It’s always fun to introduce a friend you’ve known for a while to some other friends! Here’s Susie Stephenson. We’ve hooked and spun together at a number of retreats through the years. I’ve always found Susie and her work to be delightful, colorful, tremendously imaginative, and engaging. She incorporates a variety of fibers, cherished heirloom clothes, and recycled wares of all kinds into her creations. Such fun! And I couldn’t be happier to know she’s teaching two fabulous classes at Fiber College 2015. You can take Create Your Own Heirloom Rug on Weds/Thurs and you can also learn more about Spinning Mohair – 5 Different Ways on Friday afternoon. You will NOT want to miss an opportunity to take a class or two from Susie. She’s one of a kind.
Who are you? Tell us about your fiber journey.
Who am I is the hardest question because once I am in a box and described, I just want to climb out and say,”That’s not me!” All my life I’ve been an artist, teacher, creater. I love to play and make stuff and push the edges and the limits. I love to make something beautiful out of recycled, cast-off clothing. Something useful, an heirloom for future generations. In a world where so much is instant and thrown away, it is wonderful to slow down and create with your hands and to be mindful of it. Some of your spirit goes into things made from the hands. A few years ago, I got sheep and now I also put their fibers into everything I do. Oh, I got goats, too; now I spin and hook and knit and create. I like helping people find the artist and the child within and to invite them out to play! NOw I have a proper studio in Edgecomb, Maine. Stephenson Fiber arts.com and it is hard to keep it clean and make art. Art is messy, life is messy. It is fun, too!
What is your most important artist tool?
My favorite tool that I can’t live without is my hands. They are so wonderful and important in everything I do. MY old hook is important too that so many hands have held and used to pull up the loops. I am in a long line of women who create useful art for the floors of their homes.
What’s integral to your work as an artist?
Recycling is an integral part of my work as is creating my own patterns to commemorate a moment in my life or a special pet or a warm home. I think art made from clothing that was worn by people (as opposed to wool cloth cut to hook with) creates a different feeling for the rug. The hand of the maker and the cells of the ones who wore the clothes are in the rug.
What would your Fiber College students be surprised to know about you?
I think Fiber College people would be surprised to find that I like structure and rules. I like to know where the lines are, but I love to step outside of them. I like to do the unexpected, to color outside the lines with a less traditional fiber or color, and to break down the rules and the barriers.
How do you manage/balance your work self and your creative self?
I make time for art or else other things get in the way like dishes and laundry and chores and the day ends and I find I haven’t made art. So now I make time for it, I set the timer and do it, I put it on the list of things to do and make it a priority. It’s my art. If I don’t do it, it won’t get done. It has to come from me. Show up, do the work, get in the groove. Sometimes it is easy and other times more difficult.
In 2000, I retired as a 3rd grade teacher. I was burned out. I set home and hooked rugs and felt the wool in my hands and eventually I felt better and then I started calling myself an artist and people started to believe in me. The path has not been smooth but it has been rewarding. When I published my book, it was so wonderful to see all my rugs. Since I was little I have always made things and I will continue to do that. I have a need to create and feel unsatisfied unless I do. I like to inspire people to make art.
What or who inspired you to become a fiber artist?
My grandmother and mother inspired me. MY grandmother would come to Sunday dinner and her apron pockets would be filled with little creatures she had made for us. My mother taught me to hook and she has been my greatest supporter. And of course, my husband Tom, who has always been great even when he comes home to wool dyeing on the stove and no supper! Sometimes you just get wrapped up in your art and it takes you to places you didn’t think you were going!
Go sign up for one or both of Susie’s classes here: www.fibercollege.org