Susan is the kind of woman who can see a pile of chaotic colors and blend them into combination that
bathe your eyes with pleasure. Not to be forced into a box, Susan is a quilter, weaver, book artist and at Fiber College she’ll be sharing her felting skills on Saturday afternoon in the Felted Paintings Class.
Recently she shared a bit of her life with us:
I have returned to school, the University of Southern Maine to study
Fine Art. I decided I wanted to create painted warps to weave shawls
or wraps that would be worn as clothing or used as a cozy blanket. I
have always loved the repetitive, meditative quality of weaving, so I
often choose the simplest weaves, plain or twill.
As a teacher, I provide simple plans and encourage students to
experiment from there. I like to use materials to their best
advantage, in ways that best shows them off and that they are best
suited for. I make suggestions and hope to contribute to growth of
knowledge about materials and techniques.
I learned to weave as an apprentice to master weaver, Carol
Schwartzott. She has since sold her looms and is creating amazing
artist books now. Although processing, spinning, dyeing and knitting
with local fibers have snuck back into her life. Back in the 70’s we
processed and wove with all natural fibers; wool, cotton, linen and
silk, creating symmetrical wall units and similar pillows with fleece,
roving or ultra bulky yarns growing out of the pieces. Carol’s work
was shown in the best galleries throughout the USA and a few in
Upon moving to Rhode Island, I worked at Hamilton Web, a mill creating
narrow, decorative webbing. I wound warps on narrow spools for nearly
a year. Later, I wove on enormous Jacquard looms combining silk,
cotton and rayon into colorful webs hundreds of yards long. Some were
covered with flowers, some were elastic and said, ‘Elvis” others were
sturdy and striped. Each loom was about 40 feet wide producing about
60 webs, simultaneously. Imagine the sound! Eventually, I worked in
the sample room where I learned to thread weighted Jacquard heddles,
ten at a time held in my left hand and pulling the thread through the
eye with my right. I shifted to a position in Pawtucket, RI, making
sample elastic waistbands for underwear.
I have often been asked to demonstrate weaving to schools when my kids
were little. This has led to teaching large groups. Some interesting
and unusual projects developed while trying to include observers in
the weaving process. I have had thousands of people help build a
number of woven structures in the Twig and Bamboo and Twig Hut
Construction Project. An entire fifth grade class at the Samuel
Slater School in Lincoln, RI participated, (250 students and even some
teachers!) in the Human Loom Project, weaving a structure 18 feet
wide, using humans as the heddles and shuttling through the opening on
hands and knees with a long strip of fabric as the weft.
Last week, I was in the Maine woods, at Flagstaff Lake, attending a
Meditation, Yoga and Art Retreat. There were over 30 of us in a group
led by David Harshada Wagner. I provided the art department. For the
past two years we created felted images, using hot water, soap and
agitation to felt. This is especially fun to do outdoors when you can
rinse your project and play with the cool water from a hose. This
year the art projects were self directed and many wonderful and
inventive objects were produced; a balsam fir pillow, a hand painted
blouse, a walking stick and a VooDoo doll of harvested grasses.
As the group straightened up our meditation space, I folded our dark,
warm, gray, felted, blankets. While doing this, I realized that I
find great comfort in textiles; holding them, feeling them. Maybe I
feel this way because it is something I did with my mom and it
signifies home, a clean, safe, and organized place where I am
protected from the elements.
I closed my studio in Bath some months ago. My looms and equipment
are carefully stored. I miss the action of weaving but have been
delighted to learn new techniques and use new materials at school. I
have been getting the most out of being around other artists for their
inspiration, support and critiques.
With all the wonderful fiber in Maine, I would love it if we could get
together and produce a product that is 100% North East; from growth,
harvest, process to production. I have weaving skills and know
production techniques but the business side of things is beyond me. I
would love to talk to others about the possibilities.