Meet the Makers – Jenie Gao

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Tell us about yourself?
I’m an artist specializing in woodcut and ink drawings, a storyteller, and a wannabe minimalist.

What are you presenting at Maker Faire Milwaukee?
I will be giving a live printing demonstration with a selection of my woodblocks. Maker Faire attendees will have a chance to try the process and the prints created will be available for purchase.

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Why is making important to you?
A lot of good ideas die on the vine, so that’s one reason that making is important. Making is action. It’s greater than talk. It’s a process of learning by doing, which no other process of learning can compare to.  It’s easier to be busy than it is to be productive. Especially in this day, we’re all really good at being distracted with activity, most of which is meaningless. Respectable work can be quantified by how much we sell or distribute more so than by not only the quality but the necessity of what we produce. There’s a lot of layers between us and the products we use, and it’s numbing. It’s like feeling the world through a wool glove rather than with your bare fingertips. I’ve studied traditional printmaking and set type by hand. While I’m all for the modern convenience and neatness of computer software, I can’t help but notice the difference in the energy of both the process and the result. There’s love in the things we make, which is amplified by our closeness to the process.

What was the first thing you remember making?
A drawing of a cat with chunky legs. I was upset with the standard stick figure cats that other people drew, and believed it could be done better.

What have you made that you are most proud of?
It’s hard to be proud of a lot because I’m always trying to outdate what I’ve done before, but if I had to pick, then I’m proudest of the works that have created an experience for people, contributing to something bigger than good technique and craftsmanship. Several years ago now, I created an edition of pamphlets that commemorated my dad and shared stories of my experiences growing up with him. I gave those pamphlets away, and I still remember how it felt to be able to create an intimate moment for people in that bustling, crowded gallery, and to see that many people bond with a story and reflect for someone who beyond a few hundred words on paper was a stranger to them. That was special. Beyond visual art, I’ve been able to do some great events with people, like a competition I hosted in my former studio space called The Fastest Painter in Milwaukee. We raised $500 for the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, and the synergy in the room surrounding the event was wonderful. Most recently, at work, we surveyed people to see what kind of values they would want us to live by and hire by as an organization. I wrote 8 core values as a compilation of our survey results, and hope those values will mean a lot to people in the years to come, because they’re the ones who contributed to their existence.

Given an unlimited budget, what would you make?
Hundreds of building-sized murals that spanned across numerous cities and countries.