Art & Design

Visual Artist Amber Park on Navigating the NFT Space as a Female, Asian, Queer Creative

The emerging creative talks inclusivity, community building and more.

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Amber Park wears many hats — creative director, visual artist, art director and so on. She also jokingly calls herself a therapist when she’s working with musicians. Furthering her artistry, the Korean-American creative has tapped into the ever-so-talked-about NFT space, launching a collection dubbed “I Like You, You’re Weird (ILYYW)” with Mason Rothschild, the artist behind the famous MetaBirkins NFTs.

One thing Park noticed about the crypto space was that it lacked inclusivity, being a male-dominated world. She tells Hypebae that she wanted to “encourage a sense of inclusive, safe and diverse community building” through the project — an underlying theme throughout all of her work, including her NFT projects as well as her collaboration with Sabrina Carpenter on a music video for a track off her upcoming album.

“I first started working with Amber when I was 18 years old and it was and still is incredible to work alongside someone so close in age who is also so motivated and ambitious,” the musician speaks of the artist. “Amber has a very special way of seeing things before they are ever there, and being super collaborative when it comes to helping my ideas come to life, she has always constantly challenged normal concepts into something beyond extraordinary and I am so grateful for that.”

Below, we chat with Park about everything from her work in NFTs and digital art, to her future plans, which include launching a streetwear label and directing a music video. Continue scrolling to read our latest conversation with the artist.

 

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Tell us a little bit about yourself and your background. What do you do and what are some recent projects you’ve been working on?

I am a multi-hyphenate creative thinker, visual artist, art director and creative director. I direct music videos and commercials, art direct and design album artwork, merchandise, brand campaigns, creative direct live shows, performances, videos, and album rollouts. As a creative director to music artists, I joke that sometimes I am also a therapist. I have become accustomed to going with the flow, rolling with the punches and wearing many hats. I’ve been doing this art as a hobby and posting work on Instagram since I was 16 or 17 for fun, and I had no idea where this was going to go. After going to Princeton to play Division 1 college tennis, I decided to take an indefinite gap year when I was 19 in my spring semester and take the leap of faith and explore where this could all go. I feel like I have lived many different lives in such a short period of time and it has been surreal.

When I look back at the last six years of my career, it has been an evolution — each project has brought me closer to finding my own voice, my place and in the process, I have grown into becoming fully confident in who I am as well as reclaiming my own identity and being confident in sharing that story and my identity as a female, Asian, queer creative. In this next phase of my life, I am reintroducing myself as an artist, creator and thinker. My focus is on creating with intention and a sense of legacy.

Recently, I took a bit of a hiatus from creative directing to really focus on my own projects like “ILYYW,” my own art and novelty product and streetwear brand, as well as a couple of other Web3 and philanthropy projects.

Where do you find inspiration for your visual work? How does the creative process work when you’re collaborating with an artist or a brand?

I find inspiration in all things and experiences — just living. I love listening, observing and reading — finding the beauty of simple things and in mundane normalcy and in the ebbs and flows of daily life. Being present in the now and just expressing and rooting myself in gratitude. Inspiration is dynamic, and it constantly changes around me. I find it everywhere.

The way artists like Yayoi Kusama and Yoko Ono express themselves with no boundaries or limitations has motivated me to do the same with my work. This notion of unapologetically being yourself, breaking molds and being unafraid to color outside of the lines has been a guiding light for me as an artist whether creating for myself or for others.

I approach working with artists and brands as a storyteller. The process of developing a deep understanding of an emotion, a vignette of time or a story that someone has experienced and then translating that feeling into visual art is so fulfilling. Especially when it comes to the young female artists that I have worked with.

What is an overarching theme or message you try to incorporate into all of your work?

Heading into this next phase of my career at 24, I don’t want to be put in a box anymore. I have really found confidence in embracing all of who I am as a person. Exploring, uncovering and expressing true identity is a central theme in all of my work. Whether it’s through music, tech, art, fashion or Web3, my goal is always to empower people to express their emotions and unlock their own creativity. Everything I make is designed to serve as a portal into a colorful, inclusive, more positive space for people to find and be themselves unapologetically.

Growing up as a kid, there wasn’t much visibility for people like me, besides Mulan and Hello Kitty. As much as I like to joke that Hello Kitty is my role model and hero, she was still a cat. I am proud to now be in a position to be a living example I didn’t have as a kid growing up in pop culture and to be able to create digital and physical experiences that allow others to explore and take pride in their own identities.

How did you get started in NFTs and enter the Web3 space?

A few years ago, I was introduced to the concept of crypto and began investing on a small scale but was on the fence about it. My skepticism stemmed from being intimidated by the space and feeling unequipped to dive in and learn more. Last summer, after repeatedly being asked to join Web3 projects or do art for NFT founders, I went down the rabbit hole and ultimately, realized the potential here for community building and the evolution of our digital matrices and the internet world as we know it.

Through “ILYYW,” I witnessed the power of decentralized platforms. On one hand, for the first time in my career, I actually had full ownership of the things I created. What was even more powerful, though, was seeing people from all over the world connect in a matter of seconds over a common interest. The greatest utility to me is not necessarily defined by dollar value, but by how you can bring people together to work towards a common mission or goal to actually disrupt and enact change.

