Research: Mary Lee Hu

After reading Design & Make Jewellery using Textiles Techniques by Sarah Keay, I found Mary Lee Hu. She is famous for her development in weaving using gauge wire. Her hands are her primary tools. Her designs are based on natural forms, movement and symmetry. They are incredibly attractive in form, because she has used such a delicate method to handle metal. She uses 3 intricate techniques: twining,twisting and knotting. The woven metal is able to bend and reflect light within a textured surface.

Hu’s first pieces were made of gold, and these pieces are ones she made recently using richly coloured 22k (has flexibility and a rich look) and 18k gold (requires strength for support in making). “I truly love working in gold,” she says. “I prefer the softer look of its surface. The light seems to come from within or below the surface.” This selection here are all connected by the same distorted circular structure. Hu experiments ways in which the woven technique can be integrated; as squares, long or wide strips.

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Hu works in silver too, and it actually is the first metal which made her recognise light as a design component. Fine silver has a flexibility needed for bending, while sterling silver provided the strength for the structure. These silver pieces are extremely organic because of the wire strands which are spiralling outwards. It resembles some sort of coral, or even a sea creature like a jelly fish. Hu’s manipulation of light is genius, as there’s a rhythm to the way it shines, and the strands seem like they have a mind of their own. There is also a “weightless” quality, perhaps because of how the strands have similar characteristics as thin hair strands, or thin paper strips.

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These neck / choker pieces use gold, silver and copper to achieve a massive, but still a fragile accessory. It can take hours to complete the repetitive process of weaving wire, but Hu finds is meditating and the end result further motivates her. The symmetrical aspect is what draws me to these chokers, because they are so clean and perfectly constructed as if done by machine. The vivid red and green that is only at the centre of the piece is alluring, and the transition from silver into this state is even more brilliant. It’s like the jewellery is a moving, living and interactive object by transforming in colour (silver to red) and form (slender to sprouted ends) all at once.

Hu has influenced me greatly in experimenting with woven wire for my Pitt Rivers bracelets. I will attempt to weave with different kinds of wire, but craft wire will probably work best as it is the softest. I am excited to develop my textiles technique to another level with an unconventional way of weaving.

 

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