#wcw Windy Chien
“You can change your life through the act of a simple daily ritual.”
Our #wcw this week is Windy Chien, an artist best known for her project “The Year of Knots,” where she learned a new knot every day for a year. When she was done with each knot, she nailed it to the wall. At the end of the year, that wall was a giant work of art; Windy had found her artistic voice. Now she’s a full-time artist who creates mesmerizing knot-based sculptures and installations. And she has a book, also called The Year of Knots, coming out next week! The book describes her personal path to discovery and contains 25 step-by-step knot and project tutorials, including her popular Helix Light and Ringbolt Necklace.
Aside from promoting your new book, what are you working on right now? (And if applicable, when and where can we see it?)
I am always working on a combination of commissions from existing bodies of work and evolving new fine art pieces and concepts. I just completed wall pieces for the good people of Verve Coffee in Palo Alto and Los Angeles’ Arts District. This month, I’m driving down to San Luis Obispo to install a huge 24’ Circuit Board for a new hotel there, debuting a new installation at Fogo de Chao in Las Vegas, which will be the first of a brand new body of work, and installing a hanging screen piece on the Big Island. I am also trying to find time for my partnership with the San Francisco Fire Department where I’m using decommissioned firehose as the material.
Women Catalysts’ mission is to inspire women to action. Who have been the most inspirational women over the course of your career, and what are the most valuable things you’ve learned from them?
My favorite artist is Janet Echelman, whose monumental hanging purple and red nets at San Francisco Airport never fail to bring to my knees. I met her at a workshop in France last year, where we hit it off and became friends, and looked at art in Paris together. Janet works on the scale of city blocks, and I was eager to see just how she gets it done. For me, getting it done as a full-time artist becomes about arranging your life, your space, your time, and your team so that everything feeds the creative work in a balanced, calm, productive way.
In several interviews, including this podcast episode, you explain your decision to leave Apple and become an artist in terms of moving from curating or evangelizing other people’s work to creating tangible art of your own. What were the biggest challenges for you as you made that shift?
Because I didn’t know what form my creativity would take once I decided to focus on it, in a very practical sense, I had to buy myself the time to figure it out. So putting aside money became important - just enough to pay the bills for an extended period of time so that I wouldn’t feel pressured to make money immediately from my creativity. That kind of pressure can push you into doing things you don’t want to do... and I’m too old to be doing things I don’t want to do.
Your art involves a lot of physical labor. How do you take care of yourself, especially your hands?
I am very careful while making work to take care of my body. This means I physically move the work up and down, using a pulley system, so that the area I’m working on is always right at chest height. I also do yoga to keep my muscles from seizing up. I pay attention to my body, so posture and proper ergonomics aren’t hard for me to maintain.
In Tiffany Haddish’s Netflix special, “They Ready,” one of the comedians says she and Haddish “made a pact that whoever goes first throws the rope back. (Haddish) threw the rope back.” What lesser-known artists (in any medium) excite or inspire you right now?
I loved that show! Rather than “lesser known” artists, I’d like to point out the work of my peers that I always look forward to seeing: Zai Divecha, Mary Little, Sonya Yong James, Molly Haynes, Himo Art (May Sterchi), and Christina Watka - among many others.
Meet Windy IRL!
600 Divisadero, SF
September 19, 6-8pm
Windy will be signing books, talking all things The Year of Knots, and selling special limited-edition Circuit Boards next week in San Francisco. The first 50 attendees will receive 10 ft. of rope for use in the knot tutorials in the book.