Yao Huang is a jewelry artist making politically charged protest pieces. She was the recipient of the 2018 Charles Pratt Memorial Scholarship and the 2018 Marie Zimmerman summer Scholarship. Online censorship has become increasingly strict in her home country, China. However, while China’s constitution and other policies clearly afford its citizens freedom of speech and press, the opacity of Chinese media regulations allows authorities to crack down on “leaks” by claiming that they expose state secrets and endanger the country. The definition of state secrets in China remains vague, facilitating the censorship of any information that authorities deem harmful to their political or economic interests. Yao believes that freedom is a basic requirement for creativity and art, and that citizens’ involvement is necessary for developing an optimized society. With her pieces, she challenges the wearer to be aware of this censorship and to protest for a more transparent society. Meanwhile, her jewelry makes tangible the issues of censorship, and refuses to let the questions disappear.
What do you consider your top 3 core values and how do they affect how you lead your business?
Firstly, I believe that the most valuable function of human is thinking, especially critical thinking. Personally, the process of thinking is directly reflected on my work and creation. I am actually an ineloquent person in life, so that I express my voice through creation of jewelry. And because of that, my work always reflects the books I read, the repeating examination toward social issues, and objective and positive thinking. These aspects ensure my work is original, in demand of some process of thinking as well as has depth.
Meanwhile, under the training of 4 years of intense courses, my time management skill has improved dramatically. I can wisely put fragmented time in use. For example, commuting time is usually my brain storming time. I enjoy the sense of self-affirmation when I make full use of time like these. I think that the best respect I can pay toward ideas is the completeness. The moment of completion grants me a great sense of satisfaction. Even though there are no more deadlines for me right now, I believe I will continue using this fast working style, because those great ideas of mine cannot be stalled and put off.
As for the third core value, I think it is staying humble. I am a cautious and rational person. I only take half of the complements and acknowledgement from others. I would not stop thinking just because others think my work is great. There is always a sound in my mind telling me that “this is not enough” to push me march forward toward perfection. Therefore, even in the same series of my work, people can tell the progress and the change of my thoughts I make during the course.
Can you share a time you either thought you failed, or actually did fail? How did you react and move past it, and what impact did it have on business decisions?
I have been thinking about this for a long time, but I can’t think of any experience that I deem as failure. Maybe because I am optimistic and rational, I view everything and every experience from a larger perspective, and in a longer timeline. I believe every experience I’ve had is good, which provides me with lots of feedback, pros and cons. But I have always struggled to talk to myself. As far as I consider, the life of a human is a process to continuously cognize oneself and to continuously accept oneself. Creation which is developed from one’s heart, that’s the goal, and it means we really need to be honest and open-hearted to ourselves. During the design of this thesis, I have tried some styles that I do not like, which made the process very hard and full of frustrations. Drawing the design graph took me one month, and I still did not like what I had done. It wasn’t until I fully realized my thoughts, clearly knew what I wanted to express, that I finished the drawing, and I did it in just two days. After this experience, I deeply realize the importance of accepting my heart. Only creations from my innermost being can arouse others’ feelings.
What types of projects do you have coming up that we can look forward to seeing in the future?
Now I am continuing working on the series “hello, big brother.” During the making process, I realize that my early work is directly expressing my ideas to people, even though it is an inevitable stage, and an important part of the introduction of my background. Later I realized that creation requires interactions, between the work and the wearer. The interaction not only passes my thoughts and ideas, but more importantly introduces the personal understanding and connection of the wearer. Although my work in my senior year such as the keyboard series and the glasses series are general, I believe that I can develop them more. I hope my vision can be broader, more interesting and more absorbing. For example, I have an idea that is to equal scale my keyboard, maintain other designs but take away the space key only, then 3D print it all as a sliver brooch. Now the idea is in the stage of 3D modeling and adjusting the design. As for the next project, I want to criticize the social phenomenon that people put the cart before the horse, pursue the result and ignore the process. Now I am still working on how to closely connect this social problem with the human body and jewelry, just like in my previous series.