Less is More This Holiday Season

Do More with Your Holiday Lights

Awash In Color



Originally envisioning a future as an oil painter, Yao Cheng abruptly shifted course into the world of textiles while studying at Rhode Island School of Design. A chance meeting with some watercolor paints and a tutorial from a colleague would alter her trajectory yet again and set her on the path to her current career as an artist and small-business owner in Columbus, Ohio.

What did your path to the art world look like? Did your family encourage your love of art? I lived in China until I was about eight, at which time I came to the United States. My path to art was introduced really early on by my mom. When I was four or five, she took me to an art class in my hometown of Nanchang. I was immediately hooked; it was a very instinctual and natural way for me to express myself from the beginning. My mom definitely encouraged my creative side throughout my childhood. The rest of my family was more of a mix—many of them were not sure if an art education would lead to financial stability. But I knew in my heart that this was the right path for both my education and my career.

You graduated from Rhode Island School of Design with a bachelor of fine arts in textiles. Was that always the medium you wanted to pursue? I initially went to RISD to pursue oil painting. Around that time, I became obsessed with knitting. Working with my hands in such a visceral way was really intriguing, and something in me knew I needed to change my major. I saw textiles as evolving my painting interests in a three-dimensional way.

During my junior year, I studied abroad at the China Academy of Art in Hangzhou for a semester. That was another distinct experience that has had a big influence on my work today. I learned a lot about traditional Chinese floral painting, as well as the power of expression through calligraphy and brushwork making.

How did watercolor painting enter the picture? Are you self-taught? I was designing patterns for Abercrombie & Fitch’s women’s brand at the time, including painted original designs. A work friend, who was much more experienced in watercolors, taught me different ways that I could play with them. He allowed me to see it from a modern, nontraditional way. It wasn’t about forcing the watercolors to be tight or highly technical; instead, I was challenged to control them only to a certain point and then allow them to do their own thing. It was so liberating and so much fun. I knew immediately that this was the medium that I had been searching for all along.

Did you always envision that your watercolors would go on textiles? No, but it has been an incredibly satisfying experience to see it on textiles. When I started my business in 2012, I was very focused on what I knew, which was painting. I really wanted to get back into painting but with watercolors. From there, people loved the printed reproductions that I was selling of my paintings, so I was able to expand little by little into other categories, including textiles.

It makes a lot of sense to see my work on textiles now, considering that so much of my education was about creating textiles. I find the industry really exciting, especially with the technology of digital printing—it really enhances the vibrancy of watercolors.

There is a lot of plant life in your designs. What draws you to this subject matter? I think my time studying abroad in China influenced a lot of my botanical work. I love trying to capture the life and energy that exist in plants. I find them poetic and so majestic. I love that they are imperfect and organic.

Tell us about your process. Do you sketch anything first? If it’s work that’s outside of my own line of products, I will create rough pen sketches. However, if it’s my own body of work, I sketch in the form of painting. It’s a good exercise to jump right into painting and not rely on previous sketches. The best ideas come from that improvisation process, and I build more confidence as an artist when I know that I can look at a blank page and eventually arrive somewhere that is really compelling.

Do you have any surprising sources of inspiration? I’m currently going through a phase where I want to find inspiration in real life, like going to an art museum. I want to experience art and find new ideas in a different way so that my paintings can move forward and be sparked by a different point of view.

But I think inspiration can also come in other ways, like music. I pay close attention to the tempo of music. The rhythms can spark a new idea or pair with something visual that I found in a book. It’s about combining inspirations from different places. I’m constantly mashing totally different things together—such as a geometric pattern combined with the colors that I see in a photograph of ice cream.

Funnily enough, I also find a lot of inspirations in my dreams. I think it’s my brain’s way of making sense of the things that I experience. Many times, I’ve painted a final piece after a nap or after a distinct dream that triggered an idea.

What artists do you admire? There are many contemporary artists that I admire, but I try not to look at their work too much because I believe deeply in respecting the work of others. I think a mistake that a lot of people make, especially in the beginning of their careers as they are finding their own voice, is looking too much at others’ work that they admire. It’s very easy to then subconsciously create work that feels similar. I am a believer that, as an artist, it’s my responsibility to find my own ideas and not recreate anyone else’s.

I’ve often revisited Van Gogh’s work throughout my career. I love that he painted in a medium that’s totally different from mine and that he tried to capture light in a million colors. His work has a shimmer and a glow that make me feel like the fields are moving right in front of me. I’m always trying to capture that same feeling in my work.

How do you fight creative blocks? What resets your brain? A creative block can be very frustrating to go through. I’m currently in one now. Fighting it has never worked for me; doing so only makes me more frustrated and costs me a lot of wasted time. My best defense is to recognize that I’m in a creative block and that it won’t last forever, and then I do something completely different until it passes.

You cofounded Rise & Design, a meetup for creatives in your area. What was the impetus for that? I cofounded Rise & Design with my good friend and creative, Danielle Evans of Marmalade Bleue, back in 2016. Columbus is a wonderful city, but a lot of illustrators and designers are scattered among the suburbs, and because so many of us work from home, it’s hard for everyone to get together. Rise & Design was a way for us to provide a place for everyone to come together and strike up important conversations.

