Joy Tien - Artist Spotlight

Joy Tien - Artist Spotlight

Every two months, Artbean collaborates with talented artists, showcasing their work in installations and selling the unique merchandise they create through our collaborations. You will see their works showcased on our exhibition wall, sold on our shelves, and sometimes even reflected in the offerings on our menu.  Artbean is now proud to exhibit the incredible work of artist Joy Tien.  Joy is highly trained and skilled in augmented reality (AR), computer animation, look development, and punch needle.  Bathed in bright, joyful colors, Joy’s work brings a juxtaposing warmth to oft taboo topics; and, both her artwork and unique merchandise will inspire you to reflect.  Read on to learn more about Joy.  We have a feeling she’ll leave you just as inspired as we are!

The Origins & The Artistic Training

The collaboration with Joy Tien seems like one written in the cards--and an impressive story it is.  Originally from Taiwan, Joy moved to New York City in 2012 to complete her Master’s Degree in Computer Arts from The School of Visual Arts.  Upon graduation, “I traveled back and forth between San Francisco and New York City,” Joy recalled, reflecting on the determination she had to seek employment that would reflect her passions as an artist.

Joy standing at a podium giving a speech at SVA

And that she did.  “I’ve been with my current company for nine years; and, I do computer animation which includes things like 3D animated short films.  We’ve worked with companies like Sherwin Williams, Meta, Nike, and some non-profits,” Joy shared.  And with a pause, she continued on, explaining a bit of the intricacies of her work.  “My job is to do modeling.  I texture, line, and render the shots.  My specialty, really, is in look development, lighting, modeling, texturing and shading.”

While Joy effusively shared her gratitude for an outlet to share her journey, she described her grit and determination without even realizing it.  “My employer has been very kind to me,” she shared with characteristic warmth.  Alas, Joy’s nine-year tenure is reflective of the kind of dedication and execution embodied in both her artwork and her artistic process.

The Installation

“Eternal Threads is the title of my exhibit.  Now, funnily enough, I couldn’t think of a title.  So, I used an AI tool to help me generate one,” Joy shared.  “I want to be transparent about that, and that transparency is reflected in my art, too.”

And that it is.

Joy’s next sentence is surprising; and, that’s precisely why she creates the art she does.  “People don’t like to talk about death or spirits in my culture,” she said matter-of-factly.  And, any feelings of surprise here are proof that such reticence is universally very real.

While in conversation with Joy, it takes mere moments to realize she is truly the embodiment of her namesake.  Indeed, she never misses an opportunity to effusively share her gratitude for finding a listening ear to describe her art and process.  It is precisely this warmth that permeates the artwork she creates, creating an air of approach-ability to what’s generally considered a pretty scary topic--death.  But in her punch needle art and vibrant color choices, Joy shines.  Through her spirited, bright color choices and dominant artistic medium of punch needle, the viewer will feel almost a sense of curiosity.

A work in progress shot of a piece from Joy's art show

Eternal Threads definitely focuses on skull art; and, typically a skull isn’t something you’d want to touch.  But, with punch needle, you don’t feel as hesitant to do so,” reflects Joy.  Her work is unquestionably created by hand, a reality that’s unmistakable when admiring the large, almost pixelated appearance of her needle work.  And as such, there’s an inevitable feeling of home and warmth you get when viewing it.  But, ever exacting with her juxtaposition, portraying imagery of both the living and the dead was an intentional choice for Joy--to show both things can exist and be celebrated simultaneously.  Joy’s exhibition doesn’t end here, though.  “I’m excited to be designing a custom coffee bag tote with some skull art; embroidery pins; stickers; and, postcards,” she shared.  “And, I’m really appreciative to Artbean because they’ve even given me the freedom to try Augmented Reality (AR).  I am trying to figure out how to animate the label on one of their coffee bags using an Instagram filter.”

Joy is an artist who both creates and learns new things in the process.  And, while that’s immensely impressive, it’s also reflective of her artwork where she uses the beauty of her creations to invite the viewer-participant to ponder what’s perhaps the weightiest topic of all--mortality.

The Process & The Inspiration

Joy is an artist who is just perennially receptive to inspiration at any and every turn.  When asked where she finds her greatest inspiration, Joy instantly shared, “I’m not a fanatic where it’s something I am looking at every day, but astrology.  Even on the news channels in Taiwanese culture, they’ll talk about it.”  “And,” she continued, with a smile on her face, “I am a water sign.”  Ever-transparent, Joy explained that for her, this means that some of her ideas “really do come and go with how I feel.” 

