Introducing Melbourne based Malaysian born illustrator and designer Shuh Lee and her super colourful illustrations, prints, jewellery, scarves and bedding.
Tell us about growing up in Kuala Lumpur. How old were you when you moved to Australia and how do your memories of Malaysian life influence your work?
Growing up in KL, I was exposed to my father’s silkscreen printing workshop, art subjects in school, collectable toys, and the culture and versatility of the people at home. This definitely influences my work now through my techniques and the use of colours and textures.
I moved to Australia when I was 20. Moving overseas has allowed me to explore more of the art scene and discover a different way of life. I am grateful to have experienced different cultures in two countries.
You studied fashion design at RMIT, is fashion your first love, and which designers have inspired you in developing your own label?
During my studies at RMIT, besides designing and producing garments, I was also really passionate about illustrations and accessories elective subjects. Therefore I would say I love fashion and it is definitely one of my loves but I am also drawn to other things such as animations, foreign and indie films, travel and art documentaries, exhibitions, music and travelling for inspirations and ideas.
My favourite designers change all the time! But if I have to pick my ultimate favourites, it would be labels such as PAM, 69, Primoeza, Material By Product and Comme des Garcons. Recently, I am loving Melbourne based label Rouda. I also find artists and illustrators like Rob Ryan, Hayao Miyazaki, Shaun Tan, Chin Kon Yit, Esther Stewart and Kirra Jamison are pretty influential to my work.
Your work is quite diverse — across illustration, printmaking, jewellery, textiles and homewares. What does a typical workday look like for you?
I think the diversity in my work reflects in the randomness and the ever-changing hats I wear in my daily life!
A typical work day looks a lot like this:
8am — Starting the day in the right headspace: yoga and meditation
8.30 -11am — Studio time. I spend a few hours doing small tasks, emails, admin, gathering my thoughts and organising the day ahead
12 – 5pm — Day job. I work part time on weekdays. I do tend to ponder and plan shuh. related tasks during breaks though so I’m always in a semi-creative zone
6 – 7pm — Me time. I like to do a yoga class, have a quick swim or cook dinner
8pm-12am — Studio time! I usually work late into the night finishing pieces, creating artworks, designing new ranges, and catching up with social media posts and planning some marketing tasks.
You use the word ‘kaleidoscope’ to describe your range of products. Is colour the main element that defines the shuh. label?
Yes! Colour has been an important element since shuh. started. I love anything colourful, bright and fun to wear/decorate a space with. However, I am gradually working towards refining my practice, and I have started looking at texture, shape, materials, composition and finishings when finalising my pieces.
In addition to designing and making for shuh., you love to collaborate with other artists on creative projects. Tell us about the window installations you created recently for Dagmar Rousset and Poepke.
I love branching out and trying new things.
The window installation idea for Dagmar Rousset came about when my friend and owner Julia contemplated the idea of a giant version of my rope necklaces. It was something fun to work on and a bit tongue-in-cheek, which worked for both of our brands.
And I was approached by Poepke – a Sydney boutique, to produce a window installation and in-store display showcasing shuh. pieces.
I love sharing and learning from others as I feel it is a crucial thing in order to improve my work. I normally work solo in my studio so it is always nice to hang out and talk to people with similar interests. Because of my fashion background, retail and visual merchandising has always interested me. I was so excited to work on both window installation projects, as I love leaving an impression for passersby.
What’s the one item you have made that stands out as your own personal favourite, perhaps one that you couldn’t part with and just had to keep for yourself?
A personal favourite of mine would have to be the stitched fabric pieces. It started with me stitching odd bits of fabric, ropes and items that I didn’t need anymore. I guess it’s my practice, I like to collect and reuse unwanted items and turn them into something useable, wearable and fun. This was actually the initial objective of the label as I was curious with what I could make with limited resources.
What will you be bringing to Bowerbird in May?
I will be introducing a few new products I’m working on as well as the usual suspects
– New one-off necklaces (I have recently been working with brass and copper)
– Gift cards — a mini new range
– One off embroidered cotton tote bags
– Printed silks scarves and organic cotton pillowcases
– Other miscellaneous items — stickers and prints
For more info: