The Artist loved by New ZealandRising Star, Public Art Sculptor Jin Lee

Limestone is rare material in Korea. There is a
sculptor who specializes only in Oamaru limestone
which comes from New Zealand.
She is very well known to the New Zealand
Community in Korea and as well as in New Zealand.
She chips diligently at blocks of stone over
3 tonnes in size to create beautiful pieces of art.
Even strong men have trouble with the harsh
physical work that she does.
Stone sculpting is one of the
most difficult and damaging processes in all
artistic disciplines and media.
Despite of all these disadvantages,
she creates beautiful artworks with great passion.
Her first impression during the interview was
that of femininity and elegance.
I was expecting a much bigger framed woman and
only the charismatic spark from her eyes convinced
me that she could be the one who created
splendid works of art.

Public Art Sculptor, Jin Lee
Jin's connection with New Zealand started back
in University, when she was majoring
in Ceramic Sculpture.
She was recommended by her professor to work
as a coordinator for International Ceramic
Sculpture Biennale in 1996 due to her English skills.
She built good friendships with many great ceramic
artists from all around the world.
When she graduated in 1998, she got an offer to
work as a fulltime potter at a gallery studio in
Whangarei, New Zealand.
She was brave to take the first step to
move out of Korea going to New Zealand.
"I was frustrated by the limits around ceramic
sculpture after a while.
I was craving something new and one day I fell in
love with Oamaru stone just like that.
"Still, it took 8 years to open her studio to
finally get the chance to work on
New Zealand limestone from Oamaru.
She randomly visited the Oamaru Stone Quarry in
early 2007, and the owners were astonished by her
sudden visit with the only purpose of sculpting
They couldn't help but welcome her, and kindly
offered to let her stay with them, while watching
her first project with great curiosity and interest.
She started working on a giant 3 tonnes stone only
two days after her arrival and dedicated many hours
chipping at the stone daily for a few months
with great patience.
As time went by, the owners and local neighbors
were quite surprised to see what she was creating.
The NZ media started covering her stories as the
Mysterious Sculptor from Korea.
New Zealand started recognizing her talent and her
dedication to Oamaru stone.
They started falling in love with her and her work.
The Quarry owners Bob and Linda took her as a
member of the family after spending quite
some time with her.
She became as a daughter to their hearts, and she has
been visiting Oamaru as visiting family.
They are proud of her as a good Ambassador of
Oamaru stone and of New Zealand. Her first project
was 'Aotearoa' also named by Linda Wilson, her New Zealand mother, who is also an artist.
Aotearoa means New Zealand in the Maori language,
which literally means 'The Land of long white cloud.
'When thinking of a name for the sculpture, the song
'Aotearoa' was coincidentally playing on the radio.
The design of Aotearoa was a more defined version
of one of her first stone pieces which she created
13 years ago.
The first design was from her first art exhibition
in New Zealand but was made simpler and
more streamlined after a decade.
Her first stone work was used as the award for the
Business of Woman committee in NZ in 1999, when
she got a project to make a Daphney Award which
was given to the Business Woman of Year in
New Zealand.
The sculpture is still being presented annually
after a decade as a symbol in Honor of Women.
This award is meant to capture the confidence
and peaceful elegance of Woman.
"I had found Oamaru Stone by chance through
pursuing my passion.
Oamaru stone is not only a working material to me:
it feels like the home of my heart, family, friends
and my true path. My signature work, Aotearoa,
has changed my life completely, and brought an
answer to me of what I really need to do
with my life"

40 million years old, historical Oamaru Stone.
Symbolic natural resource in New Zealand.

She is the only person sculpts Oamaru Stone in Korea.
People hardly know about Oamaru stone. She is
a pioneer for Oamaru Stone in Korea for the first
time and explains about the stone.
"There are many kinds of Lime stone in the world,
but Oamaru Stone has unique texture and beautiful
color which contains bits of fossils and clear
quartz and the density is much higher than
other lime stones.
Still, it can have a silky texture after the
proper processing, and it is well known all over
the world but not yet in Korea.
"The material is so strong in fact, that many
buildings have been built with Oamaru Stone like
cathedrals, the court house, banks,
the opera house, etc.
in Australia and New Zealand.
Oamaru stone has a down to earth character but also
an elegant and classic beauty.
The reason she is in love with this stone,
as she explains, "The Stone has an aura of classic
elegance and at the same time a warm hearted
character which can feel more human than other
types of stone.
I find it is the best material for me to work with.
It soothes mankind and retouches cold environments
with warmth."
Jin Lee majored in Ceramic Sculpture at Hong-Ik
Fine Art University in Korea, where she was
sometimes treated as an outsider because she was
always looking for something new and craved
experiments for her creations. No wonder as she has
a unique gene: her father is an engineering inventor.
Despite some difficult times in school,
her final project was chosen by the school as the best
single piece of the year among all students
and her piece is exhibited at the school's museum.
So her talent was proven from the early age,
but her passion and talent weren't limited to
only one field up to that point.
Jin had worked in a very wide variety of fields
such as business interpretation in Korea,
studio potter in France, lecturing at international
school in Germany, interior design for a Japanese
restaurant, corporation party decorations with
stage design (LG Khai mobile in 2003) and
art contents producer in Korea. She seems to
be a strong, charismatic person who has multiple
talents, knowing no limit in her life.
In 2000 , She made pop art styled stone fish
in New Zealand, and sold her works through craft
shops all around the country. After a decade,
her design became a common New Zealand design
after local craftsmen's repetitive reproduction.
She already had imprinted her heart to
New Zealanders secretly.
She had a successful art show in Christchurch
in 1999, GOHO Open studio art show in Germany
in 2006, a collaboration art show with
the NZ embassy in 2008.
Also, she made a special Appreciation Award for
Ha Jiwon, the then Cultural Ambassador to New Zealand,
as well as making Business Awards with Oamaru
stone sculptures in 2008.
Jin also made representative art works of Korea
and NZ at the New Zealand Festival in 2009.
She was commissioned for a number of gratitude
awards by the NZ Embassy,
NZ Chamber of Commerce and NZTE in Korea.
She often leaves Korea to travel around from
country to country with a backpack.
"I get inspiration for my art and in general by
traveling and seeing myself clearer and defining
myself as well as learning wisdom from local
cultures from other countries by hearing their
life experiences." Recently she was backpacking
for 3 months exploring from north Thailand,
crossing the Mekong river to Laos, Cambodia,
from the south to very north of Vietnam and Bali.
She is into traveling with and meeting locals,
listening to their life stories and tasting
local food, not just visiting famous tourist spots.
She was inspired by how people were dedicated to
different passions in their lives as well as
enjoying happiness from leading simple lives.
All the experiences made her humble and
appreciate her life even more.
She realized Simplicity is the most important
thing in life.
She had a Photo exhibition in 2010 in Seoul
in order to share what she learned from the
trip with friends and acquaintances.
She returned all the profits she made from
the show to an orphanage in Vietnam.

