The beginning of Yeh Fuyu’s creative practice as a textile artist is one to which many can relate. After studying marketing and working in the industry as a copywriter, Fuyu felt that she needed a more tactile creative outlet. She found weaving classes in 2016, and it became a secondary means of expressing her feelings and telling stories.
Since then, her interest and involvement have undoubtedly grown. She’s traveled from Taiwan – where she’s based – to Sweden to explore her newfound craft as part of an artist residency program at ARNA, led community-involved art projects in Taiwan, and expanded her practice to include tufting as well.
For her, each woven or tufted line in her pieces is a sentence in a story. It is a way to connect with those around her, help them recall memories of the landscape in Taiwan, and feel more connected to nature.
We don’t know about you, but we’re excited to see where her story leads to next!
This interview has been lightly edited for clarity.
Discovering another creative outlet
K+C — Hello Yeh Fuyu! Firstly, thank you so much for speaking with me about your work. It is a pleasure to learn about your process.
I’d started to learn and practice my weaving skills in 2016. I took classes for weaving first. Then I found that it helped me express my feelings, and I could tell stories on my own with this kind of artwork… I used to be a copywriter working in an advertising agency in Taiwan. Normally I need to come up with many stories for my clients. After I started weaving. I found a new way to create something that belongs to me. In recent years, I also learned how to do tufting and twining from the internet. Actually, I didn’t have a connection to it through people in my family or community.
K+C — What about the processes of weaving and tufting interest you?
The processes of weaving and tufting are similar. Both of them is worked line by line. Since my past job as a copywriter, I am sensitive to writing and reading. For me, the processes of weaving and tufting are just like another way to write. When the audience sees my work, it’s also another way to read. In addition, the fiber artwork is not only visual but touchable. It can bring a lot of imagination to people.
For me, the processes of weaving and tufting are just like another way to write. When the audience sees my work, it’s also another way to read.
K+C — Do you have a background in any other materials, as well?
Actually no. I majored in advertising and then became a copywriter. Textile art interests me because it reminds me of writing and makes me devote myself to learn and practice.
Connecting with communities, near and far
K+C — Much of your work is rooted in story-telling, memory, community, skill-sharing, and the environment. Can you tell us a little about how these aspects first came into your work?
When I went to Sweden for the artist in residence program, I started a series of projects named “Map Story.” That was a starting point to combine the story-telling, local memories, and experiences to my artworks. I weaved a piece of a map to describe what I found in Harlösa, a small town in south Sweden. I also ran a mini-workshop inviting people to draw their local map with me. The experience of the artist in residence also inspired me to be “aware” of nature.
Then I kept the concept of “Map Story” and finished “Weavers with the River” in Taiwan. I was wondering how city dwellers regard a modernized river? There used to be rivers everywhere in Taiwan. When its drainage basin was developed or urbanized, it was a mere ditch in people’s eyes. In these river maps, I tried to recall the memories of the people about the river. My artwork became much bigger, and I also invited local people to join me to weave and think about what an ideal way to live with the river is.
K+C — Your Weavers with the River (the Plum Tree Creek and the Sinackse River) project was incredibly moving to read about. Where did this project’s inspiration come from, and what was it like working with local communities to tell the stories of the Plum Tree Creek and Sinackse River?
As I mentioned above, this project’s inspiration was from my experience in Sweden. I gradually developed a way to collect local memories by weaving. I was always surprised when I worked with different local communities. Although these two rivers are in Taiwan, I am not so familiar with these areas, which made me more objective to observe, listen and interact with local people. Some of the memories they shared were really touching. I’m also curious about what a modernized river could be if people were reminded to cherish it.
In these river maps, I tried to recall the memories of the people about the river. My artwork became much bigger, and I also invited local people to join me to weave and think about what an ideal way to live with the river is.
Drawing on nature’s beauty
K+C — Do you see this project as a form of environmental activism or a way of drawing attention to Taiwan’s natural beauty? If yes, could you explain?
In Taiwan, the city dwellers have no feelings towards nature. That’s why they have tended to be passive towards environmental activism. I don’t want to interfere or convince people for the environmental movement, but to inspire them to be aware of the river, the tree, and the living things from nature.
Once they recalled the memory about it, they would think and take some action, out of the emotion and humanity. Up to now, I still have no answer about how city dwellers regard a modernized river. I tend to explore and discuss what is going on with the local community.
K+C — Do you feel this is especially important for the local community where you’re based; why?
Yes, it’s meaningful for me to work with the community in Taiwan. Interacting with the local community in my mother language made it easier to finish the weaving work together. However, the map story was a collection of people and their stories. The concept was more like an action to get people involved in the project. When the weaving work was finished and exhibited, they could come back and see the whole river map. In some way, people could had the chance to deal with the river for a longer time.
K+C — You have done artist residencies in Sweden and in Taiwan. Are there differences between doing creative work in your own studio and somewhere else that may be less familiar or completely unfamiliar?
When I did the projects of the map story, I always position myself as an “outsider,” no matter I was in Sweden or Taiwan. That meant I could find something interesting that local people were so familiar with that they tended to ignore. I visited and observed these places and then decided to create the map story with people. All the “maps” are made near the river. The process was also a part of my creation.
K+C — What places inspire you, whether art studios or otherwise?
I really admire the Swedish artist team “Bigert & Bergström.” One of my favorite art projects is “Rescue Blanket for Kebnekaise.” They’d done a geoengineering performance (also a futile symbolic gesture) to counteract the glacier melting of Kebnekaise, the highest mountain in Sweden, which gradually losing its elevation. In 2015 during the summer solstice, they covered the mountain’s southern peak with a five-hundred-square-meter golden climate-shade cloth, to preserve the glacier.
This kind of way to finish the artwork inspired me to make my works near the river. It’s also like a ceremony to finish the map with the local community. I saw the exhibition of Bigert & Bergström in a modern art museum named “Artipelag” in Stockholm. This museum is inspired me, too. From the architecture to the exhibition inside, it delivers the concept of “art meets nature” perfectly.
In addition, my first experience of an artist residency was also with invited by ARNA（Art and Nature), a nonprofit organization in Sweden. They devoted themselves to encourage artists to explore and express humans relationships towards nature. That’s an important turning point for me to start the project about the river.
K+C — You have been doing a lot of new tufting work. What projects are you working on now?
Now, I am starting to focus on story-telling for my tufting work. Some alternative spaces have also invited me to exhibit my works. I try to find some story around those places. For instance, I had an exhibition in a cafe shop in Taipei named “Lazy River for the Mountains” last year. It’s about an invisible river right under the cafe shop.
My latest work was also invited from another space, and I planned to tell a story that happened on a rainy day because there is a naked brick wall hiding in the place because of the water seepage problem. The exhibition will look like an open picture book full of my tufting works.
K+C — Thank you, Fuyu!
If you’re interested in reading more, try this feature about another artist who works with textiles.