Influencers in Jewellery Design: Mary Lee Hu

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Mary Lee Hu is a larger-than-life artist within the jewellery world. She has actually accomplished all of it, from creating a wide ranging physique of jewellery and sharing her information with college students and established artists alike to profitable main awards and honors and having her work proven in a few of the most prestigious museums on the planet. And he or she created a brand new means of constructing jewellery—through the use of the identical methods utilized in fiber arts besides with silver and gold wire.

When Mary first began working in steel wire in graduate faculty she was taking a metals class in addition to a weaving class. She determined to experiment and check out combining them. She realized she might mix the linear textile buildings with what she liked about steel—its mild resistance to being fashioned and the reflection of sunshine off its floor.

M.L. Hu profile 1

“The thought of working with wire got here to me whereas in graduate faculty within the mid-’60s,” she says. “I had all the time loved linear patterning when drawing, and I loved constructing my shapes from this patterning to attain in steel one thing much like what I had been doing in my drawings.

“At first, I spent a number of years exploring numerous processes of constructing kind with wire—wrapping, braiding, or weaving it. Objects made have been both jewellery items, or small insect or animal varieties which step by step developed into bigger, woven basket-like varieties. Each have been primarily used to discover prospects and limits utilizing the wire. Since 1974, I’ve settled on the method of twining, and virtually all of my items since then have been an exploration of what I might do with it.”

After Mary accomplished her MFA from Southern Illinois College, she traveled  round till she started instructing within the steel arts program on the College of Washington in 1980. At each the College of Washington and at workshops held round america, Mary has been in a position to cross on her ardour for her methods and processes. In 2006 she retired as a professor emeritus.

What Mary loves most about instructing is that almost all of her starting jewellery college students come understanding virtually nothing in regards to the processes after they begin and go away with far more confidence of their expertise. Starting college students typically push themselves greater than she ever would, which provides her immense satisfaction.


The duvet of Knitted, Knotted, Twisted & Twined (a fantastic espresso desk ebook chronicling Mary’s artwork printed by the Bellevue Artwork Museum) states: “Working with wire as weavers use thread, Mary Lee Hu has affirmed her distinctive voice on the planet of jewellery by way of her elegant and apparently easy creations. Her unforgettable sense of sunshine as kind is matched solely by her astonishing skill to remodel her expensive supplies—gold and silver—into works which can be completely fashionable but rival these of antiquity.”

After I requested Hu what her favourite instrument was, she gave me essentially the most uncommon reply I’ve ever acquired from anybody: “Fingernails!” She went on to make clear that medium-to-long fingernails are part of her toolbox.


“I’m obsessed with the entire historical past of jewellery and physique adornment, she says. “From my very own subject of latest studio jewellery, to wonderful, style and costume jewellery, to historic, pre-historic and tribal items worldwide – their historical past, makers, supplies, methods, plus the numerous causes for which they have been made, given or bought, worn, valued, treasured, hoarded, bartered, stolen, handed down … signifiers of id, standing, perception, protectors of well being or wealth, sentimental reminders of liked or revered ones, of locations visited, pledges or allegiances sworn or milestones reached and celebrated, these objects have a historical past that has helped archeologists and anthropologists to hint man’s improvement for over 100,000 years.”

Hu’s work are all one-of-a-kinds as a result of she works so clearly throughout the confines of her particular person creative imaginative and prescient, methods and keenness. And he or she has by no means employed anybody to assist in her studio, aside from a stone cutter.

Amongst her quite a few awards and accolades, she is a former president of the Society of North American Goldsmiths, has been inducted into the American Craft Council’s School of Fellows, has acquired three Nationwide Endowment of the Arts Craftsman Fellowships and is the winner of the 2008 Irving and Yvonne Twining Humber Award for Lifetime Creative Achievement. Her works are additionally in collections such because the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Renwick Gallery, the American Crafts Museum, the Museum of Wonderful Artwork in Boston, and the Artwork Institute of Chicago, in addition to numerous non-public collections world wide.

“I’m keen on how my very own items and the sector of latest jewellery with which I establish match into our present tradition,” she says. In response, I might, with out hesitation, say, elegantly and effortlessly.


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