I was born and raised in China and I am currently a textile artist-in-residence at the Harbourfront Centre Studio in Toronto. I came to Canada to pursue an art education at the OCAD University and graduated in 2009 and received a BD (Bachelor Degree) in Fibre.
Q Where in the world are you based?
I am living in downtown Toronto now, a very dynamic multiple cultural atmosphere city.
Q How did you decide to become a maker?
It took me for awhile to figure out that I want to participate in the craft field, and eventually consider myself as a craft maker. Here is the long story: I was studying advertising in the first year in university and I realized that I am not into the program at all; I am not an advertising person style. When I was struggling at that time, I saw the MAAD (Material art & design) program thesis student doing the fundraising sale in the lobby one day; they made things like the little crochet creatures, purses, dyed scarves, ring, coffee mugs, etc. I spent quite a long time there, picking up everything and look at them, that gave me delight!
To make some beautiful things by your hand and sell them, people happy because they like it; as well as the makers happy because they know people like it. Things become simple and back to the original way, is it the most wonderful thing? I bought a crochet birdie ornament from the sale and I think that might be the reason that finally made me decided to change my program! Indeed, if you don’t like something but you are still doing it, it will be a torture and pointless. I have no regret that I’m doing craft now, it is the best thing I’d like to do as my career.
Q Do you create your work in a studio base or a home base?
I work in the studio mostly. I am the current textile artist in residence at the Toronto Harbourfront centre. The craft department there provide a studio each for the textile, glass, ceramic and jewellery, for the emerging artists and designers. The studios also create a strong craft community and good working atmosphere there. It is a great transition place for those who just graduated from school and start the independent craft career like me.
I work at home too since I need to spend lot of time for hand embroidery. I know it’s not a good habit but it’s enjoyable—pick a good movie and start embroidery.
In the second year of MAAD( Material art and design) program in OCAD university, students have to take all fibre, ceramic and metal intro courses. That allows us to have a chance to experience the different materials of these categories and then choose the one that most suitable (or comfortable) for each student to focus. My works express my feeling about differences in culture, as well as nostalgia for my own Chinese heritage. My works are mainly focused on screen-printing and embroidery and they help me to visualize the concept freely, easily and directly.
Q What are you working on at the moment?
I finished school last year and I had a few series of work so far. They are all made from a narrative perspective expressing my feelings about cultural impact. In my new work, I will continue to develop this concept. I’d like to bring the old and the traditional into contemporary pieces, meanwhile showing where the Western & Eastern elements melt together – their melting point.
Craft is everywhere in the 21st Century. Craft shows in the furniture pieces; craft shows in the fashion, craft shows in the industry products, craft shows in the art galleries, craft shows in the luxury culture, etc. The term “craft” has the different meaning than the old time - craft is not just represent the traditional skill and have to only come with the functional things; but also, craft acting as a medium to reflect our social value. It’s blurring the boundaries between art, design and craft today. Like me and my studio fellows, we make craft-art pieces and meanwhile we make craft-design items. However, we have to admit that it is really a niche market for craft; it’s very unique but small. It always needs people and the society’s appreciation and support. Craft melding into the different disciplines is the way to survive.
Q How do you sell and promote your work?
I mostly participate the sale shows and juried exhibitions to get exposure at this early stage. I also sell some of my functional items (toy dolls and cushions) in Distill and Bounty. They are two of the biggest stores in Toronto that provide a selling opportunity to Canadian artists.
Q 3 words of advice for an aspiring Craft artist/maker...
Passion, love life & appreciation.
Q What inspires you?
My Chinese background, childhood, nostalgia, the impact of the different cultures, urban life, my working environment…
Q 3 things that you hate?
Maybe I say something that I don’t like? Hate, Beet, No time to sleep
Q Who is/are your favourite artist(s)/maker(s)?
It will be a long list for this question!
The most inspired one is Zhang Xiaogang – the Chinese contemporary artist. He was born in 1958 and was influenced by a period of Cultural Revolution during his youth. His surrealist paintings are a perfect reflection of the period. It conjures the depressive atmosphere of the time. Dorie Millerson’s needlepoint is also a favourite. Most of her work is tiny and deals with memory, nostalgia, defining home and identity. The lace work brings her memories and moments of attachment to life with their delicate shapes.
Also here are the other artists I like: Ron Mueck, Yayoi Kusama, Yoshitomo Nara, Julie Moon, Lyn Carter, David R. Harper, Ai Weiwei.
Q What do you do to relax?
Take a walk in my neighbourhood and shopping at the vintage stores.