Select pages from Notes to a Friend 

Yuri, what are you up to lately? (ie. work,projects,life..)

Work, work, work! I’ve been working as a freelance graphic designer for over five years now and I’ve been very lucky to have a consistent workload. There are some weeks when I have less work than usual and that’s when I get to focus more on the personal projects that really nourish my creativity and keeps me inspired as an artist. Right now I’m really focused on an interactive installation that I’ve been working on with some very talented friends for well over a year. It’s another extension to Notes To A Friend that uses multimedia technology in the most subtle and effective way. It makes me incredibly excited just thinking about it—and even more excited by the thought of sharing the experience with everyone (hopefully) soon.

Can you tell our readers a little more about Notes to a Friend (because it's incredible and everyone should read it)?

In May of 2015, I learned that the breast cancer I had 4 years prior had returned. During this time I was working on a project with a friend that revolved around my growth as a young designer after cancer. As we were exchanging our ideas and thoughts, I sent him notes about that time when I was 25 years old, battling stage 3 breast cancer. When I found out the cancer came back, I decided to share some of these “notes” through my Instagram. The first ten notes were reflections from the first time cancer entered my life; the following ten were my most current and intimate thoughts of everything I was feeling and going through at that moment. Writing and sharing Notes To A Friend was the remedy to my trauma and grief. There are so many people who are touched by this disease in one way or another; but it’s still a very foreign (and a very taboo) subject in our culture. I think for women, especially, there’s a certain amount of stigma attached to breast cancer. But it shouldn’t be that way; it’s a poignant conversation that we should all have. And my hopes are that my notes will encourage these conversations—and maybe, along the way, comfort another soul experiencing the depths of this disease.


Why did you choose to have both Korean and English translations in Notes to a Friend?

I initially had the thought of having the notes translated into Korean because I wanted my parents to read them. The hardest part of my experience with cancer, was (and still is) being honest with my parents. Because every bad news I get, hurts them so much more than it hurts me. But I wanted and needed them to know everything. Also, cancer (amongst many other things) is taboo to talk about in Korean society; and I wanted to break that wall. I definitely think there is a tenderness in the Korean language and in the way some things are said. But it works both ways: some things are better said in English, and vice versa.

What is moving you at this moment?

History constantly moves me.

What about history moves you?

History is so mysterious to me, and I love that. I think I’ve always had a deep fascination with the past. When I was little, I used to tell my mom that I wanted to be an archaeologist when I grew up. Just knowing that there were minds like Plato, artists like Michelangelo, and trailblazers like Colette that all lived before us—is incredibly moving and inspirational to me.

What is your relationship to poetry?

I am a hopeless romantic. I think from a very young age I really fell in love with fairy tales, Mother Goose stories and rhymes— which lead to books, films and photography. In high school while my friends were thriving academically and taking AP classes, I was the oddball taking art, poetry and creative writing. In college, I discovered Wong Kar-wai and Henri Cartier-Bresson whose films and photographs illustrated a different kind of poetry that blew my mind and moved my soul. I didn’t know it then, but all these things would have so much influence in my life and in my work.

Can you remember the first words (ie. poem, story, lyric) you fell in love with?

Music, When Soft Voices Die by Percy Bysshe Shelley. It beautifully expresses the mnemonic power of our senses and how the memories and love of one lingers on eternally. I have a tattoo of the last line: Love itself shall slumber on.

Can you describe your current writing process?

Most of the time, writing for me is spontaneous. I don’t have a set time or a consistent pattern to when, where or what I write; it’s all very intuitive to me.

What is the most important thing when it comes to approaching your writing?

Writing is never easy for me. And it’s harder when I try to force it. But I think the most important thing for me, is honesty. I have to be honest with my words and feel comfortable with that candor.

What is the path of love?

I don’t know if there is path. But on the days when I can feel the breeze on my face and hear the leaves whispering in my ears—I feel love in every inch of my body.


Having gone to the depths of your fears, what is the thing that carried/s you forth?

My family, my friends, my work and my will to prevail. Fear is paralyzing only if you hold on to it. In the past two years I’ve experienced the most profound moments of fear in my adult life—but that’s it, they are just moments. If I held on to all those moments, I wouldn’t be where I am today.

Who would you like to see interviewed on We The Tender Hearted?

Storytellers of all mediums. And strangers along the way.


for more by Yuri : @_notestoafriend

photos by Naomi Shon