Amanda Walters and Jessica Zhou
Mentor Amanda Walters in conversation with Senior Youth Advisory Board member/mentee Jessica Zhou
WIP screen cap of Jessica Zhou's concrete poem for the upcoming SoEx AIE Antidotes to Confusion zine.
Jessica: What is your editing/collaboration process like? Do you have any editing best practices when it comes to creative non fiction? I'm beginning to edit essays for Sinostories and recognizing how worried I am that I might overstep because I'm editing work that is not only someone else's, but largely autobiographical - maybe, could you speak to how editing Feral Fabric was like?
Amanda: In a weird way, I think of editing as math with words, or something like that. There are specific rules that you follow to make a sentence and paragraph. Sometimes the flow is off and you have to move things around a bit. I do these moves as suggestions and give my explanation for the suggestion. Pretty frequently, people’s words get jumbled when they are trying to process a complicated idea, and your job is to notice that and ask pointed questions to guide a rewrite and help the reader understand the writer’s important thoughts. Also, I like to give people options if I’m making specific suggestions. That allows people to have agency and basically I just narrow down thesaurus options to the few that fit their idea.
Collaborating for Feral Fabric has mostly meant dividing tasks and figuring out who is good at what and splitting the work up accordingly. Paulina has a background as a graphic designer and printmaker, so she does all of that kind of work. I edit, write blurbs, and do all the website building and problem solving stuff. Everything else we kind of do together. In many ways it’s easier than my own personal practice because I have someone who I trust to help make decisions and give constant feedback. Things move faster too. I think I work better when I know I am accountable to someone else.
Jessica: Between writing, weaving, sewing, sculptures, how do your different mediums inform one another? I've been super interested in particular in what kinds of things that can't be conveyed in words, how words can be sculptural, how form lends itself to meeting, etc etc etc -- and would love any thoughts you might have on those things; as someone who is primarily a writer, I'm super interested in physical/material forms (though I don't totally know what or how to enter)!
Amanda: That is something that I try to understand myself! Usually, I will read something or see something that spins into an idea and an image and it’s already partially formed in my brain. I’m sure there is more to it, but I haven’t really figured it out. Often, I will exhaust a thought by making it in as many different forms as I can. I think that the implications of the mediums themselves influence my ideas. Like, I made this series of weavings using this process called painted warp. I collected images of a bunch of mountains in the tropical zone and painted them on the warp of a weaving. After the paint dries, you weave into the warp and the image becomes only partially visible, and there are two images, or image and pattern, or image and color, integrating into each other.
I also love using text in my physical artwork and have set some rules around how to use text. I like the work to either be image based or text based but not text on image, usually. I think I don’t want the text to interpret the image. I like to use the text to create an image just through the words.
Jessica: How would you describe the bounds of what sculpture as a medium/practice is? I've always thought of ceramic sculpture exclusively as the only kind of sculpture, but I'm really stoked about these sort of speculative objects you've been crafting after stories/themes you delve into - I've been interested in how objects/artifacts reflect stories of our lives, and things like the Shinto belief in objects having spirits, make me think about how storytelling can craft object making, or how object making can craft storytelling (inspired by this speculative microscope, a slow movie player)
Amanda: I love that idea about the objects having spirits. I really like the idea of objects as artifacts and try to play with the value of different objects. Like what objects do and don’t hold cultural value. And in the same way, what narratives attached to objects don’t hold cultural value? What are disposable stories? I think most of my sculptures sit somewhere between those ideas and my basic love of playing with materials. I just love making things. I love dying fabric and using it to put together stuff. I also love clay. Mostly though, I have an idea that I know would be good in clay or I have an idea that should be soft or should be made of a found object. I think they all have equal value in my mind. I think they all do something different though. Or, I just do something different with them. Some objects are about something and some objects do something. I like making both, really. Sometimes I want to be an inventor or a scientist, and other times I want to reflect on a headline from a 1980s newspaper.