Artist in Residence Spotlight: Yunan Ma

Planet Stories
Published in
5 min readJul 28, 2021

Yunan Ma Fiber Art is designed and handmade by Yunan at the artist’s studio in the SF Bay Area. Each unique piece is hand woven with the finest natural fibers including merino wool, alpaca wool, mohair, silk, cotton, and novelty accent, that are carefully selected from top yarn mills around the world.

Born and raised in China with a background of eight years of learning fine arts, Yunan came to the US at the age of 17. After graduating from Savannah College of Art and Design with a BFA in Fashion Marketing and Management, Yunan worked at a well-known leather handbag company, where she mastered leather weaving techniques. Throughout the work experience, Yunan was fascinated about techniques for weaving and knitting subjects and discovered her passion in this field. To pursue her interest, she returned to school. In 2018, Yunan graduated from Academy of Art University with a MFA in Knitwear Design, and she was mentored by the famous knitwear designer Midori Sergent. Yunan was the only knitwear designer to attend the NYFW graduation runway; in addition, she was selected for 2018 CFDA+ Design Graduates Program. In the same year, Yunan gave a speech about the creative design process at Apple store in San Francisco, as part of the series, “Today at Apple”.

Yunan Ma’s collection at 2018 NYFW, Academy of Art University

With fine arts and knitwear design background, Yunan believes art is more than beautiful texture and exquisite craftsmanship. Yunan has a strong sense of transforming nostalgic memories and details from life objects to three dimensional fiber art form. She is specialized in using the cross cut section of fibers to fill up the loom, as if using a paint brush to draw small dots and strokes on a canvas. Every piece depicts a storytelling experience by interpreting energy and emotion in a cheerful way.

Yunan Ma Fiber Art, Closeup of Galaxy 36, 2021
Yunan Ma Fiber Art, Closeup of Curve 7, 2020
Yunan Ma Fiber Art, Love 15, 2020

Before Yunan started Planet’s Artist in Residence program, she made her first satellite image inspired piece from Mount Taranaki in New Zealand, taken by Planet. The circular form and great details from the image quickly captured her attention, and she followed the pattern and created this piece with Corriedale wool, merino wool, alpaca wool and silk.

Yunan Ma Fiber Art, Landscape 2, 22”x22”, 2021
Planet, Mount Taranaki, New Zealand. Credit: © 2018, Planet Labs Inc. All Rights Reserved.

After Yunan was accepted to the program, she started exploring Planet’s database and decided to work with the coordinates taken by Planet’s first Dove satellite launched in 2013. “The first” means a lot to Yunan’s aesthetics since the initial concept when she started her business was about the first feeling of the unconditional love growing up.

Dove 1 first light — May 2013 Oregon. Credit: © 2013, Planet Labs Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Four different days of the same coordinates. Credit: © 2018–2021, Planet Labs Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Yunan took the challenge of working with a landscape that is not in a circular layout. She firstly spent time studying the colors and patterns of the same location in different seasons and climates, as well as how the image appears to the audiences through different sensors and light sources. Yunan believes satellite images are a digital form of art, and her goal is to transform these digital arts to a 3-dimension fiber art form in a creative way. While making sure to color match the references by overlooking the composition and proportion of color arrangement, on the other hand Yunan focused on capturing the spirit and the energy from the images.

For example in the 2018 satellite imagery, Yunan noticed the bright red and blue shadow next to the cloud due to the movement during the imaging process. She loved this detail and kept it in the art piece. In the 2020 satellite imagery, Yunan loved the different shades of greens. She created a new texture “swirl” in order to express a smooth gradation of greens in the artwork.

With the final four pieces of artwork, Yunan wishes to give her audiences a vivid medium to see the world. More importantly, she gave Planeteers an experience that tells a fascinating story about her understanding of technology and science.

Yunan Ma Fiber Art, Oregon 2018, 32”x32”, 2021
Planet, Oregon 03.03.2018. Credit: © 2018, Planet Labs Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Yunan Ma Fiber Art, Oregon 2019, 32”x32”, 2021
Planet, Oregon 02.10.2019. Credit: © 2019, Planet Labs Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Yunan Ma Fiber Art, Oregon 2020, 31”x31”, 2021
Planet, Oregon 08.30.2020. Credit: © 2020, Planet Labs Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Yunan Ma Fiber Art, Oregon 2021, 31”x31”, 2021
Planet, Oregon 04.20.2021. Credit: © 2021, Planet Labs Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Yunan Ma Fiber Art, Final Lineup, 2021

Apply to our Artist in Residence Program today!