Interview with Vivian Yang by Amy Hamerly on 10.11.12
Vivian is currently a senior attending Universtiy of Washington in Seattle. She started her art journey as a freshman at University of Oregon, but soon moved back to her home state and dove into fiber arts. She was kind enough to let me interview her on a late Saturday evening over hot sake. Q: Have you always been interested in the arts? A: No, I actually started out… oh well… I’ve always liked doing art, but in high school I started out doing engineering and architecture. And then took some art classes my freshman year of college at university of Oregon. And then later found out more about fibers. And then I really really got into art because of fibers. Fibers art and um… I was good at it. And of course once you’re good at something, you want to do more of it. So does that answer your question?
Q: So do you prefer more of the hands on stuff vs like thinking about art concepts, like what is art.. you just want to get your hands dirty and start making things?.. A: I do like making things. Thinking about it… concepts…. I don’t think about it... I will think about how to make my pattern but I don’t think about, oh what does this piece mean to me, you know? I like creating something aesthetically.
Q: Can you tell me about some of the classes you’ve taken at the UW? A: My first year at UW it was my very first fiber class.. I learned how to dye fabric and do some silk screening and some embroidery. It really opened my eyes to color. I love working with different colors. And dye like totally did that for me. I can create whatever color I want to with the dye.
And then printing… I didn’t like printing at first, cause clean up was really like you had to clean so much, and get so many things ready. But once I got into it and figured out what I wanted to print, I really really like silk screening.
Then later on, winter term, I took a term off from fibers and went to sculpture, but during that time, my sculpture class… I was missing fibers; I was missing working with fabric. So I try to incorporate fabric into my metal sculpture pieces. That’s when I made the metal embroidery hoop.
So last spring, I took the intermediate surface design and I also took a weaving class. Weaving is okay. The process is tedious. It’s not my type… maybe I need to take another one.. I don’t know. I’m not that into it yet. I’ve been looking into different types of weaving and there’s this Japanese one called “saori”. It’s kinda like messy weaving, where you make mistakes on purpose. Then you have that texture, you have a different… like strings pulled out. And that’s the type of weaving that I want to do.
Then my intermediate fabrics class… we learned a technique called photo emulsion. Where you can print basically any image you want and make it a permanent stencil on your silkscreen and then use that to print on your fabric. So with that I could do things really detailed or I could do circles. Doing circles are the hardest part. Cause it’s really hard to cut out a perfect circle. Having that photo emulsion really helped. And then I loved doing silk screening after that. There’s so many things that I can do with silk screening and printing and stuff.
And then I have always loved doing discharge on my fabrics. Removing color. So I start out with a really dark color and then print with a discharge, which removes the color. Whatever comes out you don’t know what comes out. It depends on the dye that you use. Like maybe if I … mostly I start out with green, and then when I use the discharge, then yellow will show up.
Q: It seems like brown and black would make interesting results for the discharge, cause you never know what makes them… because you can make blacks and browns so many different ways? A: Oh yeah yeah yeah, exactly. There are so many different blacks. The one that we use is called New Black and it’s a black with a red tint to it. So when you dye black by itself, you can tell that it’s a reddish black. You have to do something with it, to even it out, to make it a solid black. Then we also got into pattern design and how to print a pattern. Some people printed very straightforward patterns, which is just like the… brick. I did the brick also, but I wanted mine to look more organic. But not as straight and narrow and not as exact. So that was my way of printing a pattern.
Q: What’s one of your favorite dying methods? Are there different methods of dying? Or do you pretty much just dye one way? A: Oh there’s lots of different, there’s lots of ways to dye your fabric. We started out with shibori, which is another name for tie-dye basically. Where you use rubber bands as resists… you can use anything you want as resists… rubber bands, paperclips, staples, um.. a part was a folding clamp where you can cut out a piece of wood into a shape you like and … one of my classmates cut out a shape of a cat and he folded the fabric and used the two pieces of wood and clamp it together. And use c-clamps to hold the wood nice and tight against the fabric. Then you just put it in a dye bath and he came out with all those cat shapes. The first one wasn’t as successful because it wasn’t tight enough. So the second time, he used c-clamps and it was really tight so it came out good.
Q: Does it matter how long you soak it in the dye when you do that? A: So what you do is you get your fabric prepared… so if you’re gonna do stitches or like um folding clamp or rubber band, you do it first. And then you soak the fabric in some water. And then you mix the dye, add water to the dye and then soak the fabric in the dye for about ten minutes or so. And then you add soda ash. Soda ash is the thing that will make the dye stick to the fabric. And you want to keep that in about an hour. No matter what you do, it’s gonna take an hour to stick to the fiber. Another type is stitching the fabric. I’ll have to look it up. Oh a pole wrap. A pole wrap is really cool. You just wrap it around the pole, stitch it up, and then you basically scrunch it. And scrunching it creates a really tight resist too. So when it comes out, it’s a very wood grain looking, flowy looking fabric. For my freshman class, we had to do all of these samples. So in my material study notebook, it has all of those samples and stuff.
