We had the good fortune of connecting with Kristina Yu and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Kristina, we’d love to start by asking you about lessons learned. Is there a lesson you can share with us?
Since starting Cheery Human Studios, one of the most important things I’ve learned is how crucial it is to have a mission statement for your business / career. When I first started, I was a bit lost creatively. I knew I wanted to make cute and colorful artwork, but in the beginning, I did not take the time to ask myself what the intention behind all of that work was. That worked out great at first, but eventually, I got a little burned out making what I had been making for quite some time and I realize now it was because I didn’t have a mission statement to drive me forward. In time, I realized how important it was to reflect on my values and strengths and how I wanted to convey all of those things through the work I was making. It was in that time of reflection that I was able to define my creative mission statement and make work that I feel is now the best reflection of the kind of art I’d like to make going forward.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
About a decade ago, I started my professional career in the world of tech as a UX/UI designer. I built a career around it and started freelancing full-time in the industry around 2014. But after only 6 years, I felt extremely burned out and in a terrible creative rut. So, I decided to take a watercolor lettering class by Nicole Miyuki Santo at Smitten on Paper in Monrovia. This class ended up being the catalyst for my current creative pursuits. In 2016, I decided to start Cheery Human Studios, a creative brand with a focus on meaningful and colorful artwork for stationery, gifts and home decor. Since starting Cheery Human, my art style and my mission have evolved my art career in a number of ways including developing my current publishing and licensing aspirations! The first two years of Cheery Human were especially challenging because I had absolutely no idea how to run a business so I was always learning as much as I could. I’ve learned everything on my own from marketing and packaging to manufacturing and collaborations. And I’m still learning and growing all the time! After 4 years of running my own small business, one of the most important things I’ve learned is to be open to learning, changing and improving. Being willing to implement what you’ve learned and make changes where necessary will not only allow your business to grow, but help strengthen your creative work and ultimately your brand. I started my solopreneur journey with a desire to make cheery products full of color and whimsy to help bring joy to others. Over time, this mission developed into creating cute, colorful art with vulnerability and meaning that encourages, inspires and provides comfort to those who purchase my work for themselves or their loved ones. I began making more things that felt closer to who I am as a creative and an individual such as speaking up for what I believe in through my art, creating zines with positive messaging, and illustrating art prints with heartfelt words that I write myself. I am most proud of the courage I have practiced in being more vulnerable in my creations, all while stying true to my interests and art style. At the end of the day, I just want the people who see my work to feel like they aren’t alone.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
My best friend and I really enjoy local gift and stationery shops, bookstores, creative classes, food and concerts. Pre-COVID I would have taken her to a show at the Hollywood Bowl or a musical at the Pantages, go shopping at the Pasadena Farmers Market, try different cuisines at Smorgasburg in DTLA, have delicious Filipino food at LASA in Chinatown, feast on a fried chicken brunch at Honeybird in La Cañada, enjoy a comfy Thai dinner at Min’s Kitchen in La Canada or try yummy dairy-free cheeseburgers at Burgerlords in Highland Park. I would also sign us up for a dairy-free cooking class at Hipcooks East LA or a one-day pottery workshop at Still Life Ceramics in DTLA. And at some point during her visit, I’d take her to Leanna Lin’s Wonderland in Eagle Rock to shop local artist creations, Shorthand for Los Angeles made stationery products, Crush for locally made flair, Touch Art Supply in Highland Park to pick up some paints and Vroman’s Bookstore in Pasadena.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I am so grateful to have such an incredible support system. To my Cheery Human community of good friends & fellow artists – Thank you for following my work on Instagram, interacting with my posts, supporting me on Patreon, purchasing my artwork, supporting my fundraisers, sharing my work with your friends and family, reading my newsletters every week, gifting my work to your loved ones and for believing in what I do. Without you, Cheery Human would not be what it is today! To my paré, Diana – Thank you for your friendship and for believing in and encouraging the evolution of my work. To my husband, Darren – Thank you for being the best partner (ever), listening to and understanding my creative entrepreneur woes, being at nearly every in-person show and championing my goals. I love you and I like you. To my BFFL / sister, Marge – Thank you for supporting everything I’ve ever done, for being there for me unconditionally since we were 9 years old, making me laugh when all I want to do is cry from stress, and for always being the first in line (irl and online) for my product releases – best cheerleader ever. To my first friend, my brother, Josh – Thank you for teaching me how to find the joy and humor in life and for always being there for me – like when you helped me make hundreds of pins when I needed them for a show! To my Auntie Alice who taught me how to be bold, the importance of independence and how to be a good friend. And finally, to my loving mom – Thank you for instilling in me a hardworking spirit, determination and fearlessness that pushes me forward in my creative pursuits everyday.
Other: Portfolio: https://www.kristinayu.com/
Kristina Yu, Cheery Human Studios