degree project // My blood is proof they exist
September 20th, 2017
its like 10pm, not even that late but I have a meeting with my advisor tomorrow morning and i want to show her more work so i have to stay awake. also I'm writing like my dad who puts his entire message in the subject line of his emails...
What should I write here that I haven't already written in my personal journals? I suppose this is just another space for me to keep a record of my degree process. Hmm, why do I feel the need to display this in a digital realm? I don't have a Snapchat and my Instagram has been accumulating dust since the day I downloaded it. Somehow, adding my thoughts in this space feels different. My friend Jun started a personal blog for his thesis and it was a meditative way for him to document progress.... And now he's working for Issey Miyaki (@#$!!!!) so something must have gone right. Everything --sketches, fabric samples, presentation boards, readings, video clips, and miscellaneous adventures-- will rest harmoniously in one place. Until the electricity disappears.
So far, I've narrowed down the context of my work (interior installations for an adoptee house in Beijing) but am having a difficult time coming up with imagery to match. Does my work have to be imaged-based? Could it simply be material and color? There needs SOME sort of visual order though. I'm making this more painful than it needs to be. Instead of closing myself off, trying to come up with justifications and a formula to make images... I should just let the images happen. On another note, why is there a "Like" button at the bottom of this page? I don't want the worth of these entries to become a "popularity" contest. Has this Facebook "Like-Me" mindset invaded every single crevice of the Internet? What an bother, I'll have to find a way to get rid of it.
Okay, getting back on track-- I told myself I'd compress three weeks worth of research into this post.
Over the summer, I volunteered on a goat and sheep farm two hours away from Seattle. On my breaks, I used my free time to brainstorm thesis topics. At this point, I didn't have a clear idea to what my focus should be, and I certainly didn't know what to make. I love watching science/political documentaries however, and I find my work most fulfilling when I can bring unusual or unsung stories to people's attention. A friend who graduated from Pratt Fashion told me one of her classmates based her collection on narratives written about or by women in the Bible. What an intriguing subject. So I started Googling "Top 10 Female Badasses in History" and I read a bunch of interesting narratives. But it felt too random. How does this have any personal connection? Should I narrow my search to "Top 10 Female Badasses in China" since I'm adopted from China? Would that make it more meaningful? Should I narrow it to "Top 10 Female Badasses in Science" since I like science? What am I doing? Choosing topics out of a hat. The topics were engaging but the way I arrived to these ideas felt insincere.
It took me until mid August to realize what I needed to do. I was in Japan (not that my location had anything to do with it, but the fact that I was in a foreign country seems important for some reason. Maybe because I was surrounded by Asian people, living with my Japanese friend's family) and I saw a Facebook post on a Chinese adoptee community group I belong to that stunned me.
Then Cherry and I started Skype calling. And now I'm making textiles for the space. Oh, and I got a WeChat so we could communicate more fluidly. And this is the framework for my senior degree project. Yay.
So then I wrote a proposal and sent it to my advisor. And gave a presentation of my research to my department faculty when I came back to school.
So now I'm in the midst of gathering materials (I've been contacting a bunch of spinners from my home state because I want to support the local fiber industry in Washington) and figuring out imagery. That's the road block I'm in. I know I'm making installations. And I've had all these concepts -migration, diaspora, crossings, homecomings- bumping around my skull, but no tangible colors/textures/patterns have emerged to give visual context these ideas. Okay, I watched Dreamworks Prince of Egypt with my roommate. A Biblical adoption narrative... Is it the oldest adoption narrative ever recorded? And was looking at photos of famous pilgrimages, majority of which are also coincidentally religious. But. What. What does this say about OUR adoptions? OUR Chinese heritage? Do we even have a heritage? I feel as culturally removed from China as any other non-Chinese person would.
All while this has been happening, this post passed through my Facebook Newsfeed:
And I thought oh, that's interesting. And carried on about my week.. Then tonight, as I was (still am) panicking about what drawings I show to my advisor for our meeting tomorrow morning, I went back to the adoptee Facebook group for ideas. And it popped up again. The girl's post about blood. And for some reason it made me cry. So now I'm listening to "Guzheng & Erhu Zen Music" instrumentals on YouTube. And typing. That's where I'm at.
