Today’s Chicago Woman twice called her as a “Women making a difference.” The BBC radio called her work a major accomplishment. Crain’s Chicago Business recognized her as the foremost practitioner of the Suminagashi art form and one of the region’s finest leaders in the field.

Amy Lee Segami
Keynote Speaker, Consultant, Former Engineer & Artist TEDx Speaker; Founder, Curator and Co-organizer for TEDxIIT; Excellence in Creativity Award 2011

 

 

With water as canvas, she draws on her physics knowledge and Asian heritage to create art. Applying the principles of science, she revived a nearly lost art and transformed the traditional style into a colorful contemporary style.

Her work is referred to as breaking historical boundaries of art and expanding technological limitations by redefining its expression. Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory of the US Department of Energy invited her to exhibit a one-person show. Fluctuating between polarities of meaning, her paintings are about the essence of human experience and its relationship to the universe. Since 1989, her paintings have won numerous awards. In addition to many private collections worldwide, her works are in the permanent collection of the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, Smithsonian Institution in New York, and the Museum of New Mexico in Santa Fe.

She is the founder and Managing Principal of Segami Consulting, an international consulting and training firm focused on the interdisciplinary, innovative and interactive whole brain learning programs to help clients increase their ability to be more creative and open mind.

She is both an engineer and a professional artist, with 20+ years international experience as corporate engineer, executive and entrepreneur. She is a keynote speaker, facilitator and trainer.

She is the original developer of Painting On Water™. It has become an increasingly popular “Experiential Learning” in business and education. Her program has the rare formula of visual art, fluid science and cultural diversity.

Prior to establishing Segami Consulting, she was a mechanical engineer in the pharmaceutical industry and VP of an international engineering firm specialized in the renewable energy. She has worked with business leaders, government officials and entrepreneurs. She has worked in 17 countries from Asia, Europe, United States, Canada, South America to South Africa.

She is a TEDx Speaker; the curator and co-organizer of TEDxIIT; a National Council Member for Arts-Based Learning in Science Education sponsored by National Science Foundation; CEO and President of Tiger Lily Circle, an organization for women to gain strength and knowledge. As one of the founding members of the Fine Arts Building Gallery, she has run her own artist studio, located in a national historic landmark in downtown Chicago.

A Chinese-born American, she was honored with the Immigrant Achievement Award in 2006, joining a select roster of distinguished Americans including tenor Placido Domingo, author Bette Bao Lord and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General John Shalikashvili.

Segami earned her Bachelor’s degree and Master’s degrees in Mechanical Engineering from the Illinois Institute of Technology with scholarships she received from IIT and NASA. Graduating with Pi Tau Sigma honors, she was invited to join Sigma Xi, the Scientific Research Honor Society, which has more than 200 winners of the Nobel Prize as members, including Albert Einstein, Enrico Fermi and James Watson. A life learner, she studied many Asian traditional art forms such as Ikebana flower arrangement, Tea Ceremony, Calligraphy, Tai Chi and martial arts.

She is a professional member of the National Speakers Association, and Global Speakers Federation. Segami is also a Guild member of Creative Education Foundation, as well as a Life Member of Sigma Xi, The Scientific Research Society. Segami has received many honors for her extraordinary ability and innovative application of combining art and science.

AmyLeeSegami.com

You are a very impressive, accomplished woman. Was there a female role model that inspired you as you were growing up and developing your interests?

Thank you. In addition to my American teachers, my maternal grandmother inspired me the most. Being ahead of her time, she filled me with an independent spirit and determination. She instilled in me many values, philosophy, and perspectives. She fought hard to keep me in the family when the other relatives were about to toss out this baby girl. She was the wind beneath my wings.

You practice an amazing Asian art form, can you tell us about it and how this interest came about?

You are referring to Suminagashi, which means “Flowing Ink.” It is a nearly lost ancient art, started in China over 2,000 years ago. Later on, it was mostly practiced by the Japanese Shinto Priests. Traditionally, it was the meditative art of letting go. Using only water and the Sumi ink that Asian artists use for writing calligraphy, the work is done with black ink on white rice paper. Most of my works are colorful, as well as three dimensional. Some people refer to my style as Suminagashi 2.0 or Contemporary Suminagashi.

