CYC AIR: Happy Place With Joanna Lin

Imagine walking into a colorfully immersive environment made entirely of fiber, exploding with vibrancy and texture. As you walk from room to room, new adventures await you in art installations you can’t help but sink your hands, and mind, into. 

The Craft Yarn Council is excited to announce a new partnership with Dallas’ premiere experiential art exhibit, Sweet Tooth Hotel, to bring an immersive fiber experience to audiences across the country. The new installation, titled “Intangible,” opened June 2020. 

“Intangible” showcases an all-female lineup of some of the top fiber artists from around the United States, including yarn-bomb extraordinaire London Kaye (Los Angeles, CA), Fiber Artist Niki Dionne (Dallas, TX), Muralist and Illustrator Alli Koch (Dallas, TX), Fiber Artist Jackie Lawrence (Denton, TX), Installation Fiber Artist and Yarn Bomber Hannah Busekrus (Austin, TX), Crochet Designer Twinkie Chan (San Francisco, CA), Textile Designer Molly Sydnor (Dallas, TX), Dallas Yarn Bomber Co-Founder Sally Ackerman (Dallas, TX), Knit Artist Joanna Lin (Dallas, TX) and Embroidery Artist Kara Herman (Denton, TX). Each artist has been given a dedicated space to create their own whimsical world completely made from fiber and are the first cohort for CYC AIR (Craft Yarn Council Artist-In-Residence program). 

Since each of the artists used large quantities of yarn for their installs, we wanted to do a special series of Happy Place blog posts to dive into how each of them stored and organized their yarn. Read on for our CYC AIR Happy Place with Joanna Lin! Joanna is a multidisciplinary maker from Colorado currently based in Dallas, TX. She received a BFA in Film/Animation/Video in 2015 from the Rhode Island School of Design. Since then she has collected professional experience as a graphic designer, tampon designer, motion graphics animator, artist assistant, and now a freelance designer.

Joanna shares her work under the name "Soft Surprise," which 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.



How many skeins of yarn did you receive for your Sweet Tooth Hotel installation?

I was given the opportunity to pick and choose from the leftover yarn since I officially joined the intangible roster late May 2020! There were plenty of skeins leftover, so I grabbed one box, one garbage bag, and one laundry basket full for my wall display. I had one week to make my flaccid tubes and I estimate that I used between 15-20 skeins total for my wall. A few months later, I picked up some more leftover yarn and I started making "hairy tubes" to fill the clawfoot bathtub in the entrance, and I've made around 170 "hairy tubes" since the middle of August.



What brand and fiber content did you use in your installation?

Everything in the exhibit is acrylic yarn. I used a mix of Red Heart Super Saver and Caron One Pound as well as lace weight (super thin) machine knitting yarn from my personal collection (most all of my personal machine knitting yarn I received for free since it was destashed).


What colors did you use for your installation?

I used a bunch of yellow (it's an easy color to work with - it goes with most other colors), some green, orange, hot pink, and a little bit of bright blue and purple, probably some random other colors too that I picked from the leftover pile!



What system did you use to organize your CYC AIR yarn for Sweet Tooth Hotel?

I kept all yarn skeins in my car, and I visit the stash on a daily basis and maybe grab three to four skeins at a time. As those skeins disappeared, I would get more. My lace weight yarn is the only yarn that has a proper storage space in my workroom, so using my car as been very effective as temporary storage!


What furniture or storage systems did you use to organize the yarn you received?

I knew I would have a hectic knitting week and wanted to make sure I had as much open space in my apartment as possible for working. Before this project, my workroom already hit the capacity for storage systems, so I just had to work with what I had. That's why I kept the yarn in my car, so I could enjoy seeing a pile of progress on the ground, and not so much a pile of expectation. If I need to keep a little more on hand, I like using collapsible/temporary storage options to hide some skeins, such as a blue Ikea bag.



Do you or have you ever found it difficult to manage or organize your yarn?

Members of the knitting machine guild I'm a part of use the term "yarn beyond life expectancy." My personal collection of yarn is already at that threshold. I try to only get yarn that has an IMMEDIATE action plan, yarn that will only be with me briefly. The opportunity at Sweet Tooth Hotel has been really great for letting me explore ideas that I can immediately "rehome" within the week of making it.


Knowing the amount of yarn you were going to receive, how did you find an organization system that worked for you?

I've been training my mind to overthink and fixate less in the past few months. I derail easily with overthinking. Luckily, I was given the go-ahead with my installation with one week of working time, so I only allowed my brain to make creative decisions to get my tubes made and finished, and I put as little thought into organizing as possible. I didn't have time to procrastinate or dwell on anything. The same goes for the "hairy tubes" - I just respond to the demand as quickly as possible, and car storage has still been very effective for me! 


How do you like to de-stash?

I happily brought all my leftover skeins back to Sweet Tooth Hotel after I made what I wanted with them! It was already in my car, after all. As far as my machine knitting yarns go, it's very time saving to have a lot of thin yarn to experiment with on the knitting machine because fatal errors are very common, and I still make mistakes like that. It's often faster to start over than it is to fix an error. Because most all of my machine knitting yarn was free, I don't spend any time frogging when I make a mistake, and I save the failed knitting in my discard pile. I repurpose my discards as stuffing/filling in toys and pillows. I'm waiting to clock in enough experience time on the knitting machine to where I've made many mistakes enough times that I finally make less mistakes. At that point, I hope to slowly replace my collection with more sustainable fibers like hemp yarn. 


Do you work in the same space where your yarn is stored? Why or why not?

Yes. My room has a huge yarn rack I inherited from the woman I got my machine knitting "everythings" from. Her husband made it for her. The rack supports many of the cones of machine knitting yarn I have. I do my best to return my cones to the rack. On my metal Costco wireshelf, I have a box filled with cones of cotton yarn, and then a box for miscellaneous skeins. If I could afford the luxury of a big open warehouse, I would probably keep my working area separate from my storage area. Keeping yarn in my car already felt pretty luxurious, if I do say so myself.



How important is a well-organized yarn corner/office to your mental wellbeing?

I can ignore a big mess for a week at a time, but I reset my space once a week. Resetting helps me renew my commitment to creativity and innovative thinking. My room is still pretty visually "noisy," which is why I made a render of my room instead.


Where did you purchase everything shown in the photos you submitted?   

  • Costco Wire Shelf (I optimize vertical space with this shelf)
  • Blue Ikea bag (I hide yarn in these bags)
  • Ikea rolling cart (I put airbrush materials on this cart)
  • Cube shelf (I put knitting machine accessories and books on this)
  • 12-Gallon Storage (I put small inventory in these, and paint supplies)
  • Daiso Camping Stool (I actually like machine knitting very low to the ground, keeps my eye level at the same level as the knitting and reduces neck pain)
  • C-Stand (I can clamp a light to this so my I can knit at night, and also use it to drape)
  • Clamp light (easy to move around my room so I can do crafts at night!)

 I like to keep boxes from shipments and I often use them for temporary storage.


Share any tips or advice you have for someone who is trying to reorganize their stash.

Hide your yarn in your car. :)


Sweet Tooth Hotel installation image courtesy of TA Visuals. All other images courtesy of Joanna Lin