fair trade and creative, ethical people who keep our traditional arts alive globally. We need to keep our Artist-Handmade Industries alive and well. Now you can visit Badawang Art in Summit, NJ or shop online !
Carol Schoffmann, Owner and Curator of Badawang Art