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Meet Wendy Chou of Crafty Wendy Crafts in East LA

Today we’d like to introduce you to Wendy Chou.

Wendy, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
Shout out to the auntie who taught me art classes out of her garage once a week for ten years of my childhood. She gave me unstructured drawing and painting lessons that were mostly of the “here, copy this picture and paint to your heart’s content” variety. I spent my Saturdays listening to her compliment me on my artistic genius and thinking that I was the best at something. Artists know what it feels like to be ruined by compliments in your childhood and then having life slap you in the face.

In high school, I took some extra art classes from an actual art school, and that’s when I realized that I had poor basic foundation and was actually near the bottom of the barrel for my age as an “artist”. Pressure sank in about what I was supposed to do for the supposed rest of my life. I was then faced with the question, “Well, if I’m not the ‘best at art’, what am I supposed to be doing!?” I didn’t know what field of art I wanted to go into. I dabbled but didn’t really gravitate towards anything in particular. I just knew I wanted to make money doing what I enjoyed. Real money.

For college after much internal debate, I studied fashion merchandising. I thought – fashion and business, this makes a lot of sense. Great job, logical self! You’ve chosen a golden road. The art of clothes and making money. Well… I learned firsthand that the fashion industry environment is toxic – physically and mentally. I valued my sanity.

And so, I went back to the (drawing) board to figure out what I should do. What is it that I even enjoyed doing? I thought back to the years sunk into the education system, and I realized that my favorite part of school was the opportunity for arts and crafts. Science project? Craft time. Book report? Drawing time. Foreign language diary? Sketching and doodling. So I thought to myself that if God gave me a knack for this, I could at least see it through and invest some time and energy into it. With some mental cheerleading, much prayer, and a lot of “why nots”, I decided to give it another try.

I took some foundation drawing and painting classes at a local community college and let me tell you – relearning concepts and drawing mechanics as an adult is SO different. For once, concepts seemed to process, and I finally understood what and why I was drilled and taught to practice. All that is just to say that as a young adult, I picked up a dusty skill and decided to hone it through a curriculum, online videos, hours of practice, and hyping myself up at night. Of course, there was also lots of flailing of arms and agonizing groans of, “Why is this so hard and why can’t I just have viral magic bless me?!”

So I’m Wendy at CraftyWendyCrafts, I like to paint, put color on paper, and at any opportunity craft with various materials and surprise myself by making “a thing.” I’m also me, and so my art is about what I like, what I enjoy, what I’m about. At CraftyWendyCrafts, it’s a constantly (r)evolving door of giftable art and DIY ideas.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
My very first idea for my CraftyWendyCrafts business was greeting card illustrations. It kind of worked, kind of did not. I’ve pivoted and pivoted and pivoted, and maybe I’ll still do a greeting card in the future. Who knows? Is this what the market needs? Is it also who I am and what I can offer? These are questions I ask myself every single day.

Is anything worth doing ever smooth? I would say that I’m still struggling, but I’m enjoying it in a masochistic sort of way… It’s when that annoying app on my phone shows post history from three years ago, one year ago, that I realize that I’ve grown. And if the trajectory I’m on shows that I’m improving, then this can’t be a bad thing. I would very much like to make my business sustainable. I want to have my works published, for businesses to proudly display my work, and for my art to be shared and enjoyed. There are still bumps in the road, and maybe that means we don’t drive 60 mph over the bump, but that also doesn’t mean I’m going to put that thing in reverse, get out, or throw myself out the window. That being said, there are times I still feel like throwing myself out the window. I see all that I have not yet done and just see it as more room to explore.

I am thankful to have an opportunity to do something I enjoy, but not having anyone looming over my shoulder has its pros and cons. It’s a mental battle to constantly keep myself accountable, productive, and to find ways to improve.

Crafty Wendy Crafts – what should we know? What do you do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
As I mentioned, I’ve pivoted and pivoted as an artist and small business owner. One thing that has not changed though is my love of illustration, watercolor and fashion.

My watercolor professor says that watercolor painting is like a chess game. Each step you take is crucial and time-sensitive. It is not as forgiving as other paint mediums. You can only make so many mistakes before your paper deteriorates and everything is muddled together. I accept the challenge! I paint to illustrate in ways that a photo cannot always do. It’s idealistic, it’s realistic. It’s colorful, it’s fluid and dictated by the wild force that is water. It should bond with you emotionally. It creates a magical space, somewhere between what it looks like and what it feels like.

Incidentally, I’m also all about experiences with delicious food, the love and care behind its creation, and its own artistry. The step-by-step process that goes into cooking, layering of flavors, and presentation is an art that I respect and appreciate (and love to enjoy!). So while I may have a specific palate, it’s no surprise that food illustration is a particular calling that deeply resonates with me. Whether it’s in the form of branding, marketing, or publication, the goal of my food illustrations is to evoke the same emotions and appeal that the chef’s creation delivers, be it excitement, joy, or a sense of nostalgia.

My intrigue for fashion is still alive! When I see a creatively styled outfit my heart still races and eyes light up from excitement. And so I still craft looks. I still paint the fashion styles that I can’t get out of my head at night. Sewing and embroidery calms me. Painting challenges me to think, to plan, to be intentional with my strokes.

I also post from my art journal, a diary of experiences and travel highlights to share with everyone through the flow of my pen and brush. CraftyWendyCrafts is about what I can artistically offer the world. I’m a cross-section of food, fashion, culture, from my perspective and experiences.

What moment in your career do you look back most fondly on?
Is it too “child of an immigrant family” to say I’m not proud…yet? Though, I do pat myself on the back for even having the bravery to leave a “corporate job” that I gave and am still giving myself room to explore creatively and not quit.

I’m at peace with knowing that I’m meeting the moment of pandemic and the need that arose from it. I saw the importance of useful face coverings and that I could make something helpful. I quickly made a few test versions and made the best protective version I could (pocket room for filters, a nose cinch to close out gaps) and allowed straps to be tied by the user for best comfort. I’m glad to be able to contribute during this time of crisis.

Regularly I remind myself that the internet is still relatively new terrain; business on the world wide web is still evolving, and there are mistakes made but also no perfect path. It’s crucial to be light on my feet and to keep adapting. If I don’t try and give it my all then I’ve really failed. There’s always room in this world for more art, creativity and beautiful things.

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Personal photo cred: Juliann Cheryl

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