This is the second of our three-part feature on Jade Cheung. The entire interview can also be found throughout the month of April in the Featured Artist link to the right.
Please tell us a bit about your general work process.
My work habits tend to vary depending on what else is going on. I seem to have retained my work habits from art school, where much of a project is spent researching and mulling over execution ideas; weighing my options against time and cost. Then, in the last fraction of that time, work on and complete my work in a frantic flurry at the eleventh hour!
Regular tasks and anything predictable are doled out a little less stressfully, and go on a to-do list written in dry-erase marker on my bathroom mirror. Projects are the domain of my muses and they are not to be rushed if they don’t want to be! Ha! Ha!
© Jade Cheung
What about your work do you enjoy most? Dislike most?
Definitely the reception of my work, once I present it. Often times, I’ve been looking at a piece for so long, that I start to develop serious doubts about my work, but when I finally decide to show it off, I’m often times quite relieved and surprised to realize I was wrong to think that way. That sort of support is a great reward. What I dislike the most sometimes is just the process for a long project that I need to complete in a short amount of time. I find myself wishing a project would complete itself at that point, particularly if my time is being demanded of for other projects or tasks simultaneously.
© Jade Cheung
What advice would you give to other artists or budding artists?
Don’t ever be afraid to make mistakes. Just because you failed to accomplish what you wanted on one project, doesn’t mean that “error” won’t come in handy later for another project. Learn from it. Figure out how it happened so that should you want to replicate it deliberately, you can. And also, how to not let it reoccur if you don’t want it to. Make use of its existence. If life gives you lemons, make lemonade, as they say.
Firewalker Restoration, part 1
© Jade Cheung
One of my pottery professors told every class he taught, “no pot is precious.” It means to keep learning from your work and others’, keep striving to improve, don’t sit on the laurels of rewards and achievements and think you’ve become a master all of a sudden because of your latest award. It’s about being humble and approaching life and your work as an eternal student (because a student is open to learning, and a true master has nothing left to learn). It’s about letting go and moving on because many students would dote on their projects unnecessarily and spend more time on tiny details instead of using that time to refine overall technical ability. If letting go means not lamenting over a broken project, a project that was stolen or lost, or deliberately destroying a sub-par piece to make physical and mental space for new and better work, so be it. One of the deities who intrigues me is Pele, the volcano goddess, precisely for that fact, because a volcano does exactly that. It destroys in order to create. Everything in the path of the lava or ash cloud is lost, but new land is formed from it, and life returns.
My professor was also a big fan of traditional Japanese pottery, and one of the techniques used to train new apprentices was to make multiples of a piece until they could do it effortlessly and consistently, no matter if their sensei made them make 10 pieces or 100, their task was to replicate that one form before they could make a new one. So when I hear newer makers lamenting about their first piece gone awry or something was lost or stolen in travel, that is what comes to mind. Yes, sometimes the cost of that piece lost to you is in itself something to lament over, but if you keep moping over it, you’re wasting time that could be used towards making something better, faster. Practice makes perfect, and one of my piano teachers would add that only perfect practice makes perfect. Learn from that repetition instead of griping about having to do something over.
Firewalker Restoration, part 2
© Jade Cheung
For those seeking to pursue art as a business, it’s hard work when you’re not necessarily just making stuff to make it, but often having to make something in order to keep the bills paid; no matter if you’re working for yourself or a company. Your creative ability, skills, and talents, are now on the clock and that clock is not going to stop for you if you get artist’s block. But that said, it can be very rewarding if you’re willing to put forth the time and effort.
Stay curious! Don’t ever stop learning and wondering about the world.
Incredible Expeditions ship figurehead
© Jade Cheung
What do you know now that you wish you’d known when you started?
I wish I had been a bit more confident of my abilities and pushed myself to work harder and faster earlier on. I feel this would’ve helped improve some of my technical skills earlier so I could achieve some of the things I’ve since done, sooner. Too much hesitation and doubt held me back.
Something I hear frequently is, “I wish I had space/time/talent to do what you do.”
Regarding space: not many people realize that most my work is created in a space less than the square footage of a card table. Most my casting is done on a 9” x 19” board balanced across one of the open drawers of my desk, and another 9” x 30” board balanced over a milk crate behind me (I sit on a stool between in a space about 20” wide, hence why I turn down inquiries on accepting apprentices. I’m not joking about not having space for a second person!), with my various resins and mold materials cluttered around the floor underneath the desk. If I had to, I’d close the toilet lid and use that as a temporary table if I didn’t have any other space. Little by little, my living space has been sacrificed for my art and business. I don’t have a show room tidy studio like I’ve seen in many magazines and online articles, ready to receive guests at a moment’s notice. Instead I use what space I have to store materials and finished projects. As a teenager, I didn’t have the space for a table stable enough for the sewing machine, nor was I allowed to use the dining table, so the costumes I made up till my early college years, were made with the sewing machine on the floor and me curled into a ball so I could still work the pedal. Sure, I dealt with the aches and pains that came with working like that, but my desire to create was greater than the consequences.
Regarding time: if you really want to do something, you’ll find the time for it. Keep off social media for an hour out of your day or whatever it is you do to kill time, because that’s what you’ve done with your time. You’ve killed it doing something else while wishing you had time to do what others are doing. You’d be surprised at what you can do when you set aside a little time here and there. If you spend a lot of time at work, use your break to research projects and materials or if your project is portable, work on it then. More often than not, there’s a way to make things happen.
Regarding talent: Very few people are born with the innate ability to make amazing work early in their life. For the rest of us, it’s all a result of honing skills over time, taking the time and effort to practice and develop new skills instead of pining after skills someone else has made an effort to develop. Being creative doesn’t have to cost a lot. I’ve seen beyond amazing illustrations created from cheap ballpoint pens on scrap paper, to sculptures made from cardstock. Any little bit you do to practice, will help.
Jade Cheung’s work can be found here: