Windy Chien is a rare talent. A fine artist on what she says is her “third life,” Chien spent 14 years in the music industry, followed by almost a decade at Apple, before she quit that job to pursue her own creativity.
The pursuance of that creativity led Chien to knots. Chien explains, “knots sit at the intersection of function, science, and history.” To that fertile place, Windy Chien adds aesthetics to illuminate what she finds most fascinating about knots: the journey of the line.
“Knots are artifacts of human ingenuity,” explains Chien, “an ancient technology predating the wheel and use of fire. Knots manifest tension, direction of pull, forces working in harmony and in opposition. Examining these empirical aspects, I consider their physical function, cultural significance, and aesthetic value.” In 2016, Chien tasked herself with learning a new knot – out of the almost 4,000 documented – every day for one year, thus creating The Year of Knots (2016).
As she sought fluency, Chien came to recognize knotting as a universal language spoken across oceans, centuries, genders, and occupations. By the end of the year, she had found a new language in knots and, with it, her artistic voice.
From Windy Chien’s Point of View
Each knot comes with a story—a function, a history, an ingenious design; they live at the intersection of science and art. They are incredibly evocative objects. I’ve had elderly people come up to me with tears in their eyes after seeing my work and telling me how it reminded them of their parents.
Of all the basic building block elements of art —such as color, texture, shape, etc.— the line is my focus. In all my several bodies of work, as well as in knots themselves, the journey of the line tells a rich story.
On uncovering truths through art:
I am energized by and fascinated with early technology’s interface with traditional craft, a largely unknown and underexplored history. For example, in the late ‘60s, Fairchild Semiconductor exploited Navajo female weavers to assemble their early circuit boards. My Circuit Boards series depicts the motifs of male-dominated tech world while simultaneously re-presencing the work of the indigenous craftswomen who made them.
On the value of materials:
I identify as a fine artist, but my approach is that of the craftsperson. Crafts people’s allegiance is to the materials themselves. It gives me great pleasure to be fluent in the language of knots and to know exactly what my materials will and won’t do. I work *with* the materials, not against them.
On growth through adversity:
Challenges are good; they’re how we grow. And continually evolving is a value of mine. I am always pushing myself to iterate my work with new elements, going larger in scale, working with general contractors and architects in creating the structural elements necessary to support my work and looking for ways to make meaning.
Collaboration with Sunbrella
Sunbrella and Windy Chien first collaborated in 2018 when the Sunbrella team commissioned Chien to create an installation for the Art Basel Miami showcase at the Pulse Contemporary Art Fair.
From this initial collaboration with Sunbrella, a longstanding partnership grew. With shared commitments to craftsmanship and innovation, Sunbrella introduced Chien to Ardwyn Binding who fabricates the cordage that Chien uses in her art using Sunbrella yarns.
“The quality of the [Sunbrella] cordage is the highest I’ve ever found,” explains Chien. “My goal is to make meaningful work that stands both the test of time and the elements. Cotton frays and yellows with exposure to the sun, but Sunbrella’s UV-resistant colors remain saturated and rich.” She goes on, “Because it’s acrylic, the material is easy to clean (great for restaurants and kids), and the hand feel is plush and luxurious—it feels like wool.”