Shiyuan Xu | Episode 352
Born and raised in Hangzhou, China, Shiyuan Xu received her BA from China Academy of Art in 2012, and MFA from Arizona State University in 2016. Completed a summer residency at Archie Bray Foundation last year, currently Shiyuan is the resident at Houston Center for Contemporary Craft in Houston. Shiyuan is the recipient of 2017 Ceramics Monthly Emerging Artist.
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Your work is so organic. How do you find inspiration to keep making pieces that are similar but so different from one another?
So I do a lot of research. I collect images of microorganisms online and I have bought different kind of books. When I was in ASU I also did a collaboration project with the life science department, to use their fancy scanning electron microscope to watch the physical process of how they get the image results from the samples I provided. I provided a piece of tea leaf and other random stuff like moss. So I have a bunch of images from that. And I have a compound microscope at home. So sometimes I also play with that. So there is a lot of visual sources for me to create similar but different structures.
When you are looking to do a show for yourself how do you decide which pieces will end up in the show?
That’s a good question. Well, I think the first is-How big is the space? And then I need to decide how many pieces I want to put in the show. There is always several pieces I really like and I really want to show for the public, so those pieces will definitely be in the show. For the rest sometimes it is about filling the space and I will need to play with scales as some pieces will be bigger in scale and some pieces will be smaller. So visually it has a flow and sometimes I will incorporate 2D works as well.
How important is the influence of other people’s ideas or thoughts on your work? How big of a role does what others think of your work or their suggestions play into your making?
Sometimes when I am confused about my own work I will ask my neighbors next door to give me opinions. I am always welcome to other people’s opinions. Then I will decided what will help to improve the piece.
Do you like to work alone or do you like to work around others?
I think both. Sometimes I feel like I need time to work alone and concentrate and close my door and be more productive working. Because this residency is so open to the public it is our job to talk to people so in the day time I need to open the door and welcome people.
What is a critical tool that you need for your work to turn out the way it does? What is your favorite tool?
Scissors. Because I am using paper clay, so it has so much fibres in the clay it is really hard to cut. So I found using scissors is way easier for cutting the piece.
Once you have the show nailed down how do you go about marketing and letting the world know that you have a show going on?
I think nowadays Instagram is pretty fantastic. It shows a lot of information and I can post a lot of information there. If you do a lot of hashtags people will eventually see. Then I have my own mailing list and I do send out invitations to people who have bought my pieces before or who have visited my studio before who are really interested in my work. So that is another way to tell people I will have a show. Also on Facebook.
How did you go about building your mailing list?
One part is people who have bought my piece before and the other part is people who visit my studio and they ask me if they can get on my mailing list for more information.
What role does the artist play in society?
Oh wow. Well I think artists are pretty important. In one aspect we enrich people’s lives by providing so many visual interests. We are making stuff and I think we are always trying to say something through our piece. So that is another way to kind of influence people. With my work I want people to activate their curiosities in nature. So that is my kind of my work but other people have a unique and different voice.