Friday Interview: Eling Chang! March 04, 2011 11:49

Happy Friday, everyone! This week I'd like to introduce to you to Eling Chang, another of our artists who works out of Lowell, Massachusetts. Eling is a textile artist who knits, spins and likes to make jewelry with felt. Read on to learn more about Eling, her business and her love for hot dogs. Have a great weekend, everyone!

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your handmade business.
I'm Eling.  I run my small, dual-faceted crafty business full-time.  I've got a fiber side-- I dye + hand-process yarn + fiber, and spin yarn for other crafty folk to spin, felt + knit (or crochet) with-- and a wearable/decorative side-- I sew accessories + adornments out of painstakingly hand-cut pieces of fabric + felt combined with other sparkly things that catch my eye, and sculpt little ornaments to brighten up your space.
Formerly known as just traveling rhinos, I now sell as migration goods-- and all the fiber stuff is under its own name: rhinofluff.  I've got ongoing obsessions with color, texture, travel, and food.  I plan my travel with where I want to eat in mind, and yes, I do take pictures of my food.  I'm almost always making or doing something-- it's very hard for me to sit still without something to work on.  Currently trying to curb the desire to buy a loom and a DSLR camera (or both).

Describe your studio for us.
I just moved into a brand-new, 430 square foot space in a renovated mill building in Lowell, Massachusetts (Western Avenue Studios) at the beginning of this year, and am ridiculously happy about it.  I spent WAY too long picking out paint colors, and I'm still scared to hang things (because that would mean putting holes in the walls!) up.  I have always worked in a studio space in our home, and being able to spread out in this big space is amazing.  Since I tend to work on two or three things at a time, I set up my new studio to have lots of separate work spaces for different tasks.  Sewing, sketching/painting, photographing, spinning, carding, assembling-- these all have their own areas.  There's a sofa + mini-fridge for relaxing, and lots of space for visitors to sit + hang out.  Even our dog has a bed + food + treats for when she comes to visit.

I also really enjoy having lots of artists around me; the creative energy is fantastic, and if I have a question about anything from kilns to quilting to power tools, there is someone in the building to ask about it.  But the best part, by far, of my studio is the freedom to work unbridled in a place just for me + my business-- without worrying about making a mess or having to put everything away when I'm done for the day.  It all stays laid out until I come back the next day, ready to pick right back up again.

Why is buying handmade important to you?
I really hate the idea of buying things from some corporation that has some department of people figuring out how to get you to buy into their image and part with as of your money much as possible.  I don't want to be buying, wearing and doing the same thing as everyone else out there (or worrying about whether a gift I bought my friend's baby is going to give them lead poisoning).  There is an accountability that you get from an individual or small group of individuals who are making things by hand.
And without getting too doom & gloom about the future of the world, I do think there's something sad about the lack of real human interaction out there.  Aside from the importance of supporting people who are actually designing and making things with their hands (and often preserving traditional ways of making things), there is something truly touching about buying something from someone who has made it themselves.  There is a level of interaction and understanding that you reach when you take the time to choose something that someone has deliberately created with their own personal goals and vision in mind.  You could be buying the tiniest handmade trinket from someone on the other side of the globe, but once you've taken the time to learn just a little about their story or why or how they made this thing, you get to be close to someone on a deeper (but not creepy!) level.  And if you're buying from someone who lives or works near you, you are growing your real-life and in-person community too -- even better!

Can you describe your creative process to us?
Gosh, I am all over the place.  Inspiration seems to strike me in the most random of places.  In the last year or so I've gotten much better about carrying a notebook and sketchbook wherever I go so I can make sure to get things down when they strike me.  When I get an idea I want to get going on it right away, no matter where I am.
I work very intuitively, so once an initial concept hits I usually dive right into materials-- cutting fabric, shaping clay, blending fibers, laying out beads.  I don't go back to a preliminary sketch unless I have a problem with the construction or composition.  If I'm not working from a specific idea or sketch I simply pull materials-- colors & textures that speak to me in some way-- and let those guide me down some road.  When I'm dyeing or carding fiber or yarn, I start with a list of colors or color combinations I've been thinking about, and then go wherever my dyes and fibers take me from there.

What do you do when you need some inspiration?
I am definitely a collector.  So the first place I go is straight to all those materials I've collected over the years-- vintage metal pressings, paper, and beads; silk ribbons, luxury fibers, feathers, seashells, and more.  If none of these things calls to me I can go on to the binders-full of magazine pages & clippings I have stashed away.  Art books & old science texts (I was a science major in my former life) are excellent too.  If I'm feeling antsy or looking for something less tangible, I will force myself to pause and find a novel or a volume of poetry to read.  Or I go out and get something to eat somewhere I've never been.  And if all else fails, I know it's time to hit the road and go somewhere new.  I have an undeniable streak of wanderlust that keeps me wanting to travel.

What handmade item would you save in a fire?
Yikes! Well, assuming I could probably get most of the dear-to-me things I've collected over the years remade by the artists, I'd have to go for the quilts made by my mother-in-law & grandmother-in-law, and a rug that my mother hooked.  If I could go in for a quick second run I'd grab a few of my earliest handspun yarns-- the very first ones that I've saved since the beginning.

How did you first become involved with Craftland?
I was definitely an admirer + shopper first.  OMG, all these artists + crafters that I coveted online, in person!  I applied to the holiday show several years back and didn't get in at first, but kept working at it and applied again the following year.  I taught my first workshops at Craftland's School of Craft in 2010, and this past holiday show was my fourth(!) year participating.  I have had so much fun getting to know the amazing, hard-working + fun-loving Craftland folks over the years while volunteering + shopping, and am honored to have my yarns + accessories in the year-round shop.

Guilty Pleasure?
I watch an embarrassing amount of TV + DVDs while spinning + doing mindless assembly, with a definite skew toward crime shows and sci-fi.  I know I've watched every episode that exists of Law & Order: Criminal Intent, Supernatural, and Criminal Minds. Most of the other L&Os, X-Files, CSI, NCIS, etc. too.  I also get sucked into shows like Intervention and Hoarders-- it's like watching a train wreck!  And in the last couple years: Jersey Shore.  I cannot believe I just admitted that for the whole internet to read.  Oh-- and hot dogs.  Plural.  And only when I'm in Chicago (but even if I'm just transferring flights at the airport).