Artist Jin Lee loved by New Zealand.
Jin has drawn attention slowly since she opened
an art studio ( in Songnae,
Incheon in 2007. In 2008, for the Business Awards
were presented by the Australia and New Zealand
Chamber of Commerce, there was an opinion making
business awards as fine art pieces,
so she made a deal to show her 3 metre long
and 2.5 tonnes sculpture named "Aotearoa" at the
business awards event for promotion and made
7 business awards with Oamaru stone sculptures
from individual designs. Her promotion was mega hit,
and she was in the spotlight more from that event
which was a turning point for the SolarArt Studio.
After this event, she earned recognition of her talent
and relationship with New Zealand. She was invited
to the next big event which was New Zealand Unlimited
in 2009 at COEX, Korea as a headline artist,
showing two enormous sculptures 'Aoteroa' and another
sculpture 'Baram' as representative symbols of both
countries: New Zealand and Korea. She made good friends
with the New Zealand national champion Kapa Haka team
from the Whangara region. There were many famous
New Zealand musicians at the events, and one of
them made a joke, "Where is the big, Maori dude sculptor?"
This was because he guessed the sculptor was a big,
New Zealand man and was very surprised finding that
the sculptor was Jin
These works were shown many times at Grand Hyatt,
Hilton and COEX in Korea. New Zealand Embassy officials
said "We are grateful that she takes a role
as a bridge between Korea and NZ and introducing
Oamaru Stone as a cultural ambassador for
New Zealand in Korea. We hope that she expands her
artwork and brings more positive energy to both sides.
" Jin has already helped both countries as an
unofficial cultural ambassador to bridge
two through her artwork.
Also, she has built a good relationship with
last two New Zealand ambassadors to Korea through
many collaborative events.
In 2012, Jin is looking forward to meeting new
ambassador in Korea.
One of her joyful experiences was meeting New Zealand
Prime Minister, John Key, at a reception in 2010 in Seoul.
Ambassador Richard Mann introduced her to him personally.
She remembers the moment with a smile, "He was very
friendly and showed interest in my artwork. Mr.
Prime Minister was so genuine, I didn't feel any barrier
when talking to him; he was very easy to talk to.
It was unbelievable.
I guess that is why I am so fond of New Zealand,
very casual, friendly and a down to earth character.
" He cheered her up and encouraged her sincerely to
have a successful career as Public Art sculptor
using Oamaru Stone.
There was a chance to return love she got from
New Zealand in 2011, after earthquake in Christchurch,
she put an effort to contribute to raise money to
relieve those affected by the disaster in New Zealand.
The New Zealand and Australia Chamber of Commerce
hosted a fund raising auction inviting Rugby All
Black hero 'Sean Fitzpatrick' and previous Australia
national rugby team coach 'Eddie Jones'.
over 400 leaders of corporation gathered one night,
she participated in auctioning one of her works.
She had a moving speech on behalf of New Zealand.
Over 100.000 US dollars were raised and sent to
Christchurch and Japan.
Love calls from all around the world
At the end of 2011, Jin was commissioned to create
the memorial sculpture for the Norwegian shipping
company WILH.WILHELMSEN's 150's Anniversary.
It must have been a hard selection among many
talented artists from around the world, and finally
she was chosen to create the memorial image of 150 years
of history for the corporation.
This work was well received by the company and is
now being exhibited at the lobby of the corporate
headquarters of 'WILH. WILHELMSEN' in Norway.
"I thought of the Anchor as a symbol of ocean and
stability; it displays 15 waves in traditional Korean
style as symbolic representation of 150 years.
Each wave shows a decade with delicate 10 layers
on each wave.
The head of the Anchor was inspired by another
traditional Korean pattern." Jin will be even busier
in 2012 since she already has a few offers from art
agencies from Shanghai, Singapore and Hong Kong.
She is currently extending her markets more
She will be greeting us with new works in Korea
as a Public Art sculptor in no time.
For Jin Lee, a rising Star in Public Art,
her dream is big. She wants to make significant
land marks in Korea as well as worldwide.
After 100 years, or even 1,000 years, her works
will still create a fresh and inviting atmosphere
in the space similar to great contemporary architects
such as the great artist Gaudi in Spain.

Journalist. Lee, Soryung
Photography. Lee, JungHo