An interview of Mary Lee Hu conducted 2009 March 18-19, by Mija Riedel, for the Archives of American Art's Nanette L. Laitman Documentation Project for Craft and Decorative Arts in America, at Hu's home and studio, in Seattle, Washington.
Hu speaks of growing up outside Cleveland, Ohio; her early interest in making objects; attending the Lawrence Art Center camp in Kansas at the age of 16 where she first experimented with metals; her like of working with tools in order to create something; taking metal smith classes at the Cleveland Institute of Art during high school; attending Miami University in Ohio for two years followed by two years an Cranbrook Academy of Art; working as a TA with L. Brent Kington at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale; her collaborative work in both textiles and metals while at Carbondale which lead to her first experimentation in weaving silver wire; creating a body of work for her Master's thesis in which all the pieces were woven wire; various works, their origins, when, where and why they were created, including her Neckpiece, Choker, Bracelet, Brooch and Ring series; her aesthetic interest in patterns, line and positive/negative space; a limited interest in and use of color in her work; the transition from silver to gold wire; a progressively larger interest in the history of jewelry and body adornment which eventually became a lecture at the University of Washington, where she taught for 26 years; numerous trips around the world to countries such as China, Tibet, Nepal, Afghanistan, Iran, Turkey, Australia, Papua New Guinea and Indonesia; a strong interest in ethnic and native jewelry/body adornment practices; the various purposes which jewelry can serve in society; her involvement with the Society of North American Goldsmiths and the American Craft Council; her technique based teaching practices; the role that modern technology plays in teaching, learning, and making jewelry; the lack of support and funds for metals programs in universities around the country; her library, which includes aver 2,000 books about the history of jewelry and body adornment; her collection of jewelry from around the world; her want to create beautiful and functional jewelry; the public and private aspects to jewelry and it's role in museums; current projects and the importance to maintain interest of metals in younger generations. Hu also recalls Gary Turner, Hans Christensen, Otto Dingeldein, Heikki Seppä, Hero Kielman, Phil Fike, Patti Warashina, Gary Noffke, Elliott Pujol, Chonghi Choo, Daphne Farafo, Vicki Halper, Ron Ho, Miye Matsukata, Alma Eikermann, Mark Baldridge, Kurt Matzdorf, Eleanor Moty, Fred Fenster, John Marshall, James McMurray, and others.
Biographical / Historical:
Mary Lee Hu (1943- ) is a metalsmith in Seattle, Washington. Smith was educated at Cranbrook Academy of Art and Southern Illinois University. She teaches at the University of Washington.
Originally recorded on 4 sound discs. Reformatted in 2010 as 8 digital wav files. Duration is 5 hr., 43 min.
This interview is part of the Archives of American Art Oral History Program, started in 1958 to document the history of the visual arts in the United States, primarily through interviews with artists, historians, dealers, critics and administrators.