The inspirational journal of rising NYC jewelry designer, entrepreneur, violinist, and pastry chef, Yumi Chen.

NYC Jewelry Designer, Violinist, Pastry Chef, Small Business Owner, Free-Spirit, Positive Thinker!

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Archive for the ‘Profiles of Hope’ Category

Profiles of Hope: Linda Zeng, free spirit, open mind.

Monday, November 9th, 2009


November 9, 2009
by Cassie Newman

To Linda Zeng, doing something creative with her hands and doing something creative with her mind are not mutually exclusive things. Having been an English major at UC Berkeley, there’s no doubt she’s ‘book-smart’ and passionate about words on the page. But she’s perhaps more interested in doing something creative with her hands. “Sometimes I just get an urge to crochet a scarf or twirl a ring,” she confesses, giggling softly. Even as a little girl growing up in Brooklyn, she used to design clothes for her Barbies, cut their hair, make them over. “I’m sort of an aspiring makeup artist,” she says softly, as if she’s reluctant to be labeled as such just yet.

Linda only recently returned to the east coast from Berkeley and admits: “I’m still trying to figure out what I want to do.” She stumbled upon the work of designer Yumi Chen and “just wanted to be near someone so motivated. Her story just interested me a lot.” So about a month ago, she began working as a sales girl and particularly likes working the booth at fairs and markets. “I was afraid to apply because I didn’t think I had enough experience as a salesperson. I didn’t think doors would ever open.” But they already have. “I really don’t like desk jobs. I’ve had them. This is great for me; being outdoors. And people really are from all over the world.”

She’s not sure what’s next, but she’s not too worried. “I’m really free and open to opportunities. Which I guess is both good and bad. Right now I think I want to stay here [in New York] because opportunities are here. People here are very driven. And they really appreciate design and materials and colors in a different way than people on the west coast.” Which works for Linda, who also is inspired by colors. “I really like Swavorski crystals; how even the clear ones really sparkle,” She holds one up to her wrist, her passion newly engaged, her eyes shining, “See how they absorb your skin color and reflect it?” Probably the most genuine sales pitch you’ll hear all season.

Seems like this salesperson thing is working out just fine.

Romeo, A Personal Work-Study in America

Friday, April 10th, 2009


Two years ago, a man from Cameroon, East Africa, stepped foot on American land with only $25 in his pocket and a desire to learn all that he could about the people, culture, philosophies and work ethics of the great people here in the United States. His name is Romeo, and, yes, he is a lover, but his passions are for life, for knowledge and for the human spirit.

He has a striking charisma when he speaks; it feels like he is inspiring a crowd, and that his thoughts and ideas are coming from a greater, deeper place of understanding. He is an observer of life, a tireless student and a hard-worker, who in his own words “goes like the wind”, effortlessly and ceaselessly.

He has been doing crew work for trade shows touring the country, and recently moved to Maryland to pursue his love of woodworking and furniture-making. His goal is to return to Cameroon armed with the skills and knowledge to build up his community there. He believes in teaching life skills rather than funding communities from the outside because he feels it is more important to give people the tools themselves to be independent and strong. Ultimately, he would like to start a school for about 200 children, to start them on the right foot with an excellent education. The people in Cameroon send him emails weekly to hear his stories and seek his advice; he seems to be the hope of his community.

But he may be traveling for a while, yet, to see all that the world has to offer and bring the strengths and great ideas of all cultures back to his community. He wants to go to Asia next (since everything in America is made in Asia) to be “at the source of creativity”.

And yet for a man so ambitious and wise, it is amazing and inspiring to witness his zeal for life and all its unknowns, of which there are plenty for him. Until last week, he had never even heard of a banana split! Now there’s a great piece of American life he can bring back to Cameroon!

Profiles of Hope: Raoul is Redefining the T-Shirt

Wednesday, April 8th, 2009


It was New Year’s Eve, about six years ago. I wanted to just wear a casual shirt out, but I couldn’t find anything. So, I decided to make a prototype and use one of the images from my photography. I got a lot of comments on the shirt, so I began thinking about starting a clothing line using art from photographers.

I went to photography school in Toronto, and graduated thinking that I would work as a photo editor for a newspaper or a magazine. I wasn’t interested in becoming a commercial or fine art photographer, but I wanted to showcase my photography somehow. So when the idea came to me to create, basically, a gallery on t-shirts, I jumped in and started this company, Vernakular, and recruited other photographers to submit designs.

The style of photography that I do, that I’m most attracted to and that I use in my apparel, is actually called “vernacular”, meaning everyday shots, things that are almost accidentally artistic. So, I called the company Vernakular, with a “k” because ‘’ was already taken. But, being that I’m a creative and slightly twisted guy, I like the way that the “k” gives it an edge, a more urban spin.

The hardest part about business now is to keep growing and getting the word out, but also to keep growing and developing artistically. You have to constantly update your product; you don’t want to ever look stale. But at the same time, not everything can go on a t-shirt. I try not to let commerce dictate the content, but sometimes you need to, as a business person. Finding that balance between art and business gives me focus, which I think I need. Sometimes having too many options is an impediment.

I run into people once in a while, wearing my product. I get embarrassed when I see it. Maybe it’s weird, but I would never say anything. But I can’t stop looking.

* photo credit: *