A college professor once told me, critically with a red pen, that my writing style was archaic and bland -- mainly because I preferred using words like "whilst" and "amidst". As an Art of the Renaissance and History of Fashion professor, I was surprised she didn't appreciate my subtly-stylish-nod-to-history choice of words. No matter, her criticism didn't deter me from writing like a first edition that came off a Gutenberg press centuries ago.
In all honesty, I'm not a writer. Not a chic writer. Not a well-versed or well-rounded writer. I have a fear of words, and every time I write, I worry whether my thoughts are conveyed clearly and concisely to my audience (as taught by my high school English teachers -- who were all excellent by the way), or if the words are arranged like a garbage pile found in a back alley somewhere. This, however, never stopped me from writing with the occasional dollop of sarcasm and humor. Never comedic outright, though, because I was forbidden by Mother Dearest to be a comedian when I was a child -- though the infamy that some comedians have achieved through YouTube might have changed her mind at some point in time cause she’s now seldomly laughing at jokes I make (or maybe she’s laughing at me directly — it’s hard to tell).
With all this said, and with your persistence and bravery to continue reading on, I want thank everyone who has supported me this far despite my culturally-embedded, self-deprecating humor, and struggles as an artist with depression. I've come to a point in my artist life where I feel a need to document my progress and thoughts in order to understand how much progress I've made, and to understand the scope of my artistic undertaking (or for the optimists, endeavors). It's easy for one to say that they are an artist. It's much harder to say and understand why.
While submitting to a call for art, I was required to submit a three-hundred-and-ten character artist statement about my work. Not 310 words (which I had originally thought), but 310 characters. Artist statements, as described online by various sites, is just an introductory paragraph clearly and concisely describing the work that you do, why you do it, and what inspired you. I spent 2 hours staring at a website offering artist statement advice and outlines, while physically jotting down notes on a notepad the traditional tactile way. How am I to fit a universe-worth of ideas into 310 characters? I was tempted to submit ASCII art in the shape of a unicorn, but figured that it wouldn't be very professional or beneficial to my submission. Instead, I submitted a short blurb proving that I'm an artist who can write clear sentences that briefly introduce my work.
"Moss pincushions are my way of combining the textile skills taught passed down to me by the women in my family with my own textile and fiber skills that I’ve learned so far. My family history and the hardships they endured as Vietnam War refugees are the main influence for these needle-felted wool sculptures."
Through this submission, I discovered my reason for creating with textiles and fiber. I wasn't just dissecting natural forms to create fiber sculptures. I was using the knowledge that three generations of women have passed down to me. Every time I create, it's like keeping their spirit and stories alive even though time continues on. The realization was:
"Pincushions are my way of combining the skills taught passed down to me by the women in my family with my own textile and fiber skills that I’ve learned so far. Great Grandma taught me how to crochet. Grandma taught me how to knit. And Mum taught me how to sew. It’s also a way of coping with the passing of my grandparents and keeping their maker spirit alive.
My family and the hardships they endured as Vietnam War refugees is the main influence in my work. Second-hand objects are used in my sculptural work because as a child, that’s all we could afford. To me, thrift shopping was like taking an unwanted object from someone’s past and giving it a second chance at a new life -- similar to my family having a second chance at life in America.
Through the use of wool and needle-felting, creating these pieces of everlasting nature is in honor of those memories, stories, and moments in time that I’ve been blessed to share with those who risked everything to give me a better future."
Like nature, the world around us is ever-changing and evolving. We have a limited time on this world so the idea of creating an everlasting piece of nature is my wish to pause time -- to prolong those conversations I used to have with Grandma about her early life. To sit with Grandpa in the backyard while he soaks and cuts banana leaves to make sticky rice cakes. To keep those memories of Great Grandma complimenting me on my first attempt at crocheting a butterfly, which looked more like a pancake, fresh. To stare at these woolen moss scenes is to remember a moment in time when nothing else seemed to matter.
The older generations are slowly passing on, and there is never enough time to spend with family. The least I can do is create these everlasting sculptures to honor the memories, skills, and stories they’ve shared with me.