Q: Do you enjoy working in class and collaborating and doing critiques? A: I love it. I love working in class. I love working when people are around because everyone is so interested in everyone’s work and they just kinda… we learn from each other. We’re so curious about what each other are doing and we do learn from each other. I don’t want to say copy, but we do get inspired from looking at each other’s work. Um and then critiques… freshman year critiques are always like… blaah. Cause freshman were… we don’t... not everyone cares so much about their classes. They don’t care enough where they will tell the truth or …. I don’t know… give a really good opinion about someone’s art. But in my intermediate classes definitely more detailed. The teacher spoke more about how we could... how the piece could be better… it was a more detailed critique. By then I was more comfortable saying what I like… what I see from this person’s piece too… so I could talk… I spoke out more about other people’s pieces. I love hearing other people’s opinions about mine too. How I could make it better. But sometimes you’re thinking … oh… like I go through the processes… I know what I want... that’s why I’m going one step at a time. So I know what I’m going for and I really like when people are like… oh it looks like something… well that’s not really what I’m going for but… okay…. I guess I can kinda see that. But maybe there’s something else I can do to make it more clear what I really wanted to portray.
Q: Are there any themes or colors you tend to gravitate towards? I know you said green… A: Green, green and purple. I use a lot of yellows but they just show up after the discharge. Green purple and yellow are the three main colors that I would say show up in my work. Patterns…. Like anything interesting… geometric a lot… I love organic textures and stuff so I could work with any of that stuff.
Q: What kind of teaching method do you like and how do you learn best? A: I like the teachers that give me the assignment... gives me what she wants. The restrictions that she’s asking, the limits that she wants me to have. How many colors I have to use, how many patterns I have to use, how many screens I have to use. And then just let me go from that direction. I hate teachers who are very vague about what they want. And then later on they’re like… oh no you can’t do this. So that makes me really mad. But I haven’t had too many of those. One of them is very lenient in some ways… I don’t know, she just wasn’t very….. Like I always turn things in on time… but people don’t do that, but it doesn’t seem like she really cares. It probably showed on their grade, but you know… you spend so much time staying late to get the project done on time, and then there’s people that don’t finish on time and then she ends up giving them extra time in class… and what do I do during that time? And okay I have free time, but it’s not like you’ve given the next assignment already, so I don’t like that kinda teaching. I like things on schedule.
Q: What kinds of process work do you do before starting to work hands on with the material? A: Not much. Because the classes I have taken have set requirements. So basically the way I do it is… I do one layer at a time, with dyes, with fabric; you never know how it’s going to turn out. Like you can’t predict... unless you do test runs. If you do samples and stuff… then you know you want to use this exact color. Which you can do that – some people do samples first but I just kinda go with my gut and say… oh I want purple and add more red and blue to get the right shade.. Dye it, I like and I keep going and find the next step I want to do. And then if I don’t like it, maybe discharge. But I kinda go one step at a time. Projects like what I’m doing right now… you have to take more time; especially with registration and pattern. You have to take more time designing the pattern and how you want to print the pattern. And you have to think about all that before you can actually start. So it really depends on what kind of work you’re doing.
Q: What are your favorite fabrics? A: I’ve worked with wool before. It’s hard to print on wool. I like … one really great thing that I liked about my weaving class was printing on top of a woven piece. You can totally see the texture, like a real three dimensional texture. I usually print on Kona cotton. And it’s just very nice cotton. It’s thicker, nicer cotton. The one that we started out with was muslin. But the nicer the cotton the more dye molecules it will absorb. The colors are better; more true to the dye. So um… I want to work with very silky cotton. Not shiny. A very matte silky… like a scarf kind of texture..
Q: What do you want to learn more about? A: I want to learn more … well currently my challenge… I am really interested … to create a pattern with a hidden repeat. So like, it’s so spread out that you can’t tell it’s a repeat. I have two screens… it’s hard…. So the challenge is to make a repeat. My next challenge is to create a crackle look. Like batik fabric. Also, silk screening is very difficult when it comes to lining things up and doing multiple layers. Where you maybe lay down the bottom of the flower and then you want to add more detail to the flower with the second one. So matching things up… registration… is something to work on.
Q: What do you see yourself doing after getting your bachelor’s degree? A: Okay, so! I wanted to go to grad school, but I’ve been told…. And I believe it… that if you want to go get a masters in art, you want to know what you want to make… you know, what’s important to me. I don’t think I’m at that point yet. And I don’t know if that’s the right direction for me either, because my pieces are very not conceptual, … they’re very pattern, like designer based patterns and pieces. Um I’m looking at doing internships for textile designers. Maybe artists. But it really depends on what kind of art they do. So I was looking into interning for Cirque du Soliel. They have a textile design department. Not just like they have costumes, but they have the printers, the sewers… I don’t want to be a sewer… I just want to print yardage. And print… come up with the designs and stuff. And that’s what I want to do. That’s something to look into. And I was hoping maybe during the springtime I can find an internship for the summer or something.