I’d like to be a bridge between art and technology, as well as a cultural bridge between East and West, to inspire more people to create.

– Yiying Lu

From the Twitter Whale and Dumpling Emoji to Disney Shanghai Mickey Mouse, Yiying Lu creates iconic brand designs which transcend linguistic barriers and enchant a global audience.  

You’ve likely seen Lu’s work, whether you realized it or not. Her artwork “Lifting a Dreamer”, an international fan favorite, caught the attention of the team at Twitter who decided to use the design for the new sites error page – thus prompting the name Fail Whale. The Fail Whale quickly dominated the global creative conscious, resulting in sculptures, murals, even beer inspired by the Whale.

To experience another notable project of Lu’s, look no further than your mobile phone: In 2015, Lu made the surprising discovery that there was no emoji for some of her favorite foods, particularly dumplings🥟, boba and other staple Asian staples 🥡🥠🥢 that have transcended geography to become part of the international palette. This had to change, and luckily Lu was up for the challenge. Although inspired by the Chinese potsticker dumpling, through this project Lu realized that the dumpling was a universal food that manifested in different forms across the world – A clear example of how food brings us together as a global community! Through this understanding, Lu created a number of important emojis which brought us together through visual communication.

Through iconic illustration and design, Lu speaks to our global community with a universal language rooted in creativity. Rich symbolism and visual storytelling is key element of her artwork, which is deeply inspired by her experiences as a global citizen of the world.

Focusing on universal themes like food and nature, Lu highlights our human experience, prompting the realization that we are more alike than we may think, integrating art and technology as a bridge to connect global audiences, inspire togetherness and cultivate community.

Learn more about Yiying Lu in her interview with us below!

Yiying Lu in The News:

For more, visit Yiying Lu’s website.

Makers of Magic

It was my pleasure to know Dannie and Ryoma since the early days of MakersPlace back in 2018. Since I have personally worked with hundreds of startup founders during my time with 500 Startups, I found that there are many things in common between startup founders and artists. I created these artworks to symbolize 7 vital qualities of creators / artists / startup founders / makers. 

-Yiying Lu

MAGICAL MYSTERY BOX

Artworks will be available through a Mystery Box mechanism: Purchase an artwork from the box for a flat ETH/$ amount and receive a probabilistically selected edition. After 100 editions have been sold, a countdown of 15 minutes will be triggered.

Winged Lion: Courage
The winged lion is a mythological creature that resembles a lion with bird-like wings. It is found in various forms especially in Ancient and Medieval civilizations. For example, the Lion of Saint Mark is a winged lion that symbolically represents Saint Mark the Evangelist, patron of Venice. The winged lion represents Courage and Power.

Editions: ?
Pricing: $333

*Probability of 34%

*Artworks will be available through a Mystery Box mechanism: Purchase an artwork from the box for a flat ETH/$ amount and receive a probabilistically selected edition. After 100 editions have been sold, a countdown of 15 minutes will be triggered.

Griffin: Strength
The Griffin is a legendary creature with the body, tail, and back legs of a lion; the head and wings of an eagle. It represents strength, courage, and wisdom in Greek mythology. They were also believed to hoard and protect gold, according to stories from the Silk Road, as Pliny the Elder wrote, “griffins were said to lay eggs in burrows on the ground and these nests contained gold nuggets.”

Editions: ?
Pricing: $333

*Probability of 34%

*Artworks will be available through a Mystery Box mechanism: Purchase an artwork from the box for a flat ETH/$ amount and receive a probabilistically selected edition. After 100 editions have been sold, a countdown of 15 minutes will be triggered.

Unicorn: Magic
Unicorns have represented life and joy in many different cultures over time. The Chinese, Greeks, Persians, and many others refer to similar creatures bearing a single horn and magical powers, though sometimes under a different name like Qilin (麒麟) the Chinese Unicorn. The unicorn represents purity, freedom, gentleness, virginity, innocence, divinity, and magic. Seeing unicorns in dreams is inevitably a sign of good luck, happiness, and a positive omen. Now unicorn has a new metaphorical meaning: it’s a start-up valued at a minimum of one billion dollars.

