Better Know A Crafter: Marn Wong of NoisyBeak
We love it when sustainability, whimsy and true art forms collide. The artwork of Marn Wong, owner of the sustainable doll business NoisyBeak, is so inspiring in that she captures lifeforms, emotions and body language through her work with salvaged and upcycled materials.
"I start each new piece by taking apart old clothes," says Wong on her artist's statement. "The upcycled textiles and the memories they contain, interact with my emotions expressed as needlework, become a textile creature.
While some emotions are frightening, my art is childlike—made to the size of a cupped hand or a cuddle hold—so they are approachable and invites one to hold them, comforting one’s own emotion."
Below we have a Q&A with Marn to share her work with you and explore the creative inspiration she taps into to make her lovely art pieces. You may also visit Marn's website where you can purchase some of her pieces, sign up for her newsletter and learn more about her work.
• How did you get started in sustainable making and Noisy Beak specifically?
I really wanted a cat, but I couldn’t because of my then-frequent travels. I felt it would have been unfair to any animal I adopted. From my previous job, I had a lot of off cut fabric, and a worn out cushion and it started there. Then I made a person. I stitched my face on, not because I wanted a mini me, but the closest face was in the mirror. When it was done, looking back at me, I realized that it wasn't just gonna be a cute thing sitting on the shelf or make a dozen and gift to friends for Christmas.
• Where did you get the name Noisy Beak? Does it have significance that you would like to discuss?
It was the first name that came to mind. Sound conveys a presence, just like my dolls (I call beakies). They have a lot to say if you care to listen.
•How did you get started in sewing? What is your background?
I was trained in interior design, but worked as a bespoke apparel designer. I enjoyed using technical know-how to bring visions into reality. Having said that, over the last few years of making beakies, I'm continuously freeing myself from the bounds to create from the heart.
• What does a normal work day look like for you?
I spend most of the day getting into an optimum state to create. After sunsets, I sit down and pour out what has been brewing in me.
• Tell us about your studio or workspace.
I'm blessed to have a spare room to house all states of making, because my husband does not like the alternative of having fiber threads and needles all over the house. A coffee table sits in the centre of the room, facing a blank wall. Around it, on the carpeted floor are 'islands' of materials, roughly sorted by type and size, but eventually get moved around. By the table are bags of really small scraps from cutting and threads ends, all for immediate reuse.
Compared to every workspace I've seen online, mine might be the least attractive. There are no decorations, I even face away from the window, as I prefer to let inspiration come from my own energies, my own interpretations of whatever subject it might be.
• How would you describe your design aesthetic?
There is a compulsion to break materials down, as a symbolic reincarnation. Dolls are born from chaos, I would not claim I am organized, but chaos sorta find it's own rhythm and I settle in a way that we recognize as something familiar. A familiar energy or emotion if you will.
• As an artist, what are some of the bigger creative challenges to your work?
Wanting to repeat what I liked about the last creation, only to fail because each one finds its own way. I'm also prone to being systematic, which makes it hard to express the soul of the dolls.
•Where did the inspiration for your art dolls come from? Additionally, when you embark upon making a new doll - how do you decide what you are going to make? Does it come before you find a scrap or after you find something in particular that you can see becoming a doll?
Let's say I want to make a bear. It would be quite specific, like a sun bear. So I'll look up pictures, watch videos, sketch from them. Know the animal well enough to make without looking at reference. The eventual energy or emotion of the doll will be a combination of my feelings towards the animal, and the experience of making, like how easy or hard it was to stitch the scraps, or if it even came together, and whatever overriding emotion I have. (Which is why I mentioned that I need all day to get ready, partly to clear emotional blocks.) So, terry fabric could inspire a lamb, but most likely would end up as something else. On the other hand, I could start with denim and want it to be furry, so I'll somehow need to make it express furriness. This process, this struggle, becomes inspiration, either in the same piece or a new one.
•Are there any special eco-friendly practices built into your business aside from the obvious?
I save everything. The smallest scraps and threads, you never know when you'll need them. I build a workflow to keep the physical stuff organized so that I can let my heart and mind run wild. Even my product packaging is upcycled food bags. Buying recycled materials is better than not, but upcycling from inside your home to further lower carbon footprint is even better.
•Why is sustainability an important value for you?
I think it is honouring cycles of life. Everything comes from somewhere, and eventually goes somewhere. I help redirect unwanted fabric away from the land fill, into homes and hearts.
• What are you most proud of in your work?
They come alive in my hands. And they are noisy.
•What are you currently working on? What is that process like and what inspired you to start?
I am constantly making new creatures. At this moment I'm working on my on-going series of mighty girls which are pocket sized (mostly) human dolls with slogan tops. From my door, they go out to the world and send positive vibes.
• How do you acquire the scraps that you use to make your artwork?
From a local zero waste Facebook group.
• Do you have a favorite piece that you have created? Why is it your favorite?
Not favourite, but important. Her name is nonono. She reminds me to set boundaries with my energy.
• What do you hope people do with the items they purchase or get from your items when they receive them?
Talk to them. Listen to them.
•What is your favorite album to listen to while you work?
Most of the time I use noise cancelling headphones, to minimize external influences so I can hear the dolly's voice (hence noisybeak). If I did listen to music, it would be Muse or Roisin Murphy.
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