The beauty of Rise & Design comes from the fact that we don’t all belong to one industry, so our discussions are more expansive and provide more perspectives. We also see some college students come through, which is particularly exciting for me because I love being able to introduce the next generation of creatives to the real world of running a design business. Rise & Design is something I’m incredibly proud of and am so grateful to have. It has grown into a community of amazing people. We are all genuinely supportive of each other, and having access to so many resources is very crucial for any small-business owner.

In an alternate universe, what is your profession? I would also love to be a ceramist, a therapist, a pianist, a dancer, or even an astronaut, but being an artist is my focus and love for this lifetime.

Bring the Autumn Aromas Inside

It’s no secret that distinct smells go hand-in-hand with certain seasons. But when it comes to fall, there’s nothing more noteworthy than hints of pumpkin spice, cinnamon, and apple. With these easy solutions, your house will radiate the irresistible aromas of autumn, and create an inviting living space for friends and family.

Create a fragrant simmer pot.
Simmer pots are an easy way to keep your house smelling amazing for a longer period of time. Simply bring a saucepan to a boil, and add your favorite autumn scented ingredients—oranges, nutmeg, cinnamon, apples, cranberries, and vanilla. Let it simmer on the stovetop during the day so the delicious aromas can waft throughout the house.

Incorporate pinecones.
Make the most out of the excess pinecones in your backyard by incorporating them into table centerpieces. With a few drops of essential oils and cinnamon sticks, you can create your own potpourri.

Make a special treat.
Who doesn’t love a delicious fall treat? Whether it’s a rich and creamy pumpkin cheesecake or a warm kettle of homemade apple cider, your house will be brimming with both delectable smells and edible treats.

Brighten Up Your Dark Space

Have friends and family compared your home to a bat cave? If it seems like no matter what you do you just can’t seem to make your space feel like anything but a dungeon, there are a few steps you can take to illuminate both your interior and exterior, and up the value of your home in the process.


Mirror, mirror
The power of reflection can make all the difference in a home that gets very minimal sunlight throughout the day. Identify the areas where light peeks through, and place mirrors on an opposite wall so the light can bounce around the room. You might think this tactic would create an annoying distraction (or cause temporary blindness) but you’d be surprised at the maximum amount of brightness you can generate. And don’t just stop at one. Mirrors can add a touch of elegance and charm to any room, so experiment with a gallery wall of mirrors or one large piece over furniture to really make a statement.


Shine a light
When it comes to brightening up the outside of your home, it doesn’t take that much effort. Sometimes a single light is all you need! Have a tree in your yard that stands out? Try placing a spotlight behind it to illuminate and make it stand out even further. Spotlights also look wonderful when thoughtfully-placed in the front of a home to give your space a charming glow and add instant curb appeal. However, if you aren’t a fan of the spotlight approach, lining walkways with ground lights (you can even get solar-powered ones to save energy) will also do the trick.


Bigger is better
Even if you aren’t a fan of huge, crystal chandeliers—or don’t want to dish out the time and money to install them—your space could likely benefit from a few carefully-placed light fixtures. The majority of homes are actually significantly under-lit, so installing larger lights or adding light to areas that feel particularly dark can make a huge difference. Also, be wary of how long your bulbs are intended to last. Even if a bulb hasn’t burned out completely, it will fade overtime. If your fixtures are all full of dull bulbs, they might as well not be turned on at all.


Throw away the shade
If your design scheme leans toward darker, richer colors but you’re tired of living in darkness, it might be time to reevaluate. This is not to say you have to completely throw away your personal style, but room darkening shades and deep paint colors could make a glass house feel dim. Swap out shades for breezy linens and brighter hues that are guaranteed to reflect the light coming in, not absorb it. Believe it or not, this shift can make your home look brighter from the outside, too.

Ready to let in the light? Follow these tips for brightening your home and you’ll see a change almost instantly!

A Subtle Way to Decorate for Fall

Not all fall decor has to entail a full red, orange, and yellow interior makeover. You can achieve the autumn look in your home in more understated ways, too.


Glass half full

Glass canisters can be filled with a number of fall decor pieces—painted acorns, pinecones, leaves, branches, tiny pumpkins—and will make your dining room or kitchen table instantly look classier, the fall way!


Blankets and books

Nothing says beckoning in the season of fall like cozying up on the couch with a large blanket and a page-turning read. Stacking books can make for a great centerpiece for coffee tables, and draping blankets over the couch makes anyone feel instantly at home.

Rustic white

White adds a cozy, rustic aspect to the home that, when combined with other fall colors, can make for a magical interior space. If bright white isn’t for you, focus on off-white, gray tones, or soft yellows, which can accomplish the same feel.



Bringing the outdoors inside is key to finding that perfect medium when adding fall touches to your space. This could include woodsy elements: birch log bundles around the fireplace, pinecone and acorn centerpieces, or DIY moss terrariums.

Decorate with These Fall Color Schemes

Want to switch up your interior space for the fall? Consider adding a touch of color with these autumnal schemes.

Earth-toned living

Varying shades of earth-toned pieces can elevate your interior without requiring you to make drastic changes. An easy way to do this is by incorporating outdoor elements like decorative leaves and branches.

Cobalt blue and red

Red may seem like an obvious fall color choice, so try pairing it with cobalt blue for an extra pop of bright color. Think patterned throw pillows and artsy centerpieces for incorporating this scheme into your home.

Orange and white

If you want to give the rooms in your home an understated touch of fall, try an orange and white color scheme. A patterned area rug, accessories for the fireplace mantel, and brightly colored vases will do wonders for your autumnal interior space.