Editions: ?
Pricing: $333

*Probability of 16%

*Artworks will be available through a Mystery Box mechanism: Purchase an artwork from the box for a flat ETH/$ amount and receive a probabilistically selected edition. After 100 editions have been sold, a countdown of 15 minutes will be triggered.

Phoenix: Resilience
The Phoenix symbolizes resilience, strength, and transformation, as it can rise from its own ashes to reach greater heights. The phoenix is also a global cultural symbol. Its message is: She Who rises From the Ashes to Recreate. Whether in Arabic poetry, Greco-Roman culture, or even a lot of the East’s historical legacy. It has been found in cultures’ mythologies, including Egyptians, Persians, Greeks, Romans, Chinese, Hindu, Phoenicians, Mesoamericans, Native Americans, and more. In the Chinese culture I grew up with, the Phoenix (凤凰 Feng Huang ) doesn’t just symbolize the highest virtue, strength, or prosperity. It also represents the yin and yang, that duality that shapes the whole existence of the universe.

Editions: ?
Pricing: $333

*Probability of 12%

*Artworks will be available through a Mystery Box mechanism: Purchase an artwork from the box for a flat ETH/$ amount and receive a probabilistically selected edition. After 100 editions have been sold, a countdown of 15 minutes will be triggered.

Hippocampus: Creativity
The hippocampus is often regarded as a symbol of creativity and hope since it was a benevolent and spiritual creature that helped people. In Greek mythology, hippocampi were sea monsters, similar to aquatic horses: with the head and front legs of a horse but the winding tail of a fish or dolphin. Poseidon, God of the Sea, was carried across the oceans in a chariot pulled by hippocampi, who sometimes took him out of the water. As a mythical creature, it’s strongly associated with creativity and imagination. Sailors regarded the hippocampus as a good omen and it was also a symbol of agility and strength.

Editions: ?
Pricing: $333

*Probability of 4%

*Artworks will be available through a Mystery Box mechanism: Purchase an artwork from the box for a flat ETH/$ amount and receive a probabilistically selected edition. After 100 editions have been sold, a countdown of 15 minutes will be triggered.


LIMITED EDITION

Pegasus: Imagination (10/10)
Pegasus, in Greek mythology, is a winged horse associated with poetry, and in one tale, he was tamed by the goddess Athena and presented to the Muses. These nine daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne, the goddess of memory, represent the arts, including music and poetry.

Editions: 10
Pricing: $555

*Three editions will be given to the community: Two editions will be reserved for the $Whale Community and one edition will be reserved for the social media giveaway winner (details below).

SOCIAL MEDIA GIVEAWAY

What #MagicMakers character/quality resonates the most with you and why?

Retweet with your answer on Twitter and the hashtag #MagicMakers for a chance to win an edition of Pegasus: Imagination – One answer will win one of the ten editions!


Collector and Creator Raffle

Uni-Pegasus (Color)
Pegasus, in Greek mythology, is a winged horse associated with poetry, and in one tale, he was tamed by the goddess Athena and presented to the Muses. These nine daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne, the goddess of memory, represent the arts, including music and poetry.

Editions: 10
Pricing: $3.33

*Raffle entry will be open for 30 minutes only immediately following the release of Makers of Magic (8/26 at 3:30-4 PM PST). Only verified MakersPlace creators will be eligible to enter.

Uni-Pegasus (Gold)
Pegasus, in Greek mythology, is a winged horse associated with poetry, and in one tale, he was tamed by the goddess Athena and presented to the Muses. These nine daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne, the goddess of memory, represent the arts, including music and poetry.

Editions: 10
Pricing: $3.33

*Raffle entry will be open for 30 minutes only immediately following the release of Makers of Magic (8/26 at 3:30-4 PM PST). Only verified MakersPlace collectors with at least one artwork in their collection will be eligible to enter.

Ultra Rare, One-of-a-Kind

Golden Unicorn: Luck (1/1)
The Golden Unicorn was inspired by the historical Gold Rush in California and the Startup Community.

