She may have lived in the United States for the past 23 years, but Dr Wee Hong Ling, 47, says she is always thinking of ways to give back to Singapore and is proud to represent Singapore at international ceramics competitions.
"My sculptural work always focuses on home and my longing for home," she said, referring to the tiny ceramic houses which are signature Wee Hong Ling pieces.
Recent exhibitions here have played on the theme. In 2013, her show at the Arts House was titled Sojourn, while an earlier 2011 exhibition at Sculpture Square was called No Place Like Home.
Interestingly, the New York- based artist said it was the 9/11 terrorist attacks which "formed the foundation" of her Singapore identity.
"I was living in New York and the first phone call I got after the attack was from the permanent mission of Singapore to the United Nations," she said. "I felt that my people were looking out for me."
With a scientist's eye for detail, Dr Wee explains the process of shaping, glazing and firing clay - not surprising as the singleton had been a National Aeronautics and Space Administration research fellow before embracing ceramic art.
Her first brush with clay came in 2000, when her friend arranged for her to take a class.
"I was awful at it," she exclaimed, but it flicked an artistic switch in her and she was hooked. "It was so clear to me. I want to rush to the studio to make work. I never rush to the lab to turn on computers," she said.
She plunged into ceramics full time after completing her PhD in geography in 2005 and gave herself five years to see where she could go with her art, living on money she had saved as a doctoral student.
In 2006, she won first prize at the Ceramics Biennial organised by the New Hampshire Institute of Art.
"It was very helpful, because my choice was validated," she said.
But it was not always plain sailing. "In the beginning, I would sell two pieces a year," she said, but she stuck it out. Now, her pieces are part of the permanent collection of the National Gallery of Singapore and the Guangxi National Art Centre, among others.
Her big project this year is to organise a Singapore arts festival called Something to Write Home About, to showcase Singaporean creatives based in the US and Singapore. She says it will be her tribute to SG50.
Singaporeans are finding novel ways to make it in the US. Watch their stories as told by Straits Times reporter Melissa Sim at http://str.sg/ELK.