Artist Joey Yu Gives Us Her Tips For Getting Creative In Lockdown

If you’re not one of the 92,800 people on Instagram who call themselves a Joey Yu fan, now is a good time to press follow. We’ve been admirers of Joey – whose work ranges from illustration and animation to curation – since we saw her boldly colourful and expressive style at All In: The Mind, a mixed media show at House of Vans back in 2017. With two more exhibitions under her belt in the same year, plus clients including Tate and The New York Times, it’s been nothing but up for the London-based artist ever since. 
Now, Joey has collaborated with British brand Lulu Guinness on a collection of playful accessories which pay homage to the humble supermarket, and we want to cop the lot. When the brand’s creative director invited her to partner up last summer, Joey couldn’t have known that the coronavirus crisis would thrust the weekly food shop into such sharp focus but in the current context – amid loo roll shortages and Saturday mornings spent in the queue for big Sainsbury's – the collection couldn’t be more fitting.
"I first thought it would be interesting to use everyday food products, to elevate them in the way you'd typically have florals or jewels," Joey told Refinery29, "but the theme has somehow become rather prophetic! Although I designed it a year ago, initially intending it to be a light-hearted idea, I think it's super relevant now. Supermarkets [are] one of the only places we can be, and the objects and produce decorating it are the most essential things we need. The collection is an ode to the essential, beautiful things of the everyday." 
The capsule, made up of a printed tee, a silk scarf, a coin purse, beauty case, cardholder, keyring and mini tote, features Joey’s signature bursts of colour and frenetic lines. She also reimagined the iconic Lulu Guinness lip-shaped motif, incorporating it into her designs in a totally fresh way. "I thought it would be fun to weave it into the couple's outfit, and for the lips to be an actual lady's lips. It's a nice motif, it lends itself to be incorporated into a design quite nicely." What's her favourite piece from the collection? "For me, probably the bag. I’ve always wanted to have my own bag! I love bags. I've been walking around the house with it on my arm, catching glimpses in the mirror and feeling proud."
While we'll have to rethink how we style the pieces for now – we’re keeping our lockdown hair under wraps with the silk scarf and stashing our nail polish in the toothpaste brush case – we caught up with Joey to ask her some vital questions about staying creative while housebound. Dust off your pencils and paints, folks, because there’s no time like the present to get crafty
Hi Joey! Firstly, how are you coping right now? 
As well as I can in a time like this, I think! It's completely uncharted territory so there's no right way of doing it but I'm trying to work as best I can, calling my friends on FaceTime and Zoom, watching more films, writing more, generally taking each day as it comes. 
How has being in lockdown affected your creativity?
I've found myself actually making more work now than ever. I quite like restriction, in some ways. Working to a brief is satisfying to me, because it’s a puzzle you must work hard at to break out of. There was a time earlier this year [when] I was making nothing, because I could make anything. Now I pace around four walls and I think to myself, Ah, I can only do this one thing right now. So I guess I will do it.
What might spark a creative idea for you?
Daydreaming is inspiring. Perspective is inspiring – when you look at something from every single possible angle, you see something new. I think conversations with friends are most inspiring though. Never take your friends for granted!
What should our readers who want to get into art in lockdown start with?
Craft is a highly underrated art form – I can’t stress how soothing things like knitting, embroidery and making your own clothes are. Also, you can’t fault picking up some printer paper and an HB pencil. Drawing a scribble, seeing the shapes that emerge from the mess...going from there?
Are there any artistic rules you tend to live by?
To never feel fixed in one place. Physically, mentally!
Is there a medium of art that you feel is foolproof and therefore good for beginners? 
Things shouldn’t be foolproof! I love seeing mistakes, I love imperfections. I love wobbly, expressive works. So by all means, ignore when people say oil paint is hard. You can enjoy it just as much as the 'masters'!
How do you get through a creative block?
Talking to a friend about their own creative projects that are completely different to mine. Hearing about something from a different perspective can always help you return to your own work differently. I also like to stick my head out the window and daydream. I usually come up with something there.
Which other artists that you love should we check out during lockdown?
I love what fashion designer Reese Cooper is doing, releasing fabric and patterns so people can DIY their own chore coats at home. An innovative way to approach the fashion industry right now. I also love Nicole McLaughlin, who is repurposing clothing pieces to make new unusual things, and Laila Gohar, who is an artist working with food – she is posting some great recipes at the moment that are easy to follow at home.
What are you most looking forward to doing when all this is over?
Oh my goodness. Giving everyone I love long hugs. I miss everyone so much. I can’t wait to get a train to Waterloo station on a warm day, starting my journey there then walking down the South Bank aimlessly, being right in the middle of it all – lots of people, going about their business. It’s my favourite thing to do.

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