We had the good fortune of connecting with Chi Hey Lee and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Chi Hey, what led you to pursuing a creative path professionally?
My undergraduate major was Internal Trade. By senior year, I realized that the type of work it would lead me to was not fitting to my interest. So, I was sure I needed to make a change in my career path. 

Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I’m a surface pattern designer. I design and license prints to companies that manufacture fashion accessories, home decor, or stationery products. My artworks often show bright colors and playful motifs because I try to express my happiness and positive energy in my designs. From a macro perspective, giving a good ‘Chi’ is what I like to do. I used to work as a freelance graphic designer in a studio environment. I always felt like a small part of a big machine and couldn’t have any sense of ownership of the works I created. Starting my own licensing business helped me to find my artistic voice. Asking many questions to myself became a necessary process when I developed a new collection, and the process taught me to look at my work objectively when there was no one to critique my designs. Working as an independent artist means you have to take care of yourself. There was a time that I couldn’t even drink a cup of coffee because of severe stomach pain from stress. At that time, I realized it’s impossible to create anything good. From then on, taking care of mental and physical health has been the most important thing to me. To give a good ‘Chi’ in my design, I try to stay in a good mood. When I’m feeling down, I buy a cup of coffee from a local cafe and go to the Arboretum. Nature always feeds me good inspiration without a doubt. Freedom to work when I want to is the best part of my job.

If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
If my best friend from Seoul visits me, I would take her to these places. Day1: Explore LA Architectures Things to see: The Broad Museum, historic and modern architectures in Downtown, and Watts Towers of Simon Rodia in South LA. Things to eat: Mexican food from Tacos Tumbras a Tomas in Grand Central Market, coffee and fresh Earl Grey tea pie from The Pie Hole in Arts District, and Japanese Ramen from Daikokuya in Little Tokyo. Day2: Explore Orange County Things to see: Laguna Beach and Noguchi Garden. Things to eat: Brunch from Las Brisas and dessert from Gelato Paradiso in Laguna Beach, In-N-Out Burger and Cream Pan in Tustin. Day3: Explore Disneyland! Day4: Explore Pasadena Things to see: Norton Simon Museum and The Huntington Botanical Gardens. Things to eat: Coffee from Garden Cafe in Norton Simon Museum, Thai food from Saladang in Pasadena, Dim Sum from Din Tai Fung and dessert from Beard Papa’s in Arcadia. Day5: Explore Hollywood Things to see: 2.65mile hike to the Hollywood Sign from Griffith Observatory, visit The Last Bookstore, and watch a musical in Pantages Theatre. Things to eat: Brunch from Alcove Cafe and Bakery in Los Feliz, Mashiti Malone’s Ice Cream in La Brea, and CUT by Wolfgang Puck in Beverly Hills.

Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
After I moved to the US from South Korea to study Graphic Design, I experienced various cultural challenges. I was a positive and adventurous person, but living in a foreign country without an immediate family was very lonely and depressing. When I hit the bottom of my life, one of my friends recommended me to volunteer at Joy Center for the Disabled in Fullerton, CA. This organization helps individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families. Interestingly, I could help others when I was in a hopeless situation. At the same time, this experience helped me to see the purpose of my life. I realized we all have different reasons to exist in this world, although we’re not perfect. Sometimes, when I feel my life is empty, I remind myself of the lesson that I learned from Joy Center. I have supported this organization for more than 10years already, and it has been my source of happiness.

Website: https://chiheylee.myportfolio.com/
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/chiheylee/
Other: My online shops https://www.minted.com/store/chiheylee https://kavkadesigns.com/collections/all/chi-hey-lee https://www.lovehandle.com/pages/designclubfeatured

Image Credits

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