‘Next Wave’: Chinese needle-felting artist takes a less-traveled road

By Chen Xi Source:Global Times Published: 2020/5/17 16:08:40

Chinese needle-felting artist Yin Yue Photo: Courtesy of Yin Yue

As a member of "the next wave," also known as the booming generation, Yin Yue, a post-1980 Chinese artist based in Beijing, is combining passion and persistence to explore a road that few Chinesehave taken by developing her hobby into a career. 

Dressed in a white T-shirt and grayish trousers, the 31-year-old needle-felting artist appears to be quiet, shy and calm. But when she starts to talk about her beloved career, she became excited with her body language revealing her passion.

"Time flies, I never imagined I would be on this road for more than 10 years. After going through all the lack of confidence, hesitation and self-doubt, I decided to continue heading down this road because I am really keen about what I am doing," Yin told the Global Times.

Falling in love 

When Yin was studying at university, she accidently came across the needlefeltinghandicraft made by Japanese artist Chiaki Suzuki. While surfing online one day, she immediately fell in love with the art form. 

"I decided to try it myself and found that it was very difficult to get the material. I searched on a lot of websites, and finally found one shop on taobao.com. The material at the time wasn't ideal, but I was still able to use it," Yin said.

After finishing her artworks, Yin would share them on Chinese media review site platform Douban, where they quickly accumulated numerous likes, which in turn motivated her to continue.

However, a hobby is not a career. As she saw her friends and classmates find jobs after graduation, Yin came to a crossroad as she had to decide between pursuing a more traditional career or trying something more risky.

"It would all be for nothing if you can't find a job that satisfies you," her husband told her. Following his advice, Yin decided to turn her hobby into something more. 

Self-doubt and uncertainty were constant companions during those early years, right up until she had the opportunity to hold an exhibition in Japan in 2016. 

Yin Yue's works of mushrooms Photo: Courtesy of Yin Yue

The exhibition was themed on mushrooms. Letting her imagination run free, Yin transformed mushrooms into tiny characters running in a line on short plump legs as if they were escaping somewhere. 

"Mushrooms look very fragile, but they actually can grow up to be strong, which is very similar to my own personality," she said.

The exhibition in Japan was a big success for Yin as many Japanese visitors visited her booth, which gave Yin the confidence for a huge boost. 

"It is very interesting that in China, a lot of women adored my works, while in Japan, all the people who bought my works were middle-aged and older men, which was something I had never expected," Yin said, smiling. 

Pandemic inspirations 

Yin's room is full ofs interesting and fascinating artworks including comic books, exquisite seals and adorable puppets and dolls that she has purchased during her trips to different places around the world.  

Yin Yue's works of an elephant huddled up in frustration Photo: Courtesy of Yin Yue

Most of her artworks are about plants and animals, which she imbues with various sentiments. "No matter if they are animals or plants, what I really want to convey are human emotions," she said. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has not influenced Yin's day-to-day work as she usually does it at home. She mentioned that she has been touched by some of the stories that came out of Wuhan, and that she might put some new ideas that came to her during the pandemic into her future works. 

She noted that she would love to introduce the art form to more Chinese. She has already opened courses in Beijing, and has also been teaching someof the online courses since the novel coronavirus outbreak.

Meanwhile, Yin said she also hopes to learn more skills and techniques and incorporate some Chinese elements into her works, opening a window for Chinese needle-felting handicraft to enter the world stage.

"The technique is quite mature in Western countries and Japan. The styles of the handicrafts in Western countries are more open and bigger, while the works in Asia, like Japan, tend to be smaller, more exquisite and more focused on details," she explained. 

Moving forward 

On May 4, China's Youth Day, popular Chinese video-sharing platform Bilibili released a video titled "The Next Wave": A speech by Bilibili for the new generation, praising the booming generation's intelligence, potential and courage.

Like many other members of the "Next Wave," Yin has remained modest and responsible as she pursues her dream, but she also notes that fulfilling one's dream is difficult and requires a strong heart. 

"Developing a hobby into a career is not that easy. When you realize that you are going to make a living by your own hobby, you have to keep pushing yourself. Working 12 to 16 hours is a common thing for me. Whenever I want to relax, a voice tells me that I do not deserve to rest," Yin said with a bitter smile.

Yin Yue's works of a deer Photo: Courtesy of Yin Yue

Yin has a bunch of fans who are following her work and keeping her motivated. But Yin emphasized that it is important to be creative and stay interested in a hobby until you find a rhythm and direction that suits you.

For now, Yin's handicraft business has been paying off. 

"Now I have a steady income and live an independent life," Yin said, her voice full of confidence.

"Two roads diverged in a wood, and I - I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference," this poem from Robert Frost seems to be the perfect match for this ingenious artist.


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