From Chaos to Craftsmanship: Chen Yizhen's Healing Journey Through Glass Art

By That's, September 28, 2023

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In the realm of craftsmanship, Chen Yizhen has discovered the curative properties of art. Her journey began amidst the profound intricacies of glass blowing, a skill that she stumbled upon during a tumultuous period of her life. Today, her path as an artist is underpinned by her experiences, subtly tethering her innate creativity with a medium as fluid as molten glass.

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Chen's fascination with glass began with a variety show "Blown Away," a display of grand-scale glass blowing. Enamored by the paradoxical transformation of glass, cold and unyielding, metamorphosing under extreme heat into malleable forms, she was hooked. The complexity of this ancient craft provided the exhausting physicality she yearned for, a catharsis during a particularly chaotic time. She quickly found herself immersed in lampworking, a subfield of glassworking more suited to her immediate needs, under the guidance of a mentor, Teacher Pang.

Over a year of study in a glass workshop and Chen humbly acknowledges that her journey has just begun. The depth of the glass medium is something she has only begun to probe, viewing her current role more as a receiver and sensor than a creator or expresser. Understanding that artistic creation requires both skill and creativity, Chen seeks a balanced path where the two complement each other harmoniously.

Her training involves mastering fundamental techniques such as making tall footed cups, an exercise rooted in tradition and history that tests comprehensive skills. Drawing inspiration from a multitude of sources, she's preparing to craft a woven piece, influenced by the lyrics of the musical "Butterfly."

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Chen's studio resides in a small space next to Liwanhu Park, where she practices and offers experiential services over the weekends. She utilizes the Chinese social media platform, Xiaohongshu (Little Red Book), to document her journey, not as a showcase of fully matured works but as a personal record of her growth.

She has yet to venture into large-scale installations, the complexity of which require superior control over materials and technical traits. However, her ambitions are evident in her vision for "Formed by Belief," a meter-tall work merging the human form with natural branches, embodying the power of lampworking techniques.

While she acknowledges the scarcity of her completed works, Chen aspires for her art to be aesthetically pleasing and to bear a personal touch. She grapples with the challenge of avoiding excessive technicality while also striving to create something of boutique quality.

Art, for Chen, serves as a refuge. Amid years of struggle with anxiety and depression, she found solace in glassblowing. The craft became an embodiment of her existence, a tangible outlet for her life's energy. Whether it's ambitious artists, exploratory artisans, or curious visitors, Chen believes there's a place for everyone in glassblowing. As she continues to evolve, she remains steadfast in her pursuit of balance between technique and creativity.

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Some of Chen's glassworks are available for purchase on Xiaohongshu, offering an opportunity to own a piece of this dedicated artisan's journey into the healing world of glass.

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