Born in Lakewood, Ohio, Mary Lee Hu earned a B.F.A. degree in 1965 at Cranbrook Academy of Art and an M.F.A. in 1967 at Southern Illinois University, where she first explored weaving wirea characteristic of her jewelry.
Hu creates unique jewelry by weaving metal threads as if they were textiles. Over the years, her style has evolved, but her techniques and materials have remained consistent; her hands are her primary tools. Always conscious of the wearer of her jewelry, she seeks to create objects that adorn rather than overpower the individual.
Hu has researched body adornment in many places, including Taiwan, Hong Kong, Tibet, New Zealand, Australia, and Papua New Guinea. She is a past president of the Society of North American Goldsmiths and a professor of art at the Univeristy of Washington.
Kenneth R. Trapp and Howard Risatti Skilled Work: American Craft in the Renwick Gallery (Washington, D.C.: National Museum of American Art with the Smithsonian Institution Press, 1998)
A summer course in visual arts for high school students at the University of Kansas in Lawrence was Mary Lee Hu's introduction to metalsmithing. She pursued these studies at Miami University, the School for American Craftsmen at Rochester Institute of Technology, and at Cranbrook Academy of Art, where she earned her BFA in 1965. She earned her MFA at Southern Illinois University in 1967. From 1971 to 1973, Hu lived in Taiwan, where she studied Chinese language, music, and art, and has also traveled extensively in southeast Asia. Her jewelry was first exhibited at the Everhart Museum in Scranton, Pennsylvania, which brought Hu honorable mention in a national competition. Her first solo exhibition took place at the Crafts Alliance Gallery in St. Louis in 1967. Hu has taught at Southern Illinois University and Michigan State University, and since 1980 has been on the faculty the University of Washington in Seattle.
National Museum of American Art (CD-ROM) (New York and Washington D.C.: MacMillan Digital in cooperation with the National Museum of American Art, 1996)