Xiao Ma


January 26, 2020

One of the many benefits of having a full-time job as opposed to grad school is I have all this creative energy back. Writing in grad school consumed all my energy and at the end of the day I have nothing intelligent left to say. And my writing style was trained towards more organized, hedged, objective, or scientific as you will, as opposed to a style more close to how I think — jumpy, random, and tangled. So this is what you get now (goodbye reviewer #2).

The problem with all this creative energy is that I feel restless all the time. I hope then to start actually creating art to do this energy justice. I have been writing about this project that I want to do for a month now — using used lipsticks. I was hoping to have a clean “design doc” and then execute it — similar to the process of a research/engineering project. But then a month passed and my design doc is not making any progress. After going to Zilia Sánchez: Soy Isla (I Am an Island) yesterday, and watching Frank Gehry’s master class on turning inspirations into ideas, I have to admit my initial research/engineering-driven approach doesn’t work very well for the creative processes.

“Creative block is an excuse out of fear for delaying, for procrastination. And I don’t think it’s relevant, and I think you should forget about it.” — Frank Gehry

So I changed my approach and just began to play with the materials I have instead of thinking too much about it. Ideas come as I play with the lipsticks I already collected, and it produces processes and results that I could not have designed.

The first is from this weird type of lipsticks in the shape of a cotton swab, and there is coloring in the tube. I tried to open one and it got spilled all over the place. And I was like — okay it actually looks not too bad. Then I tried to spill a couple more and liked how this one turned out.

Cotton Swab

Thoughts came to mind were the female body, wounded and healing, gestures and the lack of control.

The second one is from testing out the colors of the lipsticks I have collected so far from friends. Then one row over I decided to copy the color from each row with low tack tape.


I actually hate wearing lipsticks because it stains everything I drink from — and naturally I am paranoid about the cleanness of my glass. It is such a common experience that lipsticks get into contact and transfer to another surface, be it clothing, glass, or another human being.

At the same time, using tape to try to remove something from paper is also such a deep childhood memory — together with sometimes knifes to try to correct the writing on paper. Then it becomes interesting, to try to erase something, and at the same time replicating and mass producing their images.

Let me know if you want to send your used lipsticks my way.

Views are mine. On Twitter as @infoxiao