Steve Schreurs is full of surprises! The gasps were audible at last year’s Fiber College fashion show when several models walked the runway wearing some of Steve’s fantastic chainmail designs: a shirt and hat, jewelry, and even a dress. The audience was abuzz and Santa Steve was quite a rock star right away. Steve returns to Fiber College this year – let’s learn more about this multi-dimensional chainmail artist. Here’s how he responded to our interview questions:
What does this year’s theme “Do It Your Way” mean to you as a fiber artist and teacher?
Each one of us has or will develop their own approach and style to art and creativity. I teach in a way that will allow my students to expand upon what I teach and develop their own look and feel to their work. Chainmail can be very technical in its construction and for some students that is what they concentrate on. Other students enjoy experimenting with new combinations, textures and feels. I teach good basic techniques that students can build on and follow their heart with their art.
When did you decide to become an artist?
I did not have a moment in my life where I decided to become an artist. I learned all of my skills for my creative activities because I needed them to accomplish something. For example, I learned how to make chainmail when my sons asked for chainmail shirts as props for their role playing games. At $800 each we could not afford to buy chainmail shirts. Becoming an artist just snuck up on me.
What kind of creative patterns, routines, or rituals do you have?
For all of my creative activities, I am a planner. I start the process with some time to think about and visualize the project. Next, I do any research needed both for materials and pictures or other visual aids. Next, I will plan the project including sketches if needed. I usually create my projects in stages. I will build a little and evaluate a little. If an initial approach or technique does not work the way I expected, I will redesign and try an alternative. I may have to try several iterations until I find a successful solution. Successful solutions may include some compromises to original ideas. During the initial portions of the process, I may put aside the project for a while and let my thinking mature.
How has your work evolved?
My early work was quite different from the special design work that I do now. As I became more knowledgeable about chainmail design, my projects become more complex. Another big difference between my earlier work and my current projects is the delicacy of the product. My initial shirts were made from thick wire and large rings. Today, my projects use a variety of wires (thick, thin, and various metals) and a variety of rings (small to large). Some of my chainmail jewelry uses very small rings and gold and/or silver wire.
What would a student be most surprised to know about you?
Students are most surprised to learn that I am a chemical/nuclear engineer and that I participate in long distance endurance athletic events. As a chemical/nuclear engineer I have had some very interesting assignment including working for three presidents of the United States (Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush).
When folks first meet me, they have no trouble recognizing me as Santa. What surprises them is that I run marathons (26.2 miles) and walk in the Susan G. Komen 3-Day (60 miles). I participate in over 200 miles of events every year and train approximately 1,000 miles each year. All of the endurance events are used to raise money for charity and I raise between $3,000 and $15,000 every year.
Wow! You’re busy. How do you ensure plenty of time to be an artist?
Time is my biggest nemesis. My “day job” is 10-12 hours per day, my endurance training is many hours per week, my charity fundraising and volunteer activities also require a significant amount of time. And then of course I have multiple artistic interests. I have to prioritize my artistic activities according to what has to be completed by when. For me, there is no such thing as “plenty of time to be an artist.”
As an instructor, what’s the best advice you could give a student?
Whether you pick the field of art or the art picks you, make sure that you are pursuing something you love. Take your time and learn your art well. I have personally experienced and observed many students trying to tackle too complex of a project too soon when learning a new skill. Break down the art into smaller components and learn the components first and then build them into more complex projects. Understanding the fundamentals will help you produce a better product and it will help you be more creative.