Whether you’re a knitter or spinner, a carver or an embroiderer, a needle felter, quilter, or any other kind of fiber artist, you know that when you gather together with other like-minded folks, story telling is an important part of the occasion! Fiber College is a community that regales in the stories we each have to tell. As each year’s teachers submit their materials for their artist profiles, I am enthralled with their stories and am so eager to share them with you!
Susan Mills came to the world of fiber arts by way of a passion for photography. As an artist, she uses mixed media to create objects that come to life! Susan will teach Felt Offerings: Vessels on Wednesday and Thursday, September 6 and 7 from 9 AM to 4 PM. You can sign up here. It’s an experience you won’t want to miss! Here’s more about Susan:
Fiber College chooses a new theme each year. For 2017, it’s Re-Use, Re-Design, Re-Create. How do you incorporate any part of this theme into an important part of your life?
Re-Purposing is extremely important to me for ecological reasons as well as inspiration for art making. I frequent our re-cycling facility regularly harvesting materials that will end up being incorporated into actual art pieces or added to theater sets or installations or merely enhance our home environment.
Tell us how you entered into the world of fiber and the fiber arts.
I began my career as an artist using photography as my medium. I professionally worked with theater companies and rock bands and did non-traditional portraiture as well as pursuing my own fine art. I would fashion environments to photograph and this lead to theatrical set design work. I began to see that if I crafted these components more highly that they could go on to have a life of their own. And then…… I got my first llama. Sir Oliver. I went on to purchase a small herd of these amazing animals and had all this fantastic fiber and no knowledge of how to utilize it. I tried some fiber arts and did not find my spark till I took my first felting workshop with Beth Bede decades ago now.
I did create practical wearable sorts and did a fair share of juried craft shows as well as galleries with a combination of all my mediums. All the while, I was able to live this magical, mystical life with these most dear animals.
Reusing materials can be great fun, exciting, or perhaps frustrating. How/What have you re-used as an artist?
Old musty books destined for recycling, when painted black (my Favorite color till they make a darker one!) make the best pedestals for art pieces as well as symbolize wisdom, stories, and history. The same may said for my second hand wardrobe! Natural materials that are in a stage of going back to the earth are resurrected for a time in my mixed media creations. These are just some of the items I collect and Re-Honor.
What’s the best piece of advice a mentor has ever given to you?
“Control is an Illusion. If you needed it you would have some.” (Lorna Mee, AZ, 1995)
Tell us about a time that you developed an exciting idea for your fiber art; where did the idea come from? What inspired you?
I have always been fascinated by ancient Neolithic sites, Prehistoric art, and Shamanism. I have a meditation practice and also do shamanic journeying. In my journeys I often see landscapes and evidence of “Other,” equating these with my understanding of the Mystery, where we all meet in Spirit. I am seeking to illustrate my Inner World as it interfaces with these “Other” realms.
Vessels have such an ancient and important history. I see them as being able (symbolically) to hold sacred the harvest that comes from my meditations and journeys.
And on a lighter side…… my first vessel was a hat gone very bad. By inverting it, I was inspired by the many possibilities and began my story telling about the symbolism and sacredness to be had from the creating of vessels.
If you could re-design your life as a fiber artist, what would that look like?
I would be more courageous. I would somehow work weaving into the act and I would take regular naps!
Who has had the greatest impact on your work as an artist?
I was the photographer for the book Healing Spirits (Crossing Press, 1999). This is a culmination of a five year journey with my friends Pat West-Barker and Judith (Joslow) Raywood who co-wrote the book. Together we met up with different healers across America gathering their stories and photos. Included are a Navajo Medicine Man, a Hopi Medicine Woman, a Peruvian trained Shaman, a Medical Intuitive, and many more. Working with these amazing healers deeply affected my journey with Spirit and Art.
How does your art recreate YOU? What does that feel like?
It feels like an Invitation and Calling. It can be thrilling, exciting, frustrating, and humbling. But with surrender it can be transformative and I find the edge of my own territories.
If you could go back in time, what might you change about your fiber journey?
I would definitely raise more fiber bearing animals, travel more, take more naps, and eat more chocolate.
What’s the most important thing that you want my potential students to know about you?
That I am passionate about my work. That I know it is impossible to make a mistake in creating. Namaste! NO Mistakes! And if ever one believes a mistake is before them, I Invite them to see it as an Opportunity.
You can learn more about Susan and her fascinating fiber art at here. Imagine two magical days with Susan at Fiber College. On Wednesday and Thursday, September 6 and 7, Susan’s class Felt Offerings: Vessel will be held from 9 AM to 4 PM. You can sign up here.