As a Chinese-American who lives in San Francisco, this Golden Unicorn piece is particularly significant to me. Chinese people historically referred to California as Gold Mountain, as evidenced by maps and returned-overseas Chinese. However, as a gold rush subsequently occurred in Bendigo, Australia, the then-colony of Victoria was referred to as “New Gold Mountain” (新金山), and California became known as Old Gold Mountain. In fact, San Francisco’s Chinese name literally translates to “Old Gold Mountain” (Simplified Chinese: 旧金山; traditional Chinese: 舊金山).

Also, as an artist who has been working in the startup world for the last 12 years, I always wanted to capture the spirit of entrepreneurship in a visual form. The Unicorn is a term in the business world to indicate a privately held startup company valued at over $1 billion. The term was coined in 2013 by venture capitalist Aileen Lee, choosing the mythical animal to represent the statistical rarity of such successful ventures.

This piece is my tribute to people and the spirit of those in the past who immigrated to San Francisco and California to find gold for a better future and celebrate the people and spirit of entrepreneurship and startups today, creating digital gold in the metaverse as the Makers of Magic! ✨🦄

Editions: One
Pricing: Accepting Offers Only

*A 24 hour auction will ensue once reserve price is met.

*Owner will receive 1 ETH from MakersPlace to spend on artworks in our upcoming virtual Thank You Exhibition.

INTERVIEW WITH YIYING LU

Tell us a bit about yourself – what brought you to San Francisco?

I was born and raised in Shanghai, China. I spent my university years in Sydney, Australia, and London, UK. In 2008, around my college graduation, one of my art pieces, “Lifting a Dreamer”, became the Twitter Fail Whale, a symbol of Twitter’s service outage in its early days. It has inspired thousands of funny, clever, and amusing homages and take-offs from users globally. This art piece got featured in the New York Times and earned me a “Shorty Award” winner in Design in 2009.

For me, this turned into an opportunity to build real-life friendships and business relationships that have lasted over a decade! Over the next few years, I found myself creating brands and creative campaigns globally with startups, through working at the intersection of art, technology, and business. My clients have included Disney, Apple, Google, Adobe, and the hilarious Conan O’Brien!

In 2015, I moved from Sydney to San Francisco to become a creative director at the global venture capital fund and accelerator 500 Startups. Over the last 10 years, I also traveled to more than 20 countries, including Singapore in 2016, as a bilingual speaker on cross-cultural design. In April 2021, Mayor London Breed appointed me to be a San Francisco Arts Commissioner to bring more art and artists back to the City.

How did you get into digital art? What is your favorite thing about it? 

I didn’t get into digital art, digital art got into me. Haha. 

I started my artistic practice like most kids who are using crayon, pencil, and pen on paper. But over the years,I found it sometimes feels quite wasteful (and expensive!) to create art pieces, because of material usage: paper, paper, ink, and so on, and it’s not portable when traveling because, I used to do a lot of water color sometimes, I can’t find the piece I created years ago. Around the same time, the personal computer became available in the late 90s, and I started to learn how to use Adobe Softwares in local learning centers in Shanghai when I was in highschool, such as Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, etc, It was pretty cool to see that I can make as many art pieces as I want on the computer, 

What / who inspires you creatively? 

What inspires me is what brings out our true nature. 

Nature always inspires me: Trees, Flower, Birds, Animals, Sea shells, Insects, Whales, Fishes, constellations, planets. 

The nature of humans as well: music, food, books, travels, cultures, communities, mythology and Children’s Books!

Nature is the nurture of my creativity. 

There are many people inspired my creative career, one of them is Milton Glaser, the designer behind the iconic I ❤️ NY symbol. And I’m forever grateful to have a rare opportunity to interview him and learn from him back in 2017, where we chatted about technology, intuition, and what really matters in life, I hope this short interview inspires more people:

How would you describe your style? How has it evolved to get here? 

I am style agnostic. I don’t adhere to one specific style, because I believe that styles are different ways of expression. Same subject matter but with different styles could evoke very different emotions towards the audience. 

