Award Winners / Artist Profile

About the Artist

Mary Lee Hu is a masterful and passionate weaver of metal. As an artist, lecturer and teacher, she has been an active contributor to the civic and cultural life of Washington State for nearly four decades. As Mary mentions in her response (see below), she realized in high school that metalsmithing was what she wanted to do for the rest of her life and she continues to be an innovator in her field. “Mary has developed a refined use of the basketry technique of twining in high carat gold. Her formal use of design is her interpretation of ethnic art and architecture, with a focus on the power of pattern and repetition.” (Facèré Jewelry Art Gallery, Seattle, WA, who represents Mary.)

Mary has received numerous awards including the Flintridge Foundation Award for Visual Artists and three NEA Crafts Fellowships. Her work is in the following collections: Renwick Gallery, National Museum of American Art; Art Institute of Chicago; Tacoma Art Museum; Yale University Art Gallery; American Craft Museum; the Victoria and Albert Museum, among others. Selected exhibitions include: “Jewelry by Artists: The Daphne Farago Collection,” Museum of Fine Art, Boston; Korean & American Metalsmithing Exhibition, Kepco Plaza Gallery, Seoul, Korea; “Craft in America: Expanding Traditions,” National Tour; “The Art of Gold,” Crocker Art Museum, and US Tour; “Sculptural Concerns: Contemporary American Metalworking”, Fort Wayne Museum and National Tour.

Mary was nominated for the Twining Humber Award by 2002 THA recipient Patti Warashina, who stated, “Mary’s artistic talents have broadened and enriched the aesthetics of the field of contemporary studio jewelry. Her research in gold work has brought her much notoriety worldwide. She is in a class of her own. Her experimentation with woven gold wire into fabulous neck pieces, cuffs and rings are a sight to behold. She is an artist who is focused and committed to her work and has stretched the boundaries in the field. Dedication in this laborious and technically difficult work is boundless, and she has shared her wisdom and research with the hundreds of students she has touched.”

Information included above was provided by artist at the time of application.
From the Artist

I am honored to be chosen for this year’s Twining Humber Award. To be recognized along with the amazing Washington artists previously chosen is indeed an honor. Thank you to Artist Trust and Yvonne Twining Humber, whose generosity and foresight made this award possible.

I don’t remember ever aspiring to be anything other than a visual artist. I was fortunate to be supported by my parents in our small Ohio town, from my mother saving my first-grade drawings to being sent to after-school art classes. When I was 16, I took my first metalsmithing class and immediately decided that this was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I received my BFA from Cranbrook Academy of Art in Michigan and MFA from Southern Illinois University, Carbondale.  I married after graduate school, and we soon moved to Bellingham; however, I lost my young husband after less than five years of marriage while he was a visiting professor in Taiwan. Upon my return to the States, other artists, and especially the metalsmithing community, became my family. 

Wanting to give back to the field that had given me so much, I spent the next three decades teaching metals, first at various universities in the Midwest, and from 1980, at the University of Washington where I taught until my retirement in 2006. I have also been active in various arts organizations, among them The American Crafts Council, the Society of North American Goldsmiths, and more recently, The Seattle Metals Guild’s program to encourage the teaching of metals in our state’s high schools so that other young people might find their passion at an early age.

I have been fairly driven to pursue my studio work over the years. I wished to see it develop and be accepted, but also for the pure personal enjoyment it gives me. My eye has long been attracted to line and pattern. Starting as my MFA thesis research, I have continued to use wire in processes borrowed from the textile field, challenging myself to come up with various permutations of pattern and form and resolving them into wearable objects. Suddenly, it is now over 40 years later and somehow I got old… without ever having a midlife crisis! I still love what I am doing and in fact as I have traveled and studied other cultures and the history of mankind’s involvement with bodily adornment and all of its physical, psychological and sociological associations, my interest in the whole field of jewelry—historical, tribal, fashion, fine, costume to contemporary studio jewelry—has increased. In my retirement from full-time teaching, I can now devote myself more fully to the more solitary, selfish? activities of further studying about and making beautiful objects for the body. 

Thank you to Artist Trust for this recognition of a lifetime in which I have been privileged to work with beautiful materials and wonderful people.

Mary Lee Hu