Inspired to reignite her career after moving to the US from South Korea, Sung finds the ideal balance between managing family life, pursuing an MFA, & promoting her career as a textile artist.
Sung Ji Lee grew up in South Korea where she enjoyed her career in the fashion industry before she and her husband moved to the US. “Before moving here in 2013, I researched clothing ergonomics and analyzed body measurements and body shapes for the fashion industry.” She also taught garments constructions and fashion product development at universities in South Korea.
“So, moving to the US was a major transition. I made the decision to depart from loved ones and my career.” Sung ji found that relocating was an opportunity to build a new career, and enrolled in the MFA Fibers program at UMassD’s College of Visual & Performing Arts. “Even though my background was not directly related to the field of art, I realized I could use my skills and knowledge of textiles to create my artwork.” She is also the mother of a 10-month old girl and says it can be challenging to find a balance between my academics and home life. “But if I want to have a career as an artist, I have to learn how to balance the situation by managing my time effectively.”
The combination of pursuing an MFA, raising a child, and promoting her career as an artist has proven rewarding for her. Sung Ji’s work has been selected for several juried exhibitions. As a member of the Handweavers Guild of America, Inc. (HGA), she has been able to enter several annual juried exhibitions for weaving artwork. In 2020 and 2021, her small tapestry work was selected by the HGA Small Expressions exhibitions, which are touring exhibitions in the US. Her work, “Candy Vending Machine,” was selected for the annual Surface Design Association (SDA) Juried Student Exhibition, Future Tense in 2021. Another work titled “Hide and Seek” was selected for the A National Juried Exhibition “Real or Imaged” will be displayed at Attleboro Arts Museum in June 2021, and she has been profiled in the Fiber Art Now, which is a quarterly print and digital magazine for the contemporary fiber art community.
Reaching various populations through textile art
“Textile (Fiber/fabric) is essential in our lives, so most people are familiar with it. I have two experiences to learn how textile craft can serve an important role in the community to unify people,” Sung Ji says. “During an event called “Repair Café,” my advisor Charlotte Hamlin arranged as part of an AHA! Night festivity. People brought any clothing such as their torn jeans, shirt with holes, and old sweater to be repaired by the mending class students and the fiber graduates. I joined it as a mender. I had a chance to listen to and talk with people about history and their clothing.”
It was an enlightening and inspirational experience for Sung Ji, who planned an art project titled “Beyond Language” to celebrate and engage with people from around the globe. “It was a collective weaving project to visualize foreign words that do not exist in English by weaving,” Sung Ji says. “I planned this art project to help immigrants to communicate better. I worked with immigrants from seven different foreign countries, China, India, Peru, Vietnam, South Korea, Japan, and the US. It was a great chance to share my culture/language and understand other cultures too.” Learn more about Sung Ji’s work.