While feelings, akin to the mortal topics of Eternal Threads, may pose discomfort for some to tackle, Joy does so with the same honesty that permeates her work.  “I feel as though I am both a maker and a creator; and, my emotions play a big part of that.  So, I am inspired by anything that can inspire me to create.” 

While Joy’s art showcases how one can celebrate both ends of life’s spectrum, its very existence showcases how powerfully enlivening art can really be.  For Joy, her work is “like art therapy.”  And, it is impossible not to sense the peace emanating from her as she talks about it.  “If I’m upset about something, or happy, I channel this into my art to explain myself.  But, it just shows my existence.  As an artist, when I make things, I feel like I exist.”  Thus, the creation of her art is the beetle.  It is the snake.  It is the plant flowing through her skull art.  And therein lies one of the most powerful realities of Eternal Threads--appreciating and consuming the art within it is bearing witness to the artist’s own expression of life.

“Who knows if I’ll be famous in the end,” Joy pondered.  “Back in school, when I studied Fine Arts, I had a teacher who would always ask us about our ‘why’ statements.  For me, it’s more about ensuring my desire to create is being fulfilled by actually creating the things I want to make.  Making something, putting your soul into it…” Joy trailed off for a moment, looking to settle on the perfect words.  “It means I’m alive!”

The Medium & The Style

“My medium keeps changing,” Joy shared, with a palpable sense of caution, as though trying to summarize eons of creativity in an elevator pitch.  But, of course, summarizing endless creativity such as hers is no small task.  “I refer to myself as a mixed media artist on Instagram.  I did in college--painting, some animation.  Now, I am a 3D artist who is newly exploring punch needle.” 

Joy sitting and working on one of her punch needle pieces with her other pieces sitting around her

After a beat, she shared what anyone would recognize from jump, “I am adventurous. I like to learn new mediums to try to figure out how to bring my visions to life.  Part of the reason why I gravitate towards such tactile art is because I want to make things from organic, handmade material--something tangible with my own hands.”  Tangibility plus creativity most definitely equals life-giving art in the equation that is Eternal Threads and Joy Tien. 

And, in order to stay fulfilled, Joy shares, “I try to experiment to branch my toolkit out. I like to ask, ‘What would happen if I tried this?’  I just like to test things out.  At this moment in life, I am being adventurous and playful because I feel like nowadays anything can be art, so it’s really about what drives your interest.  It’s exciting when you don’t always know what to expect.”  Of course, being open to the unexpected surely guarantees an exciting artistic medium.  “In summary, I would say I am a playful mixed media artist. It’s also interesting to combine the physical world and the digital world.”  And with a laugh, Joy aptly summarized, “I’m a little bit of everything!

The Evolution

“As a young artist, I found that I sort of mimicked more to practice my skill.”  Ah, such a universal feeling on the journey of self-discovery.  “This was my practicing and perfecting stage.  From college until now, it’s been about soul-searching, about learning about who I am and why I make art, using whatever tools I have to express moments I am going through.” 

Joy working on a clay sculpture from one of her previous projects

“It’s become a therapy now, especially living in the city.”  And, in these few words alone, Joy’s honest approach to create space for her own self-reflection is proof of the kind of balance art can provide to one’s life.

The Wisdom

When asked what advice she’d share with those beginning their own artistic journey, she readily shared, “Don’t be afraid of what you might want to try. When I was a kid, I was more timid.  I was a bit scared to do what I wanted to do.  It took me a while to get feistier and sharper.  But, care less about what other people say!”  And then, with a gentle sureness, “Welcome humble critiques because in art, we need to learn to critique people humbly.  And remember, there’s not a formula to making art.” 

With proof she’s indeed no longer the same young, mimicking artist she previously described, she shared with the kind of excitement only certainty can bring you, “I feel like I’ve found my voice.  I will keep experimenting until I die!”

Joy sitting in front of her computer screen with her tongue out, making a rock on gesture with one of her hands

Joy’s approach to her art reminds all of us that no object, and indeed no person, can be singularly summarized.  The desire for tactility.  The desire for creating.  The desire to express a living vitality through even the most mortal of themes.  The desire to always learn and evolve.  Such is the crux of Eternal Threads and Joy Tien--and as such, the art she creates.

- By Courtney Adams, @ahhcoocoo

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