3-Minute Interview: Joo-Hee Bae

The Academy of Art graduate, 39, of San Francisco, won the coveted Elisabeth Gordon Chandler Prize in the 2008 National Competition for Figurative Sculpture in Connecticut last month. Bae was one of 13 people in the nation chosen by the National Sculpture Society to compete.

You had to model a full-length figure in 28 hours over five days. What was it like having to create under a time crunch? There was a lot of pressure, especially the last day, when we had to make fingers and toes.It took a lot of time, but we needed to hurry. I kind of enjoyed that.

This was your first competition, and you went to school for sculpting later in life. Did it take you a long time to know it was what you wanted? I actually started sculpting when I was in high school. Then I got married and was taking care of children, so there was about eight years where I didn’t pursue it as much. I was working as a high school teacher in Korea seven years ago when I decided to move to San Francisco and go to the Academy of Art.

Did your family move with you? Yes, we all moved. My children are 14 and 11 now.

How long have you been dreaming of participating in the competition? For three years, since one of my instructors introduced me to it. The competition is the only one of its kind.

Did you know you were one of the best figurative sculptors in the United States? [Laughs] I hoped so.

You’re sculpting the same models for hours and days. What sort of relationship do you develop with them? It’s forbidden to talk a lot with the model, because it’s a competition. My model was a very young and friendly girl, and eventually we smiled at each other and said “Thank you.”

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