Profile and Q&A: Joseph Wu
Like many people, Joseph Wu encountered origami as a child, folding paper since the age of three. Unlike most people, he continued practising his craft, and began creating original designs at the age of eleven. Joseph continues to be an active participant in the international origami community. He has been invited to attend conferences, teach classes, give lectures, and exhibit works in many parts of the world. In May, he was invited as the special guest at both the German and French origami conventions. He also co-administers the email discussion group on origami, facilitating communication between enthusiasts from over 35 countries.
Joseph’s work has been shown internationally at both conventions and at gallery shows. Photos of his work have graced the pages of many publications, including Rolling Stone, O Magazine, and the New York Times. His clients have included Stolichnaya Vodka, Intel and Air Canada, and he has produced on-set art for such TV shows and movies as Fringe and Underworld 4.
In 2009, Joseph designed, built and installed a 180-foot long origami light sculpture that is the centrepiece of Oru, the restaurant at the Fairmont Pacific Rim hotel in downtown Vancouver. He also contributed origami lights to the Vancouver pavilion at the 2010 Olympic Games. At the end of November, 2011, Jelly Swarm, a collaborative project between Joseph and Tangible Interaction, featuring almost 100 computer lighted jellyfish was installed for view at the Vancouver Aquarium.
CMV: How do you define creativity and apply it in your career?
JW: Creativity is not the same as originality. I consider creativity to be the ability to make something new from that which has come before. To see things from a different point of view, to make something different by combining existing elements in a new way, to put your own personal twist on what has come before…these are ways that creativity manifests.
CMV: Where do you find your best creative inspiration?
JW: From the work and challenges of others. Often I get inspired by looking at art created by artists working in different media from mine. And being asked to create something new by someone I know well (e.g. my son) gives me opportunities to be creative.
CMV: What’s the one creative advice or tip you wish you’d known as a young person?
JW: It’s okay to make mistakes. Actually, it’s necessary to make mistakes. Without experience, we cannot learn or grow. And gaining experience comes from both successes and failures.
CMV: Who would you like to hear speak at CreativeMornings/Vancouver?
JW: Rachael Ashe
CMV: What is the best spontaneous decision you’ve made?
JW: When I was a boy, maybe around 9-years-old, the father of a family friend died. He had been ill for a long time. I believe it was terminal cancer. The doctors had given him 6 months to live. He prayed that he would be able to spend 3 more years with his family. When he finally passed away peacefully in his sleep, at home with his family, he had lived 3 years and 6 months from the day the doctor had given the original prognosis. We lived nearby, so our family went to the house as soon as we heard. As we gazed upon his serene face, I heard that his last wish was to look once again upon the leaves growing outside his window. I immediately jumped up, ran outside, and brought back a branch from the bush outside and put it into his hand.
CMV: What was the best advice you were ever given?
JW: When I was 17, I was told that life begins at 30. I took it to heart. It allowed me to spend the time experiencing and learning rather than getting hung up on having to fulfill goals. I set aside any thoughts of having to decide what I wanted to be, any expectations on when I would have to get married, any worries about being fitted into a particular mold. Of course, I still worried about such things subconsciously, but I believe that I would have been more neurotic than I am now if I hadn’t consciously made that decision.