Featured Speaker: Yao Cheng

yao-chengWe’re excited that watercolor artist and designer Yao Cheng, one of our featured speakers at Midwest Craft Con 2017, doesn’t have to travel very far to speak at our creative business conference. That’s because Yao calls Columbus, Ohio, home!

Located in downtown Columbus, Yao Cheng Design is an online retail shop and design studio where Yao’s modern and bright watercolors come to life on products and clientele work. The retail side focuses on a range of products for the home, such as art prints, textiles and paper goods, while the design studio focuses on creating specialty wedding stationery and larger client projects. Let’s meet Yao!

How would you describe your work to someone who isn’t familiar with it?

I love combining my background of fine art with my loves for color, patterns and geometry, and translate them into various products ranging from art prints to home-decor textiles and wedding stationeries. My work is a modern interpretation of watercolor, and they tend to be very fluid and expressive, which is influenced from my experience with Chinese calligraphy.

What inspires you?

I find inspiration in a lot of different things. I’ve always loved geometry and nature, so the two combined is always fascinating to me. Color is also a big part of my inspiration board, I love collecting color palettes that have a sense of balance and complexity. Photography and calligraphy are other inspirations that push me to seek out images that are dramatic and emotional. I use my Pinterest boards pretty consistently for all of these different kinds of visuals.

What one thing in your life could you absolutely get rid of?

Going through airport security. I always find it to be an unnecessary stress for me and really ruins the flying experience!

What is your favorite thing about the Midwest?

How friendly and supportive the community is! Everyone here in Columbus have been really supportive and encouraging of me embarking on this path from the beginning. I really treasure the camaraderie. The mid-size creative community here is also something I value. I love that it is still small enough that everyone knows of everyone’s work, but big enough also that we have a real diversity! Outside of the creative community, I love the nature that we are surrounded by and the tempo of life feels very fitting for me.

What are your pro tips for people going to a creative conference?

It’s a time to enjoy soaking up all of the different types of creatives and ideas that are floating around! Chat, mingle and be curious about what others are doing, even if it’s totally different from what you do. I find that ideas will spark with my own work when I least expect it.

What would you be if you weren’t an artist?

I think a lot of different things, but in the order of realistic possibilities, probably a therapist, a pianist and an astronaut! I think it would be absolutely fascinating to travel out in space and see all of the spectacles of our planets.

What will you talk about in your keynote?

How to strike a balance between making products that are both artistically fulfilling but can also make a profit in terms on running a business.

What three things would you recommend to makers?

I would recommend Design Matters with Debbie Millman for a design podcast, connecting with local creatives in your community and to try something new every year (either in terms of business strategy or an ambitious project). I’ve learned that one of the biggest ways that I’ve grown as an entrepreneur and business owner is to take risks and try projects that I have no idea how to do but still feel really excited about!

You can meet Yao and many other creative entrepreneurs at Midwest Craft Con in February 2017 — tickets are on sale now!