Artist Profile: Susan Perrine

Perrine_weaving

Weave with a group of friends in The Human Loom, an activity at this year’s Fiber College!

At this year’s Fiber College, you have an extraordinary opportunity to be part of The Human Loom. It’s the brain child of fiber artist Susan Perrine. Susan creates weavings, sculptures, and structures with a wide range of fiber, including fabric, twigs, growing plants, all kinds of paper, and lots of enthusiasm! Let’s learn more about Susan and how she will help to weave us together at this year’s Fiber College.

Tell us about your fiber journey. 

Women in my family shared stitching skills but my father saw us as his ever ready assistants so I was as likely to thread a needle as I was to swing a hammer. My adventures in fiber art began with a weaving apprenticeship in Niagara Falls, NY. I did production work for Carol Schwartzott. She makes artist books and lately has been knitting.

Julia Gleason wears A Dress Book, an altered book form.

Julia Gleason wears A Dress Book, an altered book form.

I have produced elaborately designed textiles on Jacquard looms in a mid-19th century textile mill. Sheep to Shawl demonstrations praise sheep, and promote local products and the farmers who care for them. I was a team member who traveled annually to schools with ewes and their new lambs, a collapsible pen, spinning wheel and loom. I found it frustrating trying to describe loom parts and illuminate their function, while my charismatic pals were spinning glorious colors or passing around the day’s cutest lamb. This led to my idea of weaving large structures so many could participate simultaneously. Woven Twig Garden Structures and The Human Loom were the result. Dozens of Woven Twig Structures have been built at fairs, festivals, public schools, and in private gardens in six states.

My Woven Twig Garden Structures have been constructed in public and private gardens throughout the Northeast. Seeds of climbing plants may be planted around the perimeter and once enveloped in leafy, green vines, the structures morph into living shelters. Circular huts large enough for two, provide a quiet spot for a tête-à-tête tete, while others, like a 30 feet long tunnel at Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens became a lively playspace. My twig work received Editors’ Choice Awards from Yankee and Downeast Magazines in 2014.

Perrine_tunnel_unity

My fiber art work ranges from small to large. A woven book will fit in your hand or a hut will hold all your board members. Currently on exhibit is a twig hut, and a hand stitched silk smock, a reproduction of one worn by a mill girl, recently exhibited at CSA (Common Street Arts) in Waterville, Maine.

What’s your favorite piece of work that you’ve created?

Spiral Hut, built with my son, Colby Perrine, is my favorite.

19.Perrine,hut winter

Spiral Hut, Woolwich, ME

What would your Fiber College students be surprised to know about you?

My early employment included working at the Niagara Dragstrip and creating life size paper mache bodies for wax museums!

Of course, it's A Book Jacket!

Of course, it’s A Book Jacket!

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever given a student?

I received the Harry Faust Art Award to construct a twig tunnel on the sidewalk in Gardiner, ME. One day I asked a 13 year old if he would like to help me. He declined because he felt he knew nothing about art. I urged him to experiment while continuing to weave twigs. He gave it a try and after 30 or 40 minutes of quietly working away, he took a break and we had a chat. He reassessed his thinking and said that in the future he would do more artmaking. I regard this as a coup.

woven_twig_structure_perrine

Nancy, a camper at Searsport Shores Campground takes a break from construction on Woven Twig Structure

I provide hands on workshops where students become collaborators. I developed tiny tapestry kit for teens to experiment with while on a backpacking trip. For a folk art demo at MOFGA’s Common Ground Country Fair, I recreated a tape loom based on the dimensions of one found at Bowdoin College Art Museum, dated late1600’s.
I devised a method to weave a satchel with a single selvedge. In honor of Samuel Slater, 225 elementary school students and teachers became part of The Human Loom to weave a 12 x 18 feet textile in bird’s eye twill.

I’ll provide a workshop for a few or a hundred. Join us, rekindle friendships, make new friends, and become part of The Human Loom at Fiber College!

 

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