Hyungi Park grew up with an affinity for the digital space, from computer programming lessons with her mother at age 10 to creating Powerpoints for school book reports. She became interested in computers and design and decided to pursue sculpture at VCU Arts, where her story of incense and craft making began to blossom.
What began with incense in performances and installations turned into a deep curiosity about its origins. She began shaping the incense into flowers or braided sticks, twists on the traditional cone incense. “I create my own fusion of traditional-modern-American-Korean-abstract-Frankensteined,” she says.
While developing her work, Hyungi also became fascinated with how different Asian cultures applied incense, particularly citing how geisha used incense burning to indicate the cost of their entertainment and how families in the class Chinese workers let it be their version of an alarm clock. In a way, incense was a vehicle for education, and Hyungi took this mode of learning a step further by opening the Baboshop storefront in Los Angeles. The space has become a hub for emerging artisans, with workshops that cover some of Hyungi’s latest self-taught forms, which now extend to bookbinding, laser cutting and tattooing.
You probably recognize Amy Yip’s cakes from her ever-popular Instagram page, @yip.studio. Between the mossy, rocky green works and the lumpy pieces covered in strawberries and bright reds, Amy has made a name for herself when it comes to baking aesthetics. The New Zealand native comes from baking parents and actually avoided the career path at first, having seen all the physical labor that has gone into her family’s business. She started in art school and then worked as a textile designer for six years; but when she finally “discovers a way to connect [art and baking]Amy became fascinated.
Almost two years later, Amy began her practice. The rocky geometry of her cakes is quite intentional, derived from her mother’s enthusiasm for crystals; she is also often inspired by the flowers present at events where she is the pastry chef. Amy’s cake design is just the beginning, as flavor profiles span yuzu shiso, rose oolong and lychee, brown butter and Japanese sweet potato, and more. “I’ve always wanted Asian-inspired cakes for my birthday, [but] it was always hard to find those cakes and those textures,” she says.
Not only does Amy’s studio tout the flavors of her heritage, Amy shares that she intentionally used her last name for the business. While she was growing up, her parents chose to name their own business after a New Zealander. in the mid-1990s, she was not as proud or vocal about her identity as 66% Chinese and 33% Vietnamese. “I wanted a different last name, like Smith – I wanted to blend in,” she says. Now she is happy “to take something I was embarrassed about and show how proud I am”.