 

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Let’s talk about your “ILYYW” NFT collection with Mason Rothschild. How did the two of you end up collaborating on this project and what was the inspiration behind this entire collection?

Mason and I had been online colleagues for a few years. Our paths reconnected when I helped design Terminal 27 during the peak of COVID-19 and started working and collaborating on projects with Terminal. It was a very organic process when we decided to work on an NFT project together. We’re very different, but the synergy was obvious. We started building out the project at the beginning of fall, announced it in early January, then launched it in early March. It was crazy to see how much we were able to get done in that timeframe working remotely, on this project in tech. It’s transformed both of our lives.

“ILYYW” is a product of the pandemic and quarantine. The angst, the dreaming and the frustration of the world around us, and this idea of freeing expression became the seeds of a concept for a cast of psychedelic, wild weirdos. The art was inspired by my favorite cartoons — Adventure Time and Rick and Morty. As a kid, I was bullied for being “weird,” and was always teased by kids for being a “weirdo.” During the pandemic, I was struck by how social media contributes to mental health issues and how common it is for people to bully each other for looking or even thinking differently. With this project, I wanted to champion and celebrate our differences.

Mason and I started off on this with a shared mission to innovate and disrupt the flow of the NFT space with cool art and ideology. We began with an idea of a block of dirt that would unlock accessibility to land in the metaverse, which didn’t stick at the time because we both wanted to do something with more emotional empathy and could connect with the people’s spirits. This evolved into incorporating more psychedelic and weird traits that were rooted in the earth’s resources and terrain. When we landed on this idea, it just felt right. “Weirdos” was the perfect opportunity to create digestible education and bring awareness to my generation about two matters that are important to me — the climate crisis and mental health.

The art had many iterations, but as I kept illustrating we found something we loved. That opened the floodgates to really push the traits and styles of the art and create these 10,000 generative unique characters. No two weirdos are the same. It became this exterior manifestation and reflection of “weirdos” and these outcasts to embrace differences and encourage a sense of inclusive, safe and diverse community building.

It has been an amazing experience, journey and dream thus far. The project feels like my child and it is only a few months old. As I have been on my Web3 journey as a founder and creator, I have learned so much with this project and have been so blessed with the opportunity to meet so many like-minded people around the world and also to find a home with my project community and members. This amazing instantaneous symbiosis of digital friendship to IRL (and the positivity of the community) has given me the spark to keep creating. It’s a breath of fresh air. The energy of “Weirdos” really sparked a renaissance in my own personal creative life, and allowed me to finish up and start new solo projects and really just start putting more ideas on paper.

What has your experience in NFTs been like so far, with crypto being a male-dominated space?

To say it has been all rainbows, unicorns and fairy dust would be pushing it. It has been extremely fulfilling and in moments, very stressful and hard. The constant demands, expectations and pressures as well as navigating in a new space are hard. Mental health is definitely something that I talk about a lot with my Web3 peers and how the space can be intense at times, yet so rewarding. Also being Asian, female and queer, there are not a lot of people like me in a very male-dominated industry. However, there are so many female creators that are coming into the space and making their own statements, telling their own stories. I have met so many like-minded individuals and such amazing powerful women who are doing amazing things in the space. There is a new movement of women and individuals who are tired of conformity and living in boxes that are excited and pushing the envelope in how we create and navigate the Web3 space and having ownership of their narratives and the IP of their creative.

What kind of community are you looking to build through your work?

Empowerment, representation and education are the core values of “ILYYW” and other communities I am in the process of building. I want to use community-building and the potential I see in Web3 to educate and encourage the next generation of thinkers — especially young women and those who feel like outsiders IRL. I want to help change the landscape of the entertainment and tech industries which are both highly exclusive, boys’ clubs. I am aiming to cultivate communities that are safe, inclusive and diverse spaces for people to connect with each other and freely express themselves without restrictions or filters. I also want to encourage young women to have a voice and to tell their stories. It is important for us to be seen and heard and that starts with education.

What’s next for you and are there any new areas or mediums you’re looking to experiment with in the near future?

For the last six months, I have been working on my own brand that I am excited to announce this summer called Play! Pop! Go!. It’s a polysexual line and brand, leaning heavily into the angsty and rebellious nature of youth, combined with the vibrant playfulness at the heart of Harajuku culture. It will feature a series of streetwear capsules, novelty items, Web3 metaverse entertainment and gaming. With PPG, the IRL and Web3 experience will meet in a way that is complementary and fun. The first collection to drop comes in June and will consist of tokens that serve as keys for future airdrops and holder perks like pre-order reservations to upcoming collaborations and exclusive access to gifting such as branded novelty items. More details to come!

I am also directing a huge narrative music video for a very special track off of Sabrina Carpenter’s upcoming album that’s coming out this year. The last thing I’ll mention is I’m finishing up a collection for a new NFT project that I will be launching later this year, which I am very excited about. The characters of this project are the superheroes I wish that I had growing up as an Asian-American kid. They show us that the greatest superpower is being yourself and that we all are Supastarz.

This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.

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