Joyce Wong attended our Share Your Story pop up back in March, just before the COVID lock down here in Vancouver. On the surface, Joyce was unassuming, and worked as an administrator at a church. Yet, beneath her reserved exterior lies a rich, creative mind.
March 1st, evening. I took a deep breath and sat down for a much needed break. As customers came in and out earlier during the day, I had met with women from all walks of life. Some came in pairs, and the room was filled with lively chit-chats between scientists, artists, engineers, architects, photographers, bakers and a hodgepodge of interesting women. It was incredible how each of them had their own story to tell.
The setting sun caressed our pop-up space with its golden touch, and we were finally nearing the end of our event. Just one last Story Session to go, I thought to myself as I scanned the list of attendees.
It was then when Joyce walked in.
All of the attendees from earlier visits had left, and Joyce's quiet demeanour brought out the silence in the room. Her self-introduction was formal, as she extended her hand with a firm gaze, a brisk smile and a gentle voice.
No small talk was conducted. Being a quiet person myself, an air of stillness settled in. There was a moment of awkwardness, a stark contrast from the talkative company I had grown used to that day.
In the end, it was Joyce’s art piece that broke the ice.
“You encouraged us to bring our own works of art,” Joyce said, as she pulled a piece of card stock from her bag, “so I have brought some prints I created.”
The print was a black and white piece that depicted a bird and two gingko leaves. The drawing style was simplistic and unpolished, but beautifully distinct. Perhaps it was because Joyce’s art was not reminiscent of any other creations, and had character of its own.
“Are you a print maker or a painter?” I asked, growing curious about the art piece Joyce held.
“No, art is a side hobby for me” Joyce responded, “I do administrative work for a church as my day job.”
I went on to learn about Joyce’s background. She studied French in school, as she always had an interest in languages. However, she did not want to become a full-time teacher, and instead started a balanced life between office clerical work and creative pursuits.
Joyce had enjoyed arts and crafts since young, and she was first introduced to print making through a short course at the Emily Carr University of Art + Design. What struck her about this craft was how different it felt from drawing.
“I don’t draw very well,” Joyce admitted with a humble smile, “but prints are much more hands on. I like how this craft embodies imperfections.”
“I drew a bird, because birds remind me of how God looks after us. The gingko leaf is a symbol of resilience. Jesus had said in Matthew 6:26 that we should consider the lily of the fields and the birds of the air.”
Our chat further led me to discover that Joyce also enjoyed lettering and poetry writing, a reflection of her linguistic passion. Throughout our discussion, she spoke with the same level headed quietness, with a calm voice that mirrored the soft hues of dawn.
We remained in touch after the event. I would come across her new works on her social profile, and she purchased a Vestige piece for her birthday.
Joyce wears our Thesis Dress in cream and our Vim Pants in rust.
“Are you back to work at your administrative role at the church?” I wrote to Joyce via email, when the pandemic lock down was finally eased here in Vancouver.
“Yes, I am still in my administrative role for the church. Our staff team has been mostly working from home since mid-March, except for one weekday afternoon (for administrative staff) and Sundays,” Joyce wrote back.
“Our Sunday services are held through livestream, with only the Sunday serving team and staff being in the church building on Sunday. We also have been holding other gathering and connection times online. It's certainly been tougher not being able to gather in person, but those times online of gathering and sharing and supporting each other have been helpful and good, too, and it's still better than not having any.”
sukoshi—sometimes a little loveis enough,gentle flowersswaying in the wind// Tanka poem by Joyce WongGUSTS: Contemporary Tanka No. 17, Spring/Summer 2013
“A mix of some brush lettering, watercolour, drawing, floral arranging, baking (the first three months), and printmaking more recently. Sometimes the flower bouquets, watercolour pieces, or baked goods were to give away or give as (birthday) gifts to friends,” Joyce wrote.
“In this season,” Joyce continued, “I find myself needing to remember to take breaks, stretch, go for walks outside, and spend less time on screens. I've also been doing some reading, listening to music, and watching the occasional film.”
“Sometimes it's been to learn (or unlearn), understand, and care more about issues and realities around us like race relations and racial (in)justice.”
Finally, I had asked Joyce — “What does creativity bring to your life?”
Joyce wrote, “creativity gives me time and space and grace to be and grow, to learn, work, rest, and play at a slower pace than I would normally go through my work day. Creativity also brings me joy, a sense of purpose, and more opportunities for connection and community.”
I revisited my initial impression of Joyce as I read her words — a quiet soul, and one that may be unthinkingly brushed aside. Yet, I am reminded that once again there is always more to someone than meets the eye.
She also displayed traits of strong dedication, as she created art regularly despite holding a full-time office job. Her poetry, drawings, prints and calligraphy were not crafted for profit nor a large audience.