WELD ARTIST OF THE WEEK: SOJUNG LEE
Career: Graphic Designer
Mantra: Practice does not make perfect—It makes progress. Perfect doesn’t exist.
Interview by: Kristin Read
What did pursuing art look like for you growing up?
I always had a pencil in hand. Because of my dad’s profession, he came home with used reams of paper and gave them to me to draw on. I was your typical girl, always drawing princesses, squirrel, rabbits, etcetera . . . As I got older I wanted to draw and be an animator for Disney, until they shifted their focus to 3D animation. I then wanted to be an interior designer all throughout high school, until about my junior/senior year when I joined the Art Magnet program. There, I went out on a limb and asked if I could participate in a museum internship instead of one in interior design—Asking that one question opened the doors to an entirely new creative world for me.
What led you to watercolor?
I took private art lessons in studio art from 7-12 grade. I was taught very rigid, still life, classic art. So I learned painting with acrylic and oils. Once I got through painting, we studied watercolor. Seeing the teachers work allowed me to really learn about the medium, and made me realize how much I enjoyed watercolor. While my high school's art program made me realize I enjoyed the act of creating, I noticed I was allowing my grades to affect my creativity—I was more concerned about getting an "A" than creating art that moved me. This private class didn’t “grade” my work, per se, which allowed me to delve into watercolor with a new perspective, one that allowed me to make mistakes and turn that mistake into something beautiful. Watercolor changed my previous “perfectionist” mindset. I no longer cared about “getting points off” of my work, but learning more about what made my pieces beautiful.
That said, what was your focus in college? You weren’t always pursuing art as a potential career, correct?
I took a year off after college (where I graduated with a History focus and a minor in Art History, accompanied by a teaching certification), and during that time I was able to take classes towards earning an Art Certificate with a Museum Education focus. I decided to take a break from school and taught art class in junior high for a year, then in high school for two years before I decided to take the leap into freelance full time. That break has also allowed me to focus on my Art Certificate classes, so I'm on track to finish school this fall . . . Hooray!
How did you turn your love for watercolor into a business venture?
I always made cards for my family growing up. So I started my business with the idea that I’d start a stationary or greeting card line. After I opened my Etsy shop, I realized I wanted to be more hands-on with the people I was creating for, and at the same time I started coming to WELD (because my husband, Hoyoung, is a photographer that works out of this space). The critiques and advice I've received here have helped to evolve my business idea, and iron out the direction I want to take—and I've been creating as much as I can in the mean time.
You work has recently received attention and been picked up by West Elm?
When I first joined Etsy I was sure to join local “closed” creative groups, and I’m fairly certain that’s where West Elm found me. They first started hosting these “pop up shops” in California to feature local artists that they found through Etsy. To promote local artisans, the West Elm Dallas location decided to get involved, and I was able to be a part of the first one that Dallas had ever hosted last month. Out of all the graphic design artists in Dallas, I was one of the twelve they decided to feature. At first I was shocked, but now I’m just incredibly grateful for the opportunity to partner with them.
Sojung's first West Elm pop up shop.
What’s up next that you’re pursuing?
I’ll be a part of the Deep Ellum Art Festival this Saturday which features all local artists. It’s held from 11-5, and my booth is in the building next to Lula-B’s. The details for the event can be found here: http://www.facebook.com/DeepEllumMarket
What has working from WELD taught you?
The undeniable need for community and the value it offers. I’ve learned that it’s crucial to work through the personal struggle of introversion in order to learn from and partner with other artists.That’s how we grow . . . That’show I continue to grow.
You and your husband were recently able to share a very heavy story in such a unique way—Tell us a little about that.
When I was teaching, I volunteered in a program called AVID, where a student of mine named Rolff was involved—he confided in me in me, and we built a strong teacher-student friendship . . . He was in a tragic accident the first Monday of spring break this past school year that kept him in a coma for three-and-a-half weeks. My first trip to visit him and his family, another AVID teacher went with me—You can imagine how hard that experience was. I went home in shock, and after sharing my experience with Hoyoung, he decided to visit Rolff with me . . . and for some reason he wanted to bring his camera. After experiencing the magnitude of the situation, he couldn’t explain it, but he felt led to photograph what was happening. He asked for Rolff’s parents’ blessing and at first his mom was very hesitant, which is understandable, but his dad insisted he do it. Still to this day, I’m not sure why he said yes, but I’m grateful he did. Hoyoung very carefully took pictures of this experience, and looking through them I noticed that they were not at all intrusive, but each image carefully shed light on the accident, telling the family’s story in such a gentle way. The family was hit hard by this accident, not only emotionally but also financially, so Hoyoung knew by sharing the story on his blog, we might have the opportunity to bless them in a unique way . . . and it did. When Rolff finally passed, the family was able to look through the pictures and find peace in the midst of tragedy—taking comfort in the fact that even those who didn’t know their son personally, were able to be a better part of his story.