"Here at Soft Surprise, we offer the best novelty garbage money can buy. We just might have that perfect somethin' somethin' to 'impress' your friends AND family. Our soft goods proudly reflect a timeless grandma aesthetic and D.I.WHY ethos."
Although that's the tongue in cheek way that Joanna Lin (aka Soft Surprise) introduces herself, the serious craftsmanship of her work speaks itself. Soft Surprise is an evolving art practice that plays with irony and humor to create a wide range of functional and non-functional objects. In experimenting with traditional and digital mediums, their creative process often mixes high- and low- tech processes. Much of the work attempts to subvert expectations by elevating low brow humor with high regard for craftsmanship.
Soft Surprises' whimsical giant wormies are featured in the window of our Rewind art exhibit at Watters Creek. Read on to hear what makes Soft Surprise tick and then head over to shop the LIMITED TIME ONLINE POPUP.
What makes you tick? Are there certain things from your background that led you down this path to become an artist?
My violin teacher fired me (i didn't practice) when I was 16 or 17. She gave my dad some parting words of advice: "I don't think Joanna is cut out for performing arts, have you considered visual arts?” This well-timed advice led me down the path I’m on now!
In general and in art, I love finding shortcuts. I happily spend hours researching faster ways to do tasks; in the amount of time spent researching, I probably could’ve finished the task by doing it the “slow” way, but finding the perfect shortcut renews my will to live!!! I also enjoy exploring ideas that make me laugh. Some projects take longer than others to make. When that’s the case, the strength of the joke often serves as a renewable source of enthusiasm. Sometimes my ideas are outrageously dumb, to the point that ONLY I would be stupid enough to spend an embarrassing amount of time and resources fabricating something so frivolous and absurd. 100% joke's on me. It’s important to me that the stupider ideas are held to a higher standard of craftsmanship….more stupid : more time, and that's ok because 🎵 I’m laughing all the way, ho ho ho 🎵.
What is your medium of choice and why?
I like knitting, it’s approachable, and many people have some sort of relationship to it. Playing with a medium that’s so ubiquitous gives me room to mix familiar with unfamiliar.
Where does your inspiration come from?
Advertisements are really bonkers to me. The lengths that companies will go, to push language and visuals all in the name of the godly dollar, is fully absurd and blows my mind on a regular basis. Once I got an Instagram ad for feminine products and the wording was "up to 100% leak-free protection"...WHAT DO THOSE WORDS MEAN, IN THAT ORDER?
On a more serious note, something I always try to remember is: inspiration is around you at all times. some days you may be too tired, or too distracted to see it and that IS OKAY. Have faith that inspiration is around every corner, waiting for you, whenever you’re ready to take it in.
Do you have advice for artists who are just starting out?
It's a numbers game! Making *possibly* "bad" stuff is better than making no stuff! Just drown out the mean/doubtful little voice in your head by putting on a podcast, tv show, or music in the background and DO THE THING! Evaluate it only when you're done. If you don't like it, that's ok! It can be your deep dark secret til the end of time.
If you're lost and stuck, I highly recommend "The Artist's Way" by Julia Cameron. you can choose how much you want to engage with the text at whatever commitment level you can accommodate. She herself narrates an abridged audiobook version of her text that's only 3ish hours long. It's a very easy listen! I listened to her audiobook a couple of times over for a year before I actually tried to follow the program earnestly. Make a support group with your friends and work through her book together! You can get out of it whatever you can put into it!
Where did the idea for your STH installation come from?
I didn't grow up in Texas but I have always been familiar with the recurring joke about TX, namely "everything is bigger in TX". When I moved here, the mutli-level accuracy of that sentiment is eternally entertaining to me.
What's next for you?
I’d love to make a compilation of the things I’ve knitted/crafted, maybe as a limited run coffee table book. I want to make the most of my limited free time by knitting more one-offs and moving farther away from production knitting (get your wormies while they're available!) Lately, much of the small business crafting community lives in fear of being ripped off by a giant in the fast fashion industry. This may be one of the main reasons I want to share my work in more intimate ways, save up all my work and put it in a book…but also wouldn't it be SO romantic to be “discovered” posthumously 😖? Here’s to hoping that this year is the year I tackle my works in progress!
Where can visitors find out more about your work?
Feel free to sign up for my “newsletter” at the bottom of my website: softsurprise.com! When I release a book, I will send out an email blast! Maybe I’ll share my work exclusively through emails! I don’t know yet! Sign up and find out! ❤️️