Michelle Yue is a 26-year-old artist from Houston, Texas, with a degree in Art History from the University of Houston. She has worked as a singer, songwriter, pianist and synthesizer with two popular inner-city bands, Matsu Mixu, and Monorose. The venues they’ve frequented include Notsuoh, Walter’s Downtown, Numbers Nightclub and The House of Creeps. But Yue’s success doesn’t end there. Yue is an all-around artist, finding inspiration and success in a variety of creative fields, which includes not only music–but fashion as well: Yue is a jewelry designer, with an upcoming company called Shopnonhuman, and her work is currently being featured at the Contemporary Arts Museum of Houston as part of the Texas Design Now exhibit.
Yue is planning a move to Portland in March, where we expect her brand and music-venture Matsu Mixu to pick up.
Fortunately, I was lucky enough to catch her before she’s gone, and nabbed this interview.
Angry Girl: “The pieces you have featured at the CAMH are stunning. What was the inspiration behind them? In general, what inspires you?”
Michelle Yue: “The naked human body and simple shapes inspire me. A lot of my work comes from confronting issues with the functionality of consumable goods. Broken clasps, missing gems, and tarnished material… These are just some of the problems that pushed me to explore new forms of body adornment.”
Angry Girl: “You may or may not be familiar with the term “mansplaining”—when a guy explains to a woman how she should be interpreting her own experiences and expertise—which is all too common outside the art-world, and likely within it as well. Have you ever been “mansplained” on your creative process or art in general?”
Michelle Yue: “Definitely, but I am a strong personality type and may have ‘mansplained’ a mansplainer – if that makes any sense. Overall, I don’t encounter many people like this.”
Angry Girl: “Your pieces at the CAMH are all jewelry (as I understand), which I suspect will be worn primarily by women-identified individuals, though I could be wrong. Who do you imagine wearing your pieces?”
Michelle Yue: “Currently, there are more women who wear my pieces. This is not my personal intention. Jewelry is unisex, like clothing, like office supplies. People need to spend less time wondering if the item they want is made for boys or girls and more time looking in the mirror and saying ‘Damn, I look good and feel good in this.’ Everything to me is genderless, unless it has the biological markings of male / female. I see style-forward and artistic individuals wearing my pieces.”
Angry Girl: “Jewelry making is often regarded as craftsmanship rather than art. Viewing your pieces and the originality of their shapes and translucence—one can easily see that you have an eye for the aesthetic and the technical skills necessary to pull it off. Do you consider yourself an artist? Why or why not?”
Michelle Yue: “I actually consider myself an artist before jewelry designer. This is because I began life as an artist. Like many artists out there, my creativity comes out in multiple dimensions. The desire to create is a universal feeling that expresses itself through as many forms as an artist chooses. (Music, poetry, painting, interior design, fashion, makeup, etc.)”
Angry Girl: “Who are other women-identified individuals that you know who encourage you, and support your work? Are there any? How do you think their support (or lack) influences your ability to ‘keep on-keeping on’, as we say here in Houston?
Michelle Yue: There are so many women who have helped me along the way, and I am grateful to all of them for their willingness to collaborate and experiment with me. I recognize that my work is different and, therefore, often confronted with misunderstanding. Andi Valentine is a photographer & artist & model from Houston who actually helped get my work noticed by Settlement Goods, a boutique. She has also photographed my work on various occasions.
I love to leave her alone with my jewelry and her camera. She’s a magician! A lot of my photos are from her. Sarah Kate is a stylist & model & writer from New York who has modeled for me various times as well as shared my work to her fans on social media. She has even helped me with interview responses! She’s a strong woman and great style inspiration. My mom came from rural China and made a luxurious life for herself here in America through hard work and perseverance. I look up to her in so many ways, and I find strength in her when I feel weak and afraid of failure. She has supported me in so many ways, and I would not be who I am without her. Whenever I would worry, she would say to me – ‘I didn’t find myself until I was 30. You will find yourself. Just keep working hard and always be a good person.’
My sister Tina Chang has also been a huge help. She recently graduated from the Savannah College of Art and Design with a study in film, so she has a keen eye on aesthetics. Her knowledge of pop culture as well as social media has really boosted my own work. She has set up photo shoots that I could not have dreamed of. She is basically my partner in business, and I love her for supporting me relentlessly. There are many more wonderful women who have gone out of their way to represent and support Shopnonhuman. Their love, kindness, and praiseful words really help me get through the daily struggleand the fears of my own work. If it weren’t for the help and love from these beautiful women, I wouldnot be doing what I do. Remember to always praise people for their work – find the beauty in what they do. You might just be watering a seed that will grow into a beautiful fruit.”
Those interested in seeing Yue’s artwork should visit her website:http://www.shopnonhuman.com, or check out the Texas Design Now exhibit at the Contemporary Arts Museum of Houston. The exhibit runs now through November 29th, 2015.