Love Letter to Art Collectors

I know I haven’t been diligent with the upkeep of my online artist journal but this was just too big a news for me to pass up unannounced.

Some of you know this, but for those of you who don’t, I’ve been struggling with something in my art career for a long time: selling my work. Many of my mentors, friends and colleagues in the art industry have assured me time and time again that it wasn’t my art. Maybe it was where I was showing my work, my marketing, or the time just hadn’t come, Australia didn’t have much of an art market, etc, etc. And indeed, several times I have had interested folks from the States inquire about my work but I think to a certain degree I did feel like it had to do with my work. Something about it was just not coming together. It wasn’t the form exactly, it just wasn’t coming to life like I hoped it would in my mind.

When I finally got my hands on some crystal glass, I knew I had found the final piece of the puzzle. The glass itself had a presence. It sung in the light in a way that resonated with the excited buzzing in my heart. James Thompson (of Blackwood Crystal Glass) had promised me beautiful crystals and he had delivered me magic to work with.

I was crying tears of happiness for days! I don’t think I’ve ever seen such beautiful glass in my life and kept asking myself why hadn’t I switched to crystal sooner!  Blackwood Crystal Glass is a local Australia made glass with James Thompson, an absolute master, the brilliant mind behind the creation of over 30 colours with rare earth minerals. An epic achievement!

I was crying tears of happiness for days! I don’t think I’ve ever seen such beautiful glass in my life and kept asking myself why hadn’t I switched to crystal sooner!

Blackwood Crystal Glass is a local Australia made glass with James Thompson, an absolute master, the brilliant mind behind the creation of over 30 colours with rare earth minerals. An epic achievement!

blackwood crystal glass

How do I describe the feeling of when I first opened the buckets of crystals and felt them glow in my hands? How do I describe the first time I cast an artwork and the feeling when the investment mould just fell off the glass so clean and perfect? Does it feel like an exaggeration to say that in that moment I felt my life change? Because it does not feel like an exaggeration to me.

Because every work that came after has been a dream. The visions in my mind manifesting before my eyes. (Mind you, I still have a long way to go but-) I was finally, FINALLY creating artwork I was proud of. And that made me confident about my work. I loved what I was making. So I kept going, savouring this new power.

I haven’t had the chance yet to exhibit many of my new crystal creations, only twice so far. The first glimpse of the crystal ballet slipper Persistence VII showed for a brief period at Summer Sojourn (an Art Atrium event) at the the end of last year. And the second and latest time was in Melbourne at the Vitreous Exhibition (as a part of the Herring Island Summer Arts Festival with the Contemporary Arts Society of Victoria). It was there that came the second life changing moment I am going to mention in this entry.

It was where I sold my first serious artwork. Someone fell in love with my vision enough to buy it. Someone saw enough value in my craft to fork over their own hard earn money for it. 194 (wo)man hours. 3 years of imagining went into that artwork. It was worth every dollar I had set as the price. Some would even say more would be fair but I figured I was just starting out.

This was just enough that I wouldn’t feel insulted for my blood, sweat and tears. Because how many nights have I lain wide awake anxious about what was going on in the kiln, how many times have I had to restart over, how many issues have I had at each step of the process be it clay, silicone, wax, moulds, casting or polishing? Countless trials and errors. How many nights have I questioned how long I could keep on this path as an artist putting in all this work with no return other than words of assurance?

But I could only look forward, not because I couldn’t take any other pathway in life but I felt like this was the one I was supposed to be on. That it was mine.

But what was abstract feeling in the face of cold logic? What was stubborn hard work and insistence that this was what I was meant to do in the face of a thousand criticisms from friends, family, strangers on the street even, in the concern and doubt they showed for my future. This is the pressure every artist goes through. The world seemed to have presented us with this passion and then turned its back on us by having everyone ask in one way or another what exactly were we doing?

Can you imagine the frustration?

Can you imagine the helplessness in the face of all this concern?

Because it was true. It felt true. Why was I working so hard? How could an artist continue being an artist under all this pressure?

But I was fortunate.

I was lucky because I was in a studio full of supportive artists who knew what I was going through, who had been where I was at and I will never forget what Kate Banazi told me.

“The Artists who make it are the Artists who last.”

The artists who kept going.

I never forgot that. I will never forget that.

Head Case I Cast Glass Sculpture Nancy Yu NC Qin
Head Case I Crystal Sculpture Helmet Nancy Yu NC Qin

So when I got that call asking me about my artwork Head Case I, just when I arrived in Melbourne to collect my work personally for de-install on Sunday, 17th of March 2019, something settled in me.

