Three Questions for Susan Brubaker Knapp

Returning in 2019 is fiber artist, author, and teacher Susan Brubaker Knapp. In 2014, she became the host of “Quilting Arts TV,” which is shown on more than 400 public television stations across the U.S. She loves traditional hand quilting and needle-turn appliqué, but embraces innovative machine techniques in her art quilts. This year, Susan will be teaching how to recreate your original photos as pieces of fiber art in her 5-day workshop from November 10-16, 2019.
Q: How does your personal art practice fit into your life? Do you work on it every day? Block off certain time periods for it? 
SBK: I juggle a lot of things, so I work when I can. Sometimes that is 15 minutes a day, and sometimes it is all day. I have periods where I am very productive, and periods where I am not. When my children were very little, I learned to grab time where I could. It’s a mistake to think that you need big blocks of time to accomplish things. Those 15-minute blocks add up. My studio is a small-ish room in our house that used to be a guest bedroom, so I don’t waste any time getting to my workspace, and I can (and do!) work in the middle of the night, in my pajamas.
Q: How do you approach critiques in your workshops?
SBK: I don’t do formal critiques during my workshops, unless students request them. I do provide constant feedback during class, though. Between demonstrations, I circulate through the classroom and talk with every student, making observations, offering constructive criticism, and helping guide the student to realizations about her or his work. I don’t believe it is my role to teach my students how to make work that looks like mine. I want their voice to shine through. So I try to help students figure out what they like or don’t like about their work, and either build on that or change it. 
I’m not a “it’s my way or the highway” kind of teacher. I’ve taken classes from a few of those kinds of teachers, and I didn’t like it. I want my students to try new things, and to learn, but I also want them to have fun and feel a sense of joy as they work.

Q: How has your work evolved over time? 

SBK: I’ve refined my processes and techniques since I started making art quilts, about 2006. I focus now mostly on wholecloth painting and fusible applique. I do sometimes dabble in other techniques, usually on smaller pieces, because I think it is good to experiment and wander off the path sometimes. My work is nearly realistic, and I think it will stay that way. 

Learn more about Susan’s workshop on our website.

Three Questions for Michael Solovyev

Another new-to-us instructor for 2019 is Montreal-based Michael Solovyev. Joy and reverence are evident in everything he produces, perhaps especially in the deep play of light and shadow. He experiments continuously, challenging himself with a wide range of styles, techniques and media. Michael’s 5-day workshop will run from June 30-July 6, 2019 and still has spots available!

Q: How did you first begin creating art with the medium(s) you’ll be using in your workshop?

MS: I started paint by watercolor when I was five years old. What is interesting, my first watercolor is safe!!

Q: Tell us about your process from idea to finished piece.

MS: I focus on the light. For me, the main thing is to catch the light, not the objects. Building the right balance is the main task. Therefore, in watercolor, I always move from light areas, gradually picking up the tone. And, of course, in no case can you lose transparency!

Q: Tell us a bit about how you plan to conduct your workshop. Will it be more structured with specific tasks for students or will be it be more free form with students exploring their own work with your guidance?

MS: I am very flexible in teaching. Depending on the level of students, I will select exactly those exercises that will help them. I do my best to make my workshops as close as possible to private lessons. Each student receives a large amount of personal attention and help.

Learn more about Michael’s workshop on our website.

Three Questions for Maria Shell

Joining us for the first time this year is Alaska-based fiber artist Maria Shell. Maria’s work is grounded in the tradition and craft of American quilt making. She strives to take the classical components of a traditional bed quilt and manipulate them with the hope of creating surprising combinations of pattern, repetition, and color for the viewer. In her October 20-26, 2019 workshop you’ll use solid colored quilters cottons and learn how to stitch an assortment of pieced prints including stripes, chevrons, polka dots, herringbones, circles and curves.

Q: How did you first begin creating art with the medium(s) you’ll be using in your workshop?

MS: I started sewing when I was four, but never thought of it as a career path. When we moved to Valdez, Alaska in 2000. I took my first quilt class, and it really was this sort of explosive experience for me–I could not stop making quilts. Almost 20 years later and I am still piecing quilts. I wake up every day thankful I have found my passion and that I actually get to work as a professional quilt maker, teacher, and writer. 

Q: Tell us about your process from idea to finished piece.

MS: I like to work on several pieces at once. I think of myself as bit maker. I create dozens of “bits”–which are really small pieced units that I then put on my design wall and move around. I often sketch out my ideas with black ink on paper. I know that if I can get a good graphic image on paper that I can often translate that design to a colorful pieced composition. I have spent a lot time exploring traditional American patchwork blocks as the foundation/structure for my compositions. Once the composition is completed, I quilt it on my long arm quilting machine. 

Q: Tell us a bit about how you plan to conduct your workshop. Will it be more structured with specific tasks for students or will be it be more free form with students exploring their own work with your guidance?

MS: I like to do a formal lecture at the beginning of each day which usually includes technical information and an assignment as well as ideas about being an artist and cultivating your voice. From there, I move around the room visiting with each student one on one. My hope is to meet each student where they are in their path and empower them to move forward. At the end of the week, we will do a sharing as well as individual private student lead meetings where the student is free to ask for help with whatever matters to them most–a critique, a discussion about showing work, how to create a schedule to get in the studio everyday are all common topics–whatever they would like to talk about is what we discuss. My hope is always to meet the student where they are and move forward together on a positive creative journey. 

Learn more about Maria’s workshop on our website.