Mary Lee Hu
"Twining... is used extensively in basketry and also to make loom-woven rugs. I fell in love with it."
Hu first became fascinated with metalwork during high school introductory courses. She later explored more work with metals during a summer camp. She went on to attend Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, for two years and then went to Cranbrook Academy of Art in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan to complete her undergraduate degree. During her undergraduate education Hu developed her skills and continued to work with small scale metalwork and jewelry. In 1966 while earning her graduate degree in Metalsmithing from Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, Illinois, Hu studied under renowned metalsmith L. Brent Kington. It was during this time that Hu started to work with fiber inspired techniques after taking a fiber arts course. This led to the development of her signature style of wire wrapped jewelry. Since the late 1960s Hu has developed new techniques in coiling, wrapping, weaving, knitting, and twining wire. Her work consists mostly woven wire earrings, rings, bracelets, brooches, and neckpieces that emulate natural forms, movements and symmetry.
After completing her MFA, Hu traveled to various places and took up different teaching positions until she joined the metal arts program in the University of Washington School of Art in 1980. She retired from the University as professor emeritus in 2006.
Hu is a member and past-president of the Society of North American Goldsmiths. In 1996 Hu was inducted into the American Craft Council College of Fellows. Hu has received three National Endowment of the Arts Craftsman Fellowships. Her work is in major collections such as the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Renwick Gallery, the American Crafts Museum and the Art Institute of Chicago. Hu is the winner of the 2008 Irving and Yvonne Twining Humber Award for Lifetime Artistic Achievement.
“After I had been weaving for a while, I was examining a Northeast Coast cedar bark basket with a surface texture I liked and found that it used two wefts in each row that were twisting around each other as they went over and under the warps — one went over and the other went under each warp, then they passed each other as they went up and down so as to become twisted. This is called twining and it is used extensively in basketry and also to make loom-woven rugs. I fell in love with it. When twisting two elements, the tighter the twist, and the wider the flat elements are compared to their height, the more of a diagonal one will see in the twist. This diagonal is what attracted me to the way the surface of twining appeared. I wanted to replicate it, so I used two round wires running next to each other to make a wider weft element, and kept my warps closely spaced to give a tighter twist. Using double weft elements has been referred to by others as double twining and I have used it almost exclusively since 1976.”
– Mary Lee Hu, Knitted, Knotted, Twisted & Twined: The Jewelry of Mary Lee Hu