Selfie - life-long learner
Inner Light - positive thinking
Message to women everywhere - “Be kind to yourself. Don’t shoot yourself with that second arrow.”
Sylvie Lee is understated, the kind of gal you don’t notice at first glance. Until she says something in her quiet, warm voice that sends a whole room roaring in laughter. She does so with a straight face and mischievous light in her eyes. She makes quirky connections about the mundane that the rest of us overlook. There’s more than meets the eye in this straight-laced facade of a feminine spirit. A millennial-creative, Sylvie solves problems as a graphic designer at a hip startup. She also has her own business, SylvieCeres Designs, through which she makes and sells her art. Her portfolio spans across watercolor, graphics, photography and textile.
Sylvie became an artist through a circuitous journey of self-discovery. She recalls long childhood days jammed with school, sports and music; classes upon activities, hustling from one thing to another. Though she is glad to have been exposed to many interests, she had a hard time with the over-scheduling. "It took me a long time to unravel being told what to do all the time. And a long time to find my own way.” Unclear in college about what direction to take, she studied communications and economics, figuring these fields were broad enough to make good on her life. Out of curiosity, she also added a minor in studio art. College ended, and on to Google, then an advertising agency.
For several years, Sylvie achieved along a well-defined path. On the surface she was building a promising career in advertising, but inside she was lost. “I was working so hard at something I didn't feel passion for. And I thought, if I’m working so hard, it should be for something I am passionate about.” It was confusing and exhausting, her creative spirit yearning for more, but not knowing for what or how to figure it out. Sylvie realized that she couldn’t expect to get clarity by just keeping the status quo. So she made a brave move. She quit her stable job where she was liked, and she set out to carve her own path. Recalling how much she enjoyed learning art from her grandmother who was a talented Chinese painter and calligrapher, Sylvie took several design and art classes. She tried different creative jobs: apprenticing with a textile designer; producing creative elements for weddings and events; and freelancing as a designer and photographer. She created original artwork — paintings, billboard designs, event signage, stationary. “I had to do a ton of hustling, and it was hard to put myself out there again and again. It's also hard when people ask you what you do. The social pressure of not having an easy answer and not having work as my identity. And the stigma around millennials who take time off because they feel so entitled. But I told myself to have faith, to listen to my inner voice and let that guide me.” She stayed the course of exploration. She painted everyday. She surrounded herself with supportive family and the study and making of art, determined to reinvent herself.
Sylvie remembers winning her first art challenge with Minted, an online marketplace well-known for crowdsourcing art. Her submission was called Indigo Wanderlust, an image she created in a series of one hundred 5 by 7 pieces she made to celebrate the colorful people in her life. In a mosaic of interconnected, infinite triangles, drawn through ink and watercolor, Indigo Wanderlust evokes a prism reflecting upon itself. Indigo Wanderlust was selected over 1900 pieces of anonymously submitted artwork. When Indigo Wanderlust won on its own merit, Sylvie felt seen for her true self. She knew she could stand on her own as an artist.
Now working at a self-publishing and design company, Sylvie combines her creative and project management skills, a job Sylvie says she could have only dreamed of doing when she set out to find her way. She also continues to create original artwork. Her latest venture is Elemental Supply Co, a platform she created to work with other artists. Each collection on Elemental Supply is inspired by an element from the periodic table, and the creative goods are collaborations with different makers. Knowing how hard it can be for artists to believe they can make something, Sylvie's vision in Elemental Supply is to offer a springboard for people to do more of what fuels their creative expression. “Often people don’t even try to make art because they fear they’ll fail or because they lack the opportunity. It’s so much easier to put yourself out there if you have someone to collaborate with. Elemental Supply is for anyone who thinks they have something to say."
Sylvie continues to invent ways for her art and self to emerge. In her own real life Indigo Wanderlust, Sylvie is creating prisms through which to see and be seen in a never-ending, ever-multiplying discovery of self.
Photos by Daniel Nguyen
Indigo Wanderlust by Sylvie Lee