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Helen Liu was born in Taiwan and raised on a chicken farm in the southern part of the island. Since leaving the country in 1972 with her parents, she lived in Jakarta and Bangkok and eventually came to study at the University of Oregon in 1977. After graduating from the Pacific Northwest College of Art, Helen worked in advertising and design firms in Portland and Eugene. When her daughter was born in 1994, Helen began working from home. She has lived in Oregon since 1977. 

In 2013, Helen began using waste plastic bags generated from her own household as well as bags from local coffee shops. friends and neighbors. American Luminosity  in 2014 was the first of these projects. Over the next 8 years, Helen’s art has focused on using these non-recyclable plastic waste. The largest one of the works from this period was Plastic Waste to Art Quilt, 40ft x 12ft, funded in part by the Springfield Arts Commission and displayed at the Academy of Arts and Academics in downtown Springfield on Earth Day 2021.

 

Helen is collaborating in a Plastic to Fuel project with Prof. Skip Rochefort at Oregon State University working toward creating a small-scale, neighborhood-size plastic recycling machine that will turn #2, 4, and 5 plastics into farm-grade diesel.


In 2021, Helen began growing working with natural dyes, in particular, she began growing indigo plants (Persicaria tinctoria) to extract dyes. In winter of 2021, Helen began dyeing locally-sourced wool from small farmers whom she personally knows. She learned to spin on a Navajo spindle and learned how to weave, again, after having been away from a loom for over 40 years. Helen continues today with her study and learning of the magical plant of indigo.

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With Prof. Ellen Johnston Laing, Helen co-authored Up in Flames: the Ephemeral Art of Pasted-Paper Sculpture in Taiwan, which was based on Helen’s MA thesis and published by
Stanford University Press in 2004.