Quick update: I bought a book called "Blood: The Stuff Of Life" by Lawrence Hill 5 minutes ago. This is what will keep my research going throughout the semester. Suddenly, I'm feeling motivated again!
October 8th, 2017
second entry: In which i finally have my warps threaded...
The junior class has already gone through three weeks of sampling. And I've just now finished threading my first two warps..... Oh lord, has senioritis already kicked in? It's only the second month into the school year...
Eventually, this tangle of fibers will turn into a woven doorway.
November 11th, 2017
There is a cluster of people drunkingly cheering outside my apartment. I feel the urge to open my window and cheer with them, but it's 30 degrees outside and being comfortably tucked in the covers of my bed has lead me to decide otherwise.
I'm on the mailing list of Fiber Arts Now! and saw this blurb about an exhibition in Massachusetts called "Gender Bend: Women in Wood, Men at the Cloth" featuring female woodturners and male tapestry artists. Fuller Craft Museum, eh? Never heard of it. That's exciting. Let's go on an adventure! Taking a collaborative furniture/textiles class, it seemed like a fitting reason to take a day off from studio work and attending the opening. My friend in furniture and I tried contacting our respective department coordinators to get funding to take a bus over, but alas, the buses RISD owned were getting a deep clean that day due to a Halloween party that took place the night before. (Why does theme of intoxication seem to permeate this post?) Given short notice, the only option was a $45 Uber ride so if this exhibition turned out to be a bust, I would apologize profusely to my friends for having dragged them with me. Luckily that wasn't the case. The Craft Museum turned out to be larger than expected (two floors of exhibition spaces with enormous ceilings, glass walls, and an open courtyard that overlooked a secluded, woodsey pond.) I'd put photos in, but my phone died en route to the museum. In any case, we had just arrived in time for for the curators Eric Riis and Tib Shaw's presentations. Once my friend sends me photos, I'll post them here.
In the meantime, I've finished the woven doorway and started designing a jacquard to hang on one of the walls of the guesthouse. I'll weave my first trial tomorrow. This is what the graphic looks like! Lots of watercoloring, digital painting, collaging, and programming.
Okay! Got the photos. Fuller Craft Museum Below:
December 14th, 2017
Sitting in DenDen, with a barking dog at the register. it's my final review tomorrow before going home for the holidays. it's surreal that 2017 is almost at its end..
Ten minutes ago I was in the weaving studio, exchanging Secret Santa gifts with my studio mates. Before that, I was in one of the furniture department buildings, picking up my partner's and my knitted foam chair. The studio was completely empty, save for a diligent sophomore who had finished his semester two days ago but had come back to start on a personal project. Stackable crochet stools in the shape of astronaut rockets. When I feel a day has been unproductive, I think backwards. How did I get to where I am now? Where was I before? What was occupying my time at that moment? I met with my advisor Mary Anne to discuss preparation for tomorrow's presentation. I showed her the final jacquard I had woven.
Earlier in the week, I had been talking with a friend in furniture who was going to build a wooden frame for my piece in order to transform it into a screen divider. However, we'll probably put that idea on hold until I can create a more suitable fabric because my design is a bit too narrow for the width of frame I want. Forget window curtains, forget the felting. I'll just keep making jacquards over the winter term. More jacquards for the wall. More jacquards for screen dividers. And maybe some Stoll knits for furniture. Keep thinking about narrative imagery. Aaron Douglas is the goal. What an incredible painter.
January 2nd, 2018
The "Hallmark Adoption Card narrative" rears its sickly head again, this time in the form of a New York Times Article by a vapid adoptive parent with his head in the sand.
As disagreeable as I found the article to be, it was worth reading because it demonstrated how willfully ignorant the adoption community is in the West.
