Why I chose to study Illustration - MFA
Before pursuing my studies in illustration at ECA, I had a passion for literature and was fascinated by the history and philosophy which has existed throughout ancient China. My research into the hidden meaning of classic Chinese poems has become the inspiration for much of my illustration work.
When I was choosing a school to study the MFA I was inspired by ECA design tutor, Jonathan Gibbs' wood engraving works which I was able to view online. I was soon fascinated by the exquisite imagery, which depicted an intricate landscape, and so ECA became my first choice of school to study illustration. I hoped during my time enrolled on the MFA to learn to combine the poetic elements of artwork with the classics of asian literature and the physical practice of crafting. I hoped to be able to expand my skillset to areas like printmaking.
I was apprehensive about applying to ECA because I had not previously studied an art or design-based degree. I thought it might take time for me to find my own artistic language but my application was accepted by ECA, and I enrolled on the two-year Illustration MFA programme.
My time at ECA
While I was studying Illustration at ECA, I spent most of my time doing individual projects and had regular tutorials with tutors Mike and Jonny. We often discussed very interesting philosophical ideas and the tutors’ vast experiences help to expand my view of what art is. I gradually began to understand that in life, I pay more attention to the individual details than the bigger picture which acted as the foundation for my fabric design project ‘Not Only 100 Days’ which intended to document the ordinary details in my daily life.
My 100 Days Project Scotland titled Not Only 100 Days was an exploration practice that followed my fondness of nature, devotion to traditional craftsmanship, life and journey in Europe, and memories of home. I picked up patterns and shapes from my many life experiences which were reflected in the repeating patterns which resemble repeating verses. I was also able to take part in several workshops in the Department of Textiles at ECA, mainly to learn fabric printing skills and to try the CAD digital embroidery machine.
With my new-found skills in screen printing, linocut printmaking, hand and digital embroidering, I proceeded to make crafts with printed fabrics that combined both practicality and aesthetics.
As for extracurricular activities, I participated in the Remodel Collective which is a new and exciting social enterprise project about sustainable fashion based in Edinburgh, with whom I participated in tailored training and textile-based workshops. I was also involved in multiple volunteering opportunities aimed at offering women from migrant and refugee communities the opportunity to develop skills in textiles. Through this incredible experience, I was able to hear the stories and plights of women from around the world with backgrounds and circumstances very different to my own.
I have gained a lot from my time at ECA and my only regret is that I did not try all of the equipment in the printing room as early as possible. If I could start again, I would try Riso and etching earlier.
My experiences since graduating
My final project was a selection of daily artwork that I created as a document of my learning and travels in these two years at ECA which were grounded in my experiences of being a student at University.
Choosing fabric pattern design as my focus of the Illustration programme at ECA. was a mellowing process. I had to refrain from rushing, allowing time to refine my skills and broaden my understanding of the practice of crafting.
Since returning to Taiwan after graduation, I have broadened my horizons in the field of art and culture. And now I am working hard to prepare for the national examination of cultural administration. I wish to be a part of the celebration of the art and culture in my hometown in the future.
After returning to my hometown, I took part in a joint exhibition ‘Way of Life, Weight of Life’, and organized a solo exhibition ‘Not Only 100 Days’, which integrated and displayed my achievements at ECA. At the same time, I also began to take courses in woodworking, ceramics, and fibre crafts to further expand my ever-growing skillset. The most important thing I learned from my tutors during my time at ECA was to always continue to do what I love with confidence. For me, my love of doing crafting will last a lifetime.
My advice for new and current students
For those beginning first year, it can be a confusing time beginning a new degree programme, especially if the teaching mode of an art programme is unfamiliar to you. However, I think the most important thing is to focus on exploring your interests and ideas, and transforming those into artwork. I believe that the work which comes out from a true interest and excitement will be filled with spirit and will greatly resonate with the viewer.
Some graduating students may feel anxious about their future. In each artistic subject area, the employment environment is different. I don’t think professional achievement is the only judge of our work's value. For the future, no matter what kind of career you end up engaged in, never lose that creative energy and always produce artwork because you love it.