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Wing Yau of WWAKE on Muse & Maker


At the beautiful new online journal Muse & Maker, UK-based graphic designer Emily Forgot indulges in some of our favorite pastimes: digging up gems on Etsy, surveying the world’s coolest shops, interviewing makers about their crafts, asking creatives to tell stories about their keepsakes, and spotlighting all manner of amazing handcrafted objects. We RSSed the site the minute we heard about it through our friend Bec Brittain, who was profiled there last month; considering how complementary our tastes are, we knew it was only a matter of time before Forgot turned her attentions to another designer who was near and dear to us. Enter Wing Yau of the jewelry line WWAKE, a RISD grad who approached us for a collaboration this past winter and ended up with two dip-dyed necklaces (one of them pictured below) for sale exclusively in our online shop. Forgot interviewed Yau — whose work we love because of the way it manages to make something as rough and primitive as hand-knotted rope look so modern — about her working habits, her favorite spot in Vancouver, and her childhood immersion in South American crafts. Check out our excerpt of the Muse & Maker interview below, then pick up your own WWAKE necklace in the Sight Unseen shop!

How important do you think your working and home environment are to you? … for example is the work you make reflected in your personal space?
My work and personal spaces have been intertwined for as long as I can remember. It’s often total insanity, but it’s all I know! I’ve never had an ideal living space nor an ideal studio and a lot of my designs come from this grey area. My favorite objects come from effortless studio moments that I appreciate when I’m out of my “studio” mindset – A lot of the plants in my bathroom have left over, partially dyed fibers wrapped around them as make-shift pots… Any hung artwork of mine serves as a home for draped fabrics and cords that I like. By looking at these items on a daily basis, I eventually process them into satisfying products, like jewelry. So, the little personal space that I have seems to be a pit stop for my work. I think this integration of personal and work spaces keeps me going.

Form, function or fantasy?
Form first for sure. I discover and build my “fantasies” by intuitively exploring form. Function? Yes please, if it comes my way.

What do you think has informed your personal aesthetic?
My mother’s interest in handmade crafts and traveling for them has definitely affected the way I work. When I was young we spent some time in Papua New Guinea and Peru where we collected a lot of local crafts. I remember the baskets smelled like their makers and the statuettes were rubbed in ash from their homes. In Peru we collected ceramic churches that were amazing replicas of nearby architecture. Witnessing the everyday value of these objects and meeting their makers really left an impression on me. It’s taken me a long time to connect these experiences with my interest in art, but it makes so much sense. I’ve always been fixated with happy mistakes – honest marks that reveal the artist’s story. These performative gestures are what guide my personal aesthetic. I hope that one day my work can honestly speak to people as much as my parents’ collection spoke to me as a child.

Do you have a project that was a turning point in finding your creative path?
The creative process of WWAKE seems to be that turning point for me, and has reminded me of the way I like to work. It begins with an intriguing material and moves to building a full collection of textural experiments. (WWAKE started with knotwork, then dyeing, and now it’s pinched clay and folded cloth forms). These gestures eventually get developed into a product of some sort. I used to over-think everything I made, but I’m finally letting ideas develop naturally. It’s such a relief!
Do you have a dream project or client?
I’ve always wanted the opportunity to dress all my guests before they step into the gallery and realize that they’re a cohesive part of the show. The older I get the funnier I want it to be.

How important is collaboration to you?
I love collaborating with other artists and it’s definitely becoming more important to me. I usually work on my own, so collaborating is all-around refreshing. It’s an opportunity to reassess my ideas and understand how they relate to those of others. It helps me let go of the ideas I live too closely with and see them develop in surprising ways. I’m excited to be working with a several artists this summer to see what happens!

What is your opinion on taste and style?
I think taste is defined with time. It’s a map of your interests – taste reflects the relationships between them and in doing so, becomes more concrete over time as you collect more interests and connect the dots a bit by bit. Taste is a timeless piece of you. I find that style, however, lives in a state of flux – At least in my personal experience, style expresses fresh ideas, trends, interests that might eventually define taste. It can be an expression of one’s taste, but not necessarily. I have a hard time with the idea of taste, since it’s often misused as an objective term (“good taste” vs. “bad taste”) – I’m definitely guilty of this, but it just doesn’t seem fair. People’s tastes may overlap and create an illusion of being objective, but is ultimately a subjective thing. It’s a humbling thing to remember.
Are you interested in trends in your field?
Yes! I have a strong appreciation for the work of other designers and keeping up with trends definitely helps contextualize my work, whether trendy or not.

Where is your favourite place?
Lighthouse Park in Vancouver. It’s a lush forest of centuries-old cedars and redwoods that suddenly opens up onto a cove that looks out over the entire city and the Pacific Ocean. The transition is breathtaking and it always reminds me to appreciate the little things.

To purchase one of WWAKE’s handmade, dip-dyed Ladder necklaces, which are pictured below and available exclusively in the Sight Unseen shop, just follow this link!