I first interviewed San Francisco fiber artist Windy Chien, our guest on Episode 3 of the 7x7 podcast, "People Will Talk," for a story about her cool Victorian home in the Mission.
The house has, as you might expect for an artist, plentiful quirky surprises—an ombre exterior, classic Pendleton striping banding the walls of an attic bedroom, Chien's rope-knotting experiments in full effect on the spiral staircase. The home of a creative, adventurous soul.
But it was also the home of a generous soul. The day before that 2017 interview, Chien had undergone some emergency dental work, but was still welcoming and open to all of my intrusive reporterly questions. This podcast, recorded this past fall, unfolded in much the same way, though without the inconvenient tooth pain. Chien, dressed in an adorable Indian Summer get-up (puff-sleeve off-the-shoulder blouse and shorts), spoke with bounce and gravitas, a balance that she will tell you comes from the confidence of her age and vast life experience.
You see, being a full-time artist is relatively new for her—a third act, if you will, for her professional career, in which she has previously been a record-store owner (SF's Aquarius Records) and an Apple employee. She is now fully and unapologetically exploring her creativity, transforming rope into mesmerizing art installations that both honor and elevate the utility of the material. It all started with a humble personal exercise in 2016: the now-iconic Year of Knots, in which she learned how to make a new knot each day. In all ways, the unwavering dedication she experienced that year has unfolded many momentous accomplishments in its wake: She recently exhibited at Art Basel Miami Beach and created a rope installation at National Geographic HQ in Washington, D.C.
Refreshingly, Chien is the glorious opposite of a flighty millennial with a screen obsession and flickering attention span. And not just because the magic of middle age has made her grounded, self-assured, and sage, but also because she works so intensely with her hands, throws her whole body into her large-scale installations, and is constantly deducing the complicated nature of her designs into their fundamental loops and turns. As such, her creative process is profoundly inward and meditative.
Maybe because this is her third act, she seems more appreciative of the artist life than anyone I've ever met. So, don't miss out on all of this gold: You could wait for her forthcoming book (out from Abrams this fall), but if you need inspiration to make a shift in your life today, something that's familiar to most of us at the start of a new year, tune in to the podcast now.
// 7x7 Bay Area's "People Will Talk" is available on iTunes and wherever you get your podcasts.