Tina Yu Makes Captivating Surreal Body-Inspired Sculptures

The apparently sweet becomes somewhat bitter when you take a closer look at New York-based freelance artist and designer Tina Yu‘ figurines. Trained in graphic design at the Pratt Institute, Tina has since expanded into the mystical world of delicate sculpture, and has gone from strength to strength ever since.

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Working primarily with polymer clay, Tina creates intricate sculptures that have garnered a following of over 170,000 on her Instagram account, and not without good cause: we can’t look away either.

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Tina demonstrates an impressive attention to detail that comes into its own in doll-like facial expressions and achingly elegant poise. The characters themselves are often inspired by fantasies and fairy-tales, but Tina proves herself more than capable of pushing beyond the saccharine into somewhat darker, smarter, waters. Quite literally, in the case of her witty reference to Hokusai’s iconic The Great Wave off Kanagawa.

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A bold confection of garish colours and pastel pinks, Tina’s work also includes a selection of online tutorials, explaining how she does some of her more complicated work. Some videos demonstrate how she uses wire and clay to render human skin.

We pick the brains behind this mystical body of body-work.

The Plus: You have a very popular Instagram account and Youtube channel. How important is social media to your work?
Tina Yu: It’s very important! Although sometimes it can be stressful to deal with social media every single day, I am thankful for the platform that social media provides me to share my creations with the world.

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TP: How much does being raised in China influence your work?
TY: I am heavily influenced by Asian culture. I love combining transitional Asian art with pop art design.

TP: Your sculpture tutorial videos are really popular- do you hope that lots of people will learn from your videos and try sculpture themselves?
TY: Yes definitely! I am a self-taught sculptor. When I started sculpting for the first time I noticed there’s very few video tutorials out there, and it was very tough to try to figure everything out on your own. I want to share my knowledge with everyone who is also interested in sculpting.

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TP: Your sculpture is whimsical and surreal- which artist do you think most influences you?
TY: My favourite artists are Mark Ryden and James Jean.

TP: What are some of the difficulties of working with polymer clay?
TY: You have to bake it, and I had a lot of trouble with that when I first started. There’s been a lot of trial and error, but once you get the hang of it polymer clay is very easy to work with.

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