This was something solid I could grasp onto.

And maybe you won’t know how much it means to me and to all artists, but art collectors are so special. Because when they buy an artwork it’s not only money they give for our craft but they gift something far more precious. Confidence. Belief in our work.

Herring Island Gallery 17/03/2019

Herring Island Gallery

Humans were never meant to be alone.

And us, artists, are always making work for an audience.

So thank you to the collectors for responding back to us and especially thank you to Mike and Sandi Faulkner for being the first ones to take a chance on this young artist. For giving her the much needed confidence boost that she had been anticipating for ages. And who knows where this life changing event may lead. ;)

Growing Part 1 - Facing Potential

I began to question myself, whether I was really content with sketching and painting when I had access to a glass studio. Was it really the most I could make of my prime when I was still young and strong enough to take on the laborious work of glass. Whether I would have any regrets when I didn’t. And on the quiet 5 hrs drive back to Sydney, I had a vision of what I wanted to make - the first seed of Potential.

Read More

Persistence - The Strength behind the Beautiful

On the Opening night of Love Letter: Be With You , my Mum raised an interesting critique on my ballet slippers in the exhibition. (You can always rely on parents for that. Haha.) 

She asked: Why do the shoes appear to be so strong and borderline bulky? Why aren’t they more like the soft satin slippers that ballerinas use, elegant and exquisite – characteristics they’re known for portraying?

I wondered if anyone else had similar questions, so I decided to write up a more comprehensive context to the makings and concept behind the glass slippers.

love letter exhibition persistence glass ballet pointe shoes installation
4 ballet dancers persistence glass pointe shoes sculpture installation

For me, this is a work on the persistent strength of character. I’ve always seen ballet dancers as warriors, which I guess could be strange to think about at first but it’s more to do with their stoic attitude to physical pain and transformation of the mental limits into seemingly effortless grace. It’s also about the unseen struggle of the dancer who keeps silent about her pain to the audience. Ballet for me is an intensely feminine but strong type of art, it shows the mettle of feminine endurance.

I had made them out of glass, because glass has an indomitable and wild nature, especially during its casting stages. But there’s also an element of sensitivity and transparency and this is the effortless elegance that holds its spectators captive. When we see the finished product, we don’t see the weeks of effort that goes into each piece but only of the intrigue it presents itself in. That’s art. Beauty with Depth. But it’s a depth we can only feel.

Photo by Tyler Shields

Photo by Tyler Shields

I have included ribbons but excluded the feet. Even though it’s the physical body that keeps the shoes aloft and full of life, why is it missing? Is it just because it is more beautiful that way? Perhaps. But you would only be half right if you answered so. It’s because you never see the feet of the ballerinas on stage; you only see the soft satin that wraps like a medal around them. The slippers represent the prestige of being on stage, in the spotlight, in front of the audience. The slippers also represent what shields the audience from seeing what it took to get there. In a way, my shoes are trying to represent what is missing rather than what is there.                                                                                     

It’s a piece that depicts the struggle of the artist. Of any artist in any field. Because it is a battle for every artist to get there: on stage, in front of an audience. It is a battle to believe what you’re trying to do matters, to get up again every time you take a fall and it’s a process of saying, “This is not the end!


The quiet before the opening. Dancers watching each other. Tension and energy in the air.

The quiet before the opening. Dancers watching each other. Tension and energy in the air.

Photo taken on the Exhibition Opening Night by Mark Jones

Photo taken on the Exhibition Opening Night by Mark Jones

I would like to thank everyone who came to the exhibition on the opening night and afterwards. It was truly a pleasure to meet all the new faces and get reacquainted with familiar ones. :)

I would also like to thank my Mum for inspiring further attention to the context of this series.


Each piece was developed to have its own character in the ribbons and colour scheme, allowing it to bring a different energy when it interacts with the rest of the “dancers”. Did you have a favourite?



Edit: Udee Online Magazine has done a feature on the Persistence series! It has been a pleasure getting to know Laura La Rosa (editor of Udee.) and talking more about the future of my artistic trajectory. 

Persistence 0 - The Humble Beginnings of Adopting the Artist Growth Mindset

This is just one of the stories behind the Persistence series of how it began and what I learnt from the process.

