Chengyen Lee – a patient stitcher


During the Revelations Fair at the Grand Palais (Paris, May 2019), visitors were able to admire unusual works by a young man from Taiwan.

Now here’s a more in-depth portrait of Lee.

Interview Claire de Pourtalès
Photos: Atelier Chengyenlee

Born in Taiwan in 1983, Lee arrived in Paris in 2011: “At a very young age, without knowing why, I dreamed of discovering France. I didn’t know anything about this country and didn’t know anyone there. Despite all these uncertainties and doubts from my loved ones, I decided to stand on my own feet to settle in Paris.

At the age of 7-8, Lee began to learn all kinds of crafts skills on his own (Chinese knot, etc.). When he was 10, he helped his sister with school work: making traditional embroidery stitches on a drawstring bag. But the click came at the university when a professor asked him to embroider beads on a rope: “This is when my passion began.” In 2010 he decided to make a living from his art embroidery.

The work begins with drawings. As he embroiders very large works, he also draws on very large sheets at a 1:1 scale. He draws in black and white: “The simplicity of the line allows me to give free rein to my imagination for the choice of colors and beads.”

Many of my works have a thematic around animals and mythology. While being supernatural, these creatures carry symbols that bring them closer to men and their behavior. They help us understand who we are and what we need to do.

I don’t really follow a schedule, but I do force myself to work every day of the week. I have to maintain a close focus for as long as possible, I can’t afford to work irregularly, in ‘dotted lines’.

The slow embroidery work offers time for reflection. “I think about beads, images, ideas. I think about my career, about what I’m going to cook for dinner.” Sometimes, while stitching on one work, ideas for the next come to him and he draws them. But “it doesn’t happen all the time, because I only do one piece at a time.

Lee, always a patient embroiderer, also likes the speed of pottery: “the speed that you feel in your hand is also a visually instantaneous sensation, there is no room for hesitation, the clay must reflect the thought while turning.” He likes this complementarity with his daily work made of patience, slowness, reflection.

Nice to know, Lee has been keeping a diary since 2011. “I think one day it will be published. It is a 130,000 words text now.” So let’s keep an eye out for future publications, and in the meantime you can find Lee on his website

The content of this site is free and is not damaged by un-welcomed publicity. I do this work with love and passion but it requires a lot of time. I would like to continue to offer a wider market to our artists, to show how embroidery is a wonderful art. But I do need a little bit of help. If you feel like it, you can participate with a little donation to help me continue. I will be so grateful! Thank you! Claire