Over the years, when working with digital art, my style changed and evolved a lot…

You have worked on some amazing projects over the years – Are there any that have really stuck with you and why? 

Over the past ten years, I have worked with hundreds of startup founders and large corporations. One common thread I noticed is that: The best work I created was always inspired by the community and for the community. 

For example, the Unicorn was created in 2016 to celebrate SF Pride weekend with my community at the global startup accelerator 500 Startups.

The phoenix was created in 2020, commemorating the global startup accelerator SOSV & Chinaccelerator 10th Anniversary and the resilience of the global entrepreneurial spirits during the pandemic.

I realized that the art that I enjoy creating is something that could be a reminder of the ephemeral human experience, and creates belonging. These art pieces become visual anchors, evoking people’s experience together as a community, whether through working or celebrating together.

And that is how the human experience is made. To this, it is also how we create culture because culture is a shared experience through widespread human interactivity together.

Tell us about the Makers of Magic collection – What inspired you and what do you hope people take from it? 

After working in the startup world for the last 12 years, the news of MakersPlace’s recent Series A raise got me thinking about the world of startups and what it takes for founders to be successful in such a competitive space: resilience, strength, imagination, courage, creativity and even luck. And then I realized that those are many of the same attributes of successful artists. So I created a new collection that embodies what I see as the vital qualities of creators, artists, startup founders and makers of all kinds.

I also realized that even though I’ve spent the last 12 years creating commercial art for brands, tech startup companies, and larger fortune 500 companies, using design to promote business and engage global consumers, helping companies raise millions. Yet, I could not make a living off my personal work, where I created to celebrate the human experience with one another. 

Before NFT, digital art was either free or in a supportive role to facilitate selling products in the business world. We all know it has intrinsic value, yet it can not be manifested without attaching to a business or product. However, the existence of NFT adds the financial layer to digital art. It makes the artistic content become immutable digital collectibles, which can protect and help monetize digital creators’ work. This digital asset class is empowering creators and revolutionizing how they can create real value from their work. NFT can change my life and other creatives like illustrators, animators, musicians, and even entertainers, to leverage digital collectibles to engage their community authentically and supplement their existing revenue streams. There’s many creatives that have been impacted by the pandemic career-wise, and could benefit from the use of NFTs.

Which character(s)/qualities do you identify most with from the series?

Most of the time, I do feel that I identify most with the Hippocampus for its creativity. 

Since I recently went through major surgery two weeks ago, the amount of transformation I have been going through, physically and emotionally, in the last year and this year has taught me resilience – like the Phoenix, rise above. 

Lastly, the Golden Unicorn was special to me as well, as it was inspired by the historical Gold Rush in California and the Startup Community.

The Golden Unicorn was inspired by the historical Gold Rush in California and the Startup Community.

As a Chinese-American who lives in San Francisco, this Golden Unicorn piece is particularly significant to me. Chinese people historically referred to California as Gold Mountain, as evidenced by maps and returned-overseas Chinese. However, as a gold rush subsequently occurred in Bendigo, Australia, the then-colony of Victoria was referred to as “New Gold Mountain” (新金山), and California became known as Old Gold Mountain. In fact, San Francisco’s Chinese name literally translates to “Old Gold Mountain” (Simplified Chinese: 旧金山; traditional Chinese: 舊金山).

Also, as an artist who has been working in the startup world for the last 12 years, I always wanted to capture the spirit of entrepreneurship in a visual form. The Unicorn is a term in the business world to indicate a privately held startup company valued at over $1 billion. The term was coined in 2013 by venture capitalist Aileen Lee, choosing the mythical animal to represent the statistical rarity of such successful ventures.

This piece is my tribute to people and the spirit of those in the past who immigrated to San Francisco and California to find gold for a better future and celebrate the people and spirit of entrepreneurship and startups today, creating digital gold in the metaverse as the Makers of Magic! ✨🦄

Get in Touch

If you’re a digital creator, you can learn more about MakersPlace here.

Ready to start your rare digital art collection? Join here.

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