How Visual Artists Are Using TikTok and Youtube To Go Viral 

Ruby Feneley
on January 28, 2022

South Korean born and LA-based artist Simji fell in love with rug-making following a trip to Israel. She began creating custom rugs via social media. Fans would send photos of their pets, favourite television characters, or even pictures of friends and loved ones, and Simji would turn them into miniature rugs. 

Simji began documenting her creative process on TikTok, Instagram and Youtube – her videos receiving thousands and then millions of hits, turning her into social media’s first “Rugfluencer.” 

@SimjiOfficial on Instagram
What is ASMR? 
@SimjiOfficial on Instagram

Simji’s videos are deceptively simple. Her videos detail her creative process. First, she projects a design or image onto a backing cloth and then traces it. She then uses a tufting gun to fill the design with yarn, glues the back to lock in place, then cuts the edges and trims with a carpet shaver. Sometimes she chats away about her inspiration or what’s on her mind. Not much to write home about, right? 

Not so fast. 

Simji tags her Youtube videos under ASMR, a viral trend that mainstream brands and artists are capitalising on. 

What is ASMR? 

ASMR is one of the most unusual social media trends of the last few years. Broadly accepted as a neurological phenomenon, the term was coined in 2010 by Jennifer Allen, a cybersecurity worker who experienced strange tingling sensations when watching videos of outer space. All people do not experience AMSR, but those susceptible to it experience a tingling sensation that begins on the scalp and moves down the body and an intense feeling of relaxation. With people more stressed and plugged in online than ever, ASMR content is booming in the virtual sphere. Think With Google reported that searches for ASMR content peak around 10:30 pm globally as people look to switch off from their busy days. Simji’s artist process is perfect for ASMR, full of clicking noises of her tufting machine the scrape of a spatula applying glue. Commenters write, “I’m so addicted, the sound is so beautiful!” and “I am literally about to fall asleep it’s so satisfying.” 

AdNews reported that videos tagged “relaxing” on Youtube had seen an increase in viewing time in recent years (up 70% from 2017 to 2018) and continued to grow as the stressors of the pandemic increased.

Building community: 

Simji has created a massive community online. Many of her followers commission her for work – some rugs have sentimental meaning, and the community makes constant requests via Instagram to see particular television characters brought to life. 

Simji has harnessed this social media traction to effect change online, from environmental issues to racism and LGBTQI awareness. Some of the rugs she posts to Instagram are QR functional QR codes that link to fundraising organisations. One links to charity Teamseas; a creator led organisation that aims to remove 30 million pounds of plastic and trash from the ocean.  

The new art world:

Virtual environments are increasingly essential marketplaces for the arts – niche artists, in particular, can build commercial audiences and take commissions. Simji has amassed an audience of 2.1 million on Youtube, 5.1million followers on Tik Tok and 68.1k followers on Instagram. 

Artists with the most successful online presence provide a glimpse behind the often obscure art-making process. 

Artists to follow on Instagram: 

Daniel Arsham, 1.2 million followers

Daniel Arsham has been lauded as one of the most important contemporary artists of his generation. His work spans sculpture, architecture and performance featuring degraded modern objects. His Instagram provides a glimpse into a complex process behind his work that involves metal pouring and firing, complicated installations and collaborations with celebrities.

Andrea Zittel, 43.1k followers

Andrea Zittel is a Californian photographer and painter who has raised travel blogging into a literal art form. She describes her work as “investigative living.” She examines food, clothing and living spaces across the world “in an ongoing endeavour to better understand human nature and the social construction of need.” She documents her travelling and artistic process on Instagram, where followers can find everything from architecture and interiors to fashion and natural landscapes documented. 

JR, 1.6 million followers

JR is a French street artist and photographer with 1.6million followers on Instagram. With a background in graffiti, he pasts his blown-up photographs that can be found on the streetscapes globally. Many of his projects are illegal, and his work takes him from the hidden undergrounds of Paris to maximum-security prisons in California – Instagram followers receive a behind the scenes glimpse into his often dangerous work.

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