I’d like to introduce you to an artist I count as a friend, the talented Sue Bleiweiss. She’s the instigator of many projects I’ve been happily involved with including the Sketchbook Challenge and the Artbox CSA. OH, and she makes a lot of really, really beautiful art!
Lyric: Did you always know you wanted to be an artist? Tell me about your journey.
Sue: No and in fact I spent most of my 20’s and 30’s climbing the corporate ladder. It was shortly after 9/11 I started to question whether or not what I was doing was making me happy enough to continue doing it. The answer was no – so I gave my notice and took a couple of weeks off to think about what I wanted to do. I’ve always been a sewer so I thought that I start my own home dec business and make curtains and home dec items for a living. I went on my first sales call and while I was sitting in the clients kitchen talking about what kind of drapes to make her I thought to myself, this is definitely not what I want to do. Luckily my estimate came in too high and she didn’t hire me so I signed up for a weaving class and that was the start of my journey to becoming a full time artist. I wove for a few years doing a lot of commission work and juried art shows and then a shoulder injury forced me to hang up my shuttle so I decided to take up quilting. I tried to make some traditional quilts, which didn’t go well because I hate following directions, and that led me to exploring mixed media work and surface design techniques as a form of creative expression. Up until about midway through 2009 I was really focussed on creating books and journals and 3d objects like boxes and vessels but I found myself wanting to explore working on flat surfaces and creating work that I could hang on my walls. So I started dabbling in creating art quilts. Art quilting gave me a way to continue exploring surface design techniques like fabric dyeing and painting with the added challenge of adding stitching to the surface.
Lyric: Why have you chosen textiles as a medium?
Sue: It’s the tactile nature of working with textiles that draws me in. I really enjoy the process of taking plain white cloth, adding color to it and then using it to create an art quilt by cutting, fusing and stitching it. It’s a full circle process for me to start with that plain white cloth and finish with something that vibrates with color and makes you smile when you look at it.
Lyric: How did you find your “voice?”
Sue: It happened gradually over the course of many years of experimenting and dabbling in several different styles. It evolved naturally and got stronger and louder once I found the style and method of working that I found myself coming back to use again and again with each new quilt that I began. My “voice” really started to come through loud and clear when I moved away from working with purchased commercial fabric and started dyeing my own solids. There are a lot of artists who work with commercially printed fabrics and their voice and signature style comes through loud and clear but I just couldn’t seem to master that. But once I started working in solids and the colorways that I dyed myself it became obvious to me that I had really developed a signature style that was really an expression of my own individuality as a quilt artist and that my “voice” was coming through loud and clear.
Sue: Well I think my work is cohesive within those two styles. If you look at each body of work separately they each stand on their own as an individual body of work. Each style is created using very different techniques – one uses cotton fabric, dye and machine stitching and the other uses silk fabric, and paint but doesn’t involve any machine stitching. Both of these techniques I really enjoy doing which is why I haven’t abandoned one to work exclusively with the other although I will admit that my work with silk has taken a back seat to my fabric collage work because right now I’m focused more on creating work for juried art quilt shows than fine art shows which is where the silk work is more suited for.
Sue’s DVD Coloring Book Fabric Collage: Dyeing, Fusing, Designing, and Quilting will be available through Interweave Press in August. Readers can sign up for my newsletter to be notified when it’s released at: http://www.suebleiweiss.com/newsletter.html.