ccbc's artist interview series with chi cheng lee

ccbc's artist interview series with chi cheng lee

Could you tell us briefly what you make? 

I design and make jewelry that combines precious metals, stones and pearls for the contemporary woman seeking to express meaning and distinction in her everyday style. 

I also work with clients to repurpose their unworn jewelry with fresh, custom designs - to gain a new perspective on heirlooms and ultimately, provide intimate memories for future generations.

It’s a pleasure for me to be part of that journey and share their memories.

What inspired you to make your pieces, or how, conceptually, did your work come to be?

My designs are inspired by my surroundings and my travels; I’ve accumulated a lifetime of cross-cultural experience and exposure to differing ‘design language’, having previously resided in 18 different residences worldwide. Additionally, I am a member of a family that includes an award-winning father who painted Chinese watercolors on silk, and a sister who indulged in abstract painting. My designs have a sense of East meets West sensibilities.

My sense of place was centered upon my family’s arrival on Vancouver’s North Shore 20 years ago. My design sensibilities are now deeply rooted in the natural beauty of the ocean and mountains that surround my studio-in-the-woods in West Vancouver.

Why do you make craft?

I always love pretty things and appreciate nice things. I enjoy the process of instant gratification as I make a piece… I can see it come to life from a piece of stone, silver or gold wire or metal sheet. It’s satisfying to make something that is functional and wearable; jewelry is decorative and very personal - it gives the wearer an emotional feeling. It can also help celebrate life’s many special occasions! My work is sustainable and often becomes a family legacy and an heirloom.

I’m so lucky to love what I do and also love to make people happy – this is something that makes me happy. Life can be hard and full of challenges but making jewelry, when I’m in my studio and working by my bench, allows me to focus and be present on whatever I’m making. I can work for hours and not realize the day has gone by when I’m in the “zone”. It’s an addiction that is uncontrollable.

Has your work evolved over time, if so, what has that looked like?

Yes and no … I’m still making jewelry after almost 40 years - my designs and style may change, but my “artist voice” is in every piece that I create.

I design different collections that have different purposes or ideas – they usually start with a concept, an object, a

painting, and/or a collection of gemstones that I’ve collected. Some of my collections include the ‘Sea to Sky’, ‘Stacking Rings series, ‘the Balance’, and ‘the Woven Collection’. The latter series was my very first collection that I created during my senior year at Parsons School of Design. Here, I needed to create a production jewelry line for the final project. The concept of the (Woven) collection was inspired by my High school art teacher (also a textile artist). I did a lot of weaving during high school and this was a big part of my art portfolio which led me getting into Parsons School of design. The Woven collection is the same then as it is now but continues to evolve in design, and with time. It started out with about 9 designs of earrings, necklaces and pins and now has over 30 designs with the addition of ever popular Woven rings. This also become one of my signature collections.

Are there ideas, values, beliefs, or concepts that your work communicates? Could you tell us a bit more about that? 

I believe in the direct (and personal) approach to interpret my ideas and concepts in my work, such as my silver “Lily Pad Necklace”. This piece was inspired by Monet’s floating lily paintings after an experience where I was overwhelmed by the set of paintings at the Musee De L’Orangerie. It’s the same with all my other collections which are based on a single idea or concept and are then expressed in different pieces. Every piece can be interpreted differently and each person can engage in different ways – drawing out their own personal feelings and meaning from my pieces.

What would you say to emerging or young craft artists?

Be true to yourself and know that it takes time to develop your “voice” or “look” - it takes time to get there. I never stop learning, and learning from what you do and getting paid while learning is a win win! After Parsons (Art school) and while building by jewelry business, I worked part time with other jewelers and jewelry companies; this was a good way get insight on how they run their businesses; sometime one need to step back before moving forward.

 Keep trying till you find your niche for your “art practice” or “art business” and never give up, even if you have to put it on hold … success if different for everyone. If you have the passion, you should have fun and share your love with the world through your work.

Images in order of appearance


Chi Cheng Lee
website instagram ccbc


Our intention with this series is for readers to connect with the incredible artists in our space, consider craft through the lens of an artist and encourage people in their own journey with craft. The CCBC’s Artist Interview Series is published on the 15th of each month. 

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