Hi friends! My name is Jo and I like bubble tea and petting other people’s dogs. Growing up I made my parents very disappointed by telling them my dream was to own a pet-friendly bubble tea cafe-slash-boutique that was also a bar by night. (Boozy bubble tea is a thing now!! They stole my idea!! I’m tellin ya!!) Years later I did the impossible and somehow disappointed them EVEN more by 1) not becoming a real doctor and also 2) accidentally falling in love with a very handsome, very not-Chinese agnostic and moving to a whole other country. Thing 1 was my fault but thing 2 definitely not on account of him being so handsome.
I make garments to play dress up in real life. Why be just little old me when I could be a femme fatale old-Shanghai lady gangster? Or a 80s Wall Street gazillionaire sunning on the deck of his playboy yacht? Though sometimes I don’t play a character but dress for a concept – like a glamorous floral cloud or a soft flaky pastry dream. (I know I’m sounding more cracked the more I go on about this but TELL ME you haven’t once wanted to look like an elegant French dessert) And other times it’s not even a concept and I’m just consumed by, say, a raging desire to wear checks or neon green. It seems mental but it’s what keeps me ticking! Finding what I wanted in my size (with short enough sleeves for my tiny T rex arms) was too hard so I had to make my dress-up dreams come true myself!
What influence does music have in your life as a creative?:
Music does NOT help my creativity. The good Lord made me with just enough juice in the old walnut for tunes or thoughts but not both. If I’m trying to imagine out a new project I’m usually sitting very still or lying on my bed looking at nothing as my brain drags the idea around behind it like a sulky toddler. Every other time of day, yes to music. Yes to upbeat music that gets me out of bed and yes to bangers in the car and for two glorious weeks I played the Rocketman soundtrack repeatedly for all 8 hours of the workday leaving my colleagues wondering if they should kill Elton, me, both, or themselves.
Sewing is another matter. My handsome agnostic lives 2 hours away and our weekends are spent cooking and hiking and watching Netflix and just generally pretending we still live together. I only really have sewing time after work, which means I sew when I am tired and lonely and need to clear my head. So I don’t listen to anything that evokes strong emotions or memories (when I listen to DNCE’s Cake By The Ocean I can smell the exact smell of my Leith Street flat), and because of the aforementioned limitations of my walnut, nothing overly discordant or challenging. I am that one woman who can’t multitask and I get headaches if I’m having to focus on too much conflicting stimuli. Given that my day job is essentially a high stakes art project performed on live people I have made sewing a gentle, forgiving, meditative process – a soft and mindless time that calls for soft and mindless music. Sometimes I listen to an audiobook if I’m not doing anything overly complicated but generally I look forward to my quiet evenings of slow, thoughtful creating, with gentle music to wash away the worries and cares of who I am and what I do.
(In saying all of that I do listen to a God awful lot of Eminem. I know I know all that blather about gentle and meditative and slow but there is a regularity to the cadence of his voice which I find oddly soothing and it DOESN’T make my head hurt for some reason. I’m not saying I have all the lyrics memorized but I will say that I’m bloody good at karaoke.)
Tell us about your playlist:
I don’t listen to this playlist specifically, but it should give you some idea of what’s generally playing when I’m sewing. It’s designed to be shuffle played. The overarching theme of this song collection is ‘Sounds that Don’t Give Me a Headache’ so it would be easier to list what it is NOT about: string instruments, overly percussive songs, irregular tempos, any kind of house, and very specifically early 2000s pop punk (don’t get me wrong I spent many blissful years Panicking at the Disco and I found Charlotte excellent not merely Good, but it doesn’t jive with focused tasks).
And of course I aggressively overthought this little list of songs despite a very clear instruction to NOT overthink it. There’s too much piano in here, does that make me seem too Asian? But will the real piano virtuoso Ling Lings denigrate my selections as tasteless and pedestrian? Actually, is it not Asian enough? Does having Kau Ilhamku and Belaian Jiwa in there make me seem charmingly connected to my roots or does it seem forced and false, a desperately obvious and obviously desperate attempt to reclaim a cultural identity I no longer fully possess? Will people NOT from Malaysia like it? Also there’s rap in here, but it’s only from two white guys and both their names start with M, what’s up with that? Was Eminem a safe choice? Does liking his music mean I support normalizing the themes of violence against women and homophobia he espouses in his earlier works? (I don’t and as far as I understand it, neither does he now) Should I assemble a more diverse troupe of rap-making individuals just so people won’t think I support white appropriation of black culture? What about Cardi or Nikki? Or Doja Cat? Does she count? But they all make my head hurt? And so on.
So I invite you to, I guess, not overthink it the way I did. Enjoy the repetitive piano and covers of showtunes. I’ve chosen two of the more benign Eminem tracks with, as far as I can ascertain, no wife-beating and very little mentions of his dick. Also I’ve added my favouritest Macklemore track on account of there being nothing more truly satisfying as making something candy coloured while bawling out BITCH I’M WILLY WONKA over and over as a testimony to your own hyperinflated sense of creative genius. But in general I hope you have a mellow experience. Zone out. Go to your happy place. Make pretty things. It’s all good fam, it’s all good.