April 3, 2017
We couldn’t be more excited to be welcoming fiber artist Susan Else to our fiber art workshop series for the first time. From August 20-26, 2017, Susan will be with us instructing a workshop on constructing large scale figures in cloth. In advance of her workshop, Susan was kind enough to share her perspective behind making art.
Q: What do you want your work to do?
SE: I want my work to engage viewers. I see making art as a conversation, and a sculpture would not be finished for me if no one were to see it. Because cloth has so many domestic and comforting associations, I often use that “safe” surface (as well as humor) to draw viewers into my work, where we can think about more challenging issues.
Q: How has your work changed over the years?
SE: Wry commentary has been part of my work almost from the beginning, but as the years go by I find myself more and more drawn to “serious” topics; wars, recessions, mortality—you name it. At the same time, I’m in love with the pure beauty of color and pattern, so the work has become a balancing act between the two impulses.
Q: How do you come up with a profitable pricing structure for your work?
SE: A friend once told me to charge enough that I wouldn’t be sad when a piece sold, and I still think that is good advice. The truth is that very few fiber artists are able to make a living from their work alone, so teaching and day jobs (and spousal income) often fills the gaps. Making sculpture multiples is the usual ridiculous amount of time it takes to create textiles, so I have never had the expectation that my career would be particularly profitable. However, I grew up in a family of serious artists who made work with the intention of selling it, so I don’t have much difficulty parting with pieces once they’re finished to my satisfaction.
Q: Do you have a motto?
SE: Play. Take risks. Never believe that it’s impossible to figure out the mechanics of implementing the vision in your head. My entire career has been one long process of figuring out the technical aspects of something that no one else was trying to do. I’ve collaborated with a number of engineers and practical makers to get the work done.
Q: Are you involved in any upcoming shows or events? Where and when?
SE: This year I am working hard to complete a twelve-piece installation called “Without a Net,” which focuses on the old-fashioned circus and sideshow. Many of the twelve works are mechanized, lit up, and include sound, and together they will create a total experience for the viewer. The circus is a great venue for exploring the confluence between the splendid and the macabre, between fantasy spectacle and gritty reality, and between the celebration of human prowess and a fascination with (and exploitation of) human peculiarity. The installation will debut at the San Jose Museum of Quilts & Textiles in 2018.