The series has empowered me by making me really adopt the practice makes perfect mindset; the growth mindset. The first glass cast was a complete failure, I had graduated from art school and hadn’t cast anything for at least half a year and my first cast Persistence 0, did not work

In my first mould the core was made out of paper pulp, which I was used to using while I was at art school. But while I was observing overnight the entire kiln started smoking. I knew it was because it was burning all the carbon out, however, I didn’t want to ruin the kiln. There was no more safety net of being a student and in my panic, before it had even reached 300°C, I took all the glass and mould out as fast as I could (once you take it out you can’t put it back in), everything cracked.

I was alone at 3am in the morning with a smoking and cracked mould, I was devastated! There were cinders everywhere, the studio was covered in cinders! I felt so bad for everyone around me because their work was covered in cinders too. And although Kate Banazi who works upstairs was really gracious about it and Kate Baker, my mentor, was really reassuring as well... I felt like a failure. The first one...the first cast had failed.

But the whole idea of Persistence and the reason why I named it that was to keep going, so I did keep going and made my second mould.

Persistence I base glass ballet series.JPG

Aaand that didn’t quite work out either, the glass had started to leak when I checked it at top temperature. My stomach dropped and thoughts like ‘oh damn there is not enough glass to even cover the ribbons!’ raced through my mind. But, in the end when I had found the glass did, in fact, reach the ribbons it was just the tip that missed out. I was ok with that. I was just so happy that something came out! Later I managed to salvage it by creating a base especially for it.

Since then, I’ve been recording my process for each cast. Documenting the materials I use, the temperatures I go up to and how long I keep them there. Each time I find myself gaining more and more confidence and being bolder about experimentation. Each successive cast has added to my knowledge base and helped me improve my technique. I think I’m really getting to finesse that casting process of complex forms (there’s a future project on the horizon that I’m really excited about, which I’ll talk about in a later post).

I feel like I’ve grown into a person with more depth and confidence through this project. I’m not so willing to give up anymore. I used to have so many doubts about all sorts of things but all these failures have taught me that failing isn’t as scary as I thought it would be, in fact, they’re just obstacles and there are so many ways of getting through them.

It’s only a small bump and it’s not a slide straight to Hell (though it may feel like that at times). It’s even rewarding because you grow so much. I really love what I do. This process has developed me and given me a stronger outlook on life than I had before. I’m more willing and more proactive about how I approach problems.

Persistence     I     Lesson: Not there   yet, but we'll get there. :) Recommendations: Read  Mindset  by Carol Dweck

Persistence I

Lesson: Not there yet, but we'll get there. :)
Recommendations: Read Mindset by Carol Dweck

Carbon Footprint

The world before us is a postcard, and I imagine the story we are writing on it.
— Mary E. Pearson

Carbon Footprint holds a special place in my heart for it was my first step into the glass world. 

For this project [The Hybrid] I chose the subjects: boots and postcards. The end product was a hybrid of the chosen subjects’ concepts and function.

The concept I’m exploring was inspired by a close friend of mine, who had gone off to Africa after months of depression, and the change in his perspective through his travels. What intrigued me was that while I understood the change and the experience on a cognitive level, there was a level of empathy that I could not reach. It was like walking in someone else’s shoes but they were ill fit because of the way my feet had grown through the life and genes that have shaped the present me. It made me reflect on the journal entries I had written during my travels and I realised that although I could certainly empathize more, a 100% connection was not reachable there either. And in the end, although these records (journals an postcards) can reach out to our imagination and take us off into another time and place, no matter how close fitting they are as we walk in these boots, they will never be perfect. The imprints we leave behind as we walk in them will be like Chinese whispers; lost and smudged in translation.


Possible future directions

The sculpture may become a moving glass boot with inscriptions of the postcard engraved on the sole of the shoe. The presentation will include it walking over a layer of sand and leaving faint imprints of the contents of the engraved postcard behind.
In regards to how the boots will move I have considered two options;
1. creating a mechanical foot that operates on kinetic energy
2. putting the glass boot on as one would an actual boot and walking in them.
(I think the latter option is more conducive to the concept but in terms of long term display, the former might be more functional.)
The materials I will be exploring is glass and ceramics. The reason I chose to cast the boot out of glass is both out of aesthetic and symbolic concerns. It draws a parallel from the Cinderella fable, where the glass shoe would fit no one perfectly except for Cinderella and this would be emphasized even more if I were to choose option 2 and put the boots on to walk in; making it transparent that I am not the original user of the shoes.
If I were to choose option 1, I would create the mechanical system in which the cogs would be ceramic. The reason I chose ceramics is once again for aesthetic and symbolic concerns; I find clay to be a suitable medium because of its tactile quality and the fact that it comes from the earth and its ability to harden into a bone like character.