Look, whenever you have predominately white wealthy people swooping into countries crippled by political/economic/social unrest and paying a shit ton of $$$ to take their kids out, it is going to cause problems. Lots of problems. Not for the happy families of course, but for the countries that are supplying the children. Despite efforts by the Hague Convention to ensure no improper financial would be derived from an intercountry adoption, widespread corruption within government operations, coercing mothers to relinquish their children to orphanages, and outbreaks of child trafficking flew unchecked... Until accusations and investigations surfaced, and targeted countries had to revise or shut down international adoption programs all together. So please, please, PLEASE. For the sake of the birthparents, the children and the ability for the birth country to have any real shot at self-determination: it's imperative that we read adoption narratives with a critical eye and hold each other accountable for serious oversight. For anyone considering international adoption, I beg you to read this short history on international adoption and the moral implications below:
Thank the lord for a paltry handful of commenters who've actually done their research.
And with final words, from the US State Department ---
January 11th, 2018
smog, constellations, and charcoal drawing with "details" by wouter hamel playing in the background
I watched the documentary, "Under The Dome" and have been doing dozens of drawings in response to the ecological concerns the film addresses. My hope is that these images will give me content to work from for my next jacquard.
January 18th, 2018
don't beat a dead horse. when the work feels stale, start over. you'll find a way to make up for lost time
is what I'm telling myself. I have a jacquard slot on Friday, it's 2:39am Thursday. I spent this past weekend (+MLK day) finalizing the "smog" layout, yet... Everything about it felt. Off. Wrong. No matter how many times I altered the colors or changed the layout, the entire piece felt dead. There was no way to make it read the way I wanted. So, it was time to put the smog to rest. After going back to my notes and doing some rapid-fire contour drawings for 20 minutes, a completely different message emerged and a new layout suddenly fell into place.
Also, thought I should share a few short stories I read this evening. Each of these stories are only a paragraph or two long, but they are mesmorizing....
1. A Letter To My Father
A letter written by a Chinese adoptee to her adoptive father whose parents divorced during her college years. She hasn't spoken to him in a long time due to feelings of confusion and hurt, but she is telling him what it was like to go back and work in China for 3 years and how she feels about their relationship now.
2. My Birthplace Became A Reality
A Bangladeshi adoptee who goes back to her birth country on a mission trip and talks about how she was treated by her other coworkers
3. You Can Go Home Again
A humorous, heartwarming story about an absurdly self-aware little 8 year old adoptive boy and his excitement to go back to China with his adoptive family and see his home country for the first time. Written by his mother.
4. Chinese girls return to orphanage 14 years after adoption by US families to highlight plight of ‘left-behinds’
(This one is an article written by a reporter, and is not affiliated with the series above so it technically doesn't count as a "short story" but... the girls were adopted when they were like, 10 and couldn't speak English when they came to China so it's an unusual perspective! They've gone back to volunteer in their orphanage since then and this article details their experience working at the orphanage.)
February 4th, 2018
19 days left until the final critique. The end is near, but this project will keep evolving.
Things I've finished so far: The woven doorway, the 1st narrative jacquard, the fluffy furniture set
Things I still have to do: Weave the final length for the 2nd narrative jacquard, start the layout for my 3rd jacquard
There are still more components I'd like to see realized. Like having textiles for the windows, carpeting, other furniture objects, etc. RISD is almost over but the project will keep evolving.
Below: Some development shots from the past few weeks leading up to the final furniture collection for the guesthouse.
In China, it is illegal for parents to bring their children to an orphanage, so parents would secretly leave their child in a public location and police would find them and bring them to the orphanages.I was left on a road next to a river leading up to a large park. Many of my adopted friends also told me they were found in parks. I knew I wanted the furniture collection to reference these "finding locations." I also wanted the furniture to function like a puzzle system, with each piece of seating appearing as separate unit, but when fitted together. appear unified and whole. All of us adoptees living in separate countries, but connected by our origins in China and ending up in this guesthouse. An adoptee homecoming.
In between studio work I made time to visit Slater Mill in Pawtucket for a fiber festival and collect seaweed with a friend for her furniture project.