The first time I learned about the physical properties of water in my science class, I was fascinated by its ability to be flexible, adaptable and universal. Years later, I studied fluid mechanical engineering at Illinois Institute of Technology under the renowned pioneer researcher, Dr. Hassan Nagib. My dissertation was on flow visualization – studying the complicated flow patterns and behaviors using the innovative visual techniques. The patterns were interesting, entertaining and informative.

When I came upon the art of Suminagashi during my search of the Asian heritage, I knew I found something special. I knew I could merge my science knowledge with the passion for art. I could combine western culture with the eastern philosophy. I found an art form that I can create an impact, be innovative and make a contribution.

You are an artist and an engineer. How did these two disciplines overlap? Are not artists and engineers polar opposites?

Most people would agree. Like the East and the West, these are polar opposites at first glance; however, there are a lot of similarities and overlap. Great scientists like Sir Issac Newton, Madame Marie Curie and Albert Einstein were known for their imagination, creativity and perspectives. Famous artists, like Michelangelo Buonarroti, Andy Warhol and Georgia O’Keeffe, all experimented with new materials, style and approach – including Leonardo da Vinci who symbolized the ultimate fusion of artist and engineer. We are now in an era of interdisciplinary culture.

Perception, expectation and education are the three key elements. This answer could benefit from a longer explanation.

Tell us about your accomplishments in the field of engineering.

Early on, I was doing troubleshooting in manufacturing. While I was working in the pharmaceutical industry, I became very interested in the innovative approach of product design. During the time I worked as a principal engineer, I filed several invention requests for new product ideas. Years later, I was at an international company specializing in alternative energy. It was very exciting to be in the forefront of the green energy movement.

There is a lack of a female presence in the field of engineering. Why do you think that is?

Perception, expectation and education are the three key elements. This answer could benefit from a longer explanation.

What advice would you give to women who are interested in male dominated industries such as engineering?

Go ahead and follow the ABCs: Ask questions, Believe you can do it, and be Creative. Think outside the box. Be observant, persistent and open-minded.

What advice would you give mothers who want to push their daughters in fields such as engineering? How do we cultivate that interest?

Mothers, encourage your daughter(s) to go into the science field. Expose them to the environment, guide them to the opportunities and explore the options. Start out young, and take advantage of many informal STEM programs at local museums, libraries and schools.

In addition to going to the American Girl Place, take your daughter(s) to science fairs, the Museum of Science and Industry, the Field Museum and Shedd Aquarium. Take advantage of the many universities which offer preview programs. Talk to their students and alumni. Bring your daughter(s) to meet engineers in community service, speaking engagement, or career days.

You are an accomplished entrepreneur. What advice would you give to women who are wanting to start something new?

Same advice as before:  Ask questions, Believe you can do it and be Creative. Think outside the box. Be observant, persistent and open minded. Most importantly, learn how to work collaboratively – create a team to carry out the dream.

Tell us about Segami Consulting

Segami Consulting is an international consulting and training firm. Its focus is on the interdisciplinary, innovative, and interactive whole-brain learning programs that help clients to improve, innovate and implement.

What made you want to start Segami Consulting?

After being an engineer and artist for many years, I saw the increasing need for interdisciplinary competency. My experience gives me a unique perspective and qualification to help others.

You were invited to be a speaker at TEDx. Please tell us about your talk.

It was really exciting to be nominated as one of the speakers at the inaugural TEDxPeachtree. The theme was “What If ?” and my talk was titled, “What If You Could Paint On Water?” I shared the basic principle I used to create Painting on Water, and encouraged scientists to apply it to their research. Viewers can also apply the same principle to implement their ideas.

You received the Immigrant Achievement Award in 2006. Please tell us about your Asian heritage, your connection to it, and what you treasure about it.

Being born in China, I grew up in Hong Kong and received my higher education in America. When I traced my Asian heritage, I came upon the amazing art of Painting on Water. Twenty some years ago, hardly anyone had heard about it.

I am blessed to be able to integrate my heritage with my education in science. Without my engineering training, I would not have been able to push the envelope of Suminagashi to where it is today. Without the linkage to my heritage, I might not have known about this art form which was considered sacred once upon a time.

Applying the principles of physics to the ancient art, I created work that reflects the philosophy of the culture from East to West. In short, it is all about the human relationship with nature.

It is both a privilege and an honor to receive the Immigrant Achievement Award.

Lastly, what is the best life lesson you have learned from your personal and professional experiences traveling around the world?

Perspective is everything – that is my life lesson. The more people can better understand the perspectives of each other, the better place this planet will be.