One of our most popular Fiber Arts Instructors, Sue Benner, will be at the Hudson River Valley Fiber Art Workshops to teach a five day class, Construction/Abstraction, August 23 to 29, 2015.
This 2015 Workshop is fully enrolled / Wait List only, but Sue will return in the Autumn of 2017. Like so many of you, we can’t wait!
How long have you been teaching and what got you started teaching?
Although I taught occasionally as a young artist, I didn’t begin to teach in earnest until after starting my family. After my first son was born, Nancy Crow and Linda Fowler asked me to teach at the Quilt/Surface Design Symposium (QSDS) in 1992. After my second son was born, I taught again at QSDS in 1996 and have been teaching steadily at various conferences and venues ever since.
Actually, I have recently reduced my teaching schedule to make more time for studio work. Hudson Valley is a venue that is still on my list for good reason!
What is your favorite part about teaching?
My favorite part of teaching comes when my students dare to take risks, and when they have a sense of astonishment about their own work. I love it when someone makes a leap in the work and says, “I didn’t know I could do that!” or, “I didn’t know I had it in me!”
What would you tell your prospective students are three best reasons for taking a workshop?
Taking a workshop at Hudson Valley Art Workshops has even more perks.
• Having 5 days to leave your day to day life behind to spend in concentration and intensity with your art;
• Meeting other artistic people with whom to share ideas, get feedback about your work, and have fun in the process;
• Finding how your quilts relate to others and having the mental space to reframe your work.
Of course this is on top of learning new skills and techniques and all the other perks of staying at the Greenville Arms Inn.
What are you currently working on in your own art?
I am currently preparing for a solo show at the Texas Quilt Museum in La Grange, Texas (April 2-June 28, 2015). The title of the show is “Circling the Square” in which I explore expanding the tradition of the grid as a framework for the art quilt through the use of color, texture, and shape to add dimension and a new sense of space to the art quilt.
Where is your art currently being exhibited?
In addition to the show at the Texas Quilt Museum, I will have work at the Bilston Craft Gallery in Bilston, West Midlands, in the United Kingdom (May 9 – July 4, 2015), and at the Georgetown Art Center in Georgetown, TX (March 2015).
The Mayo Clinic in Rochester MN commissioned 3 pieces of my work in 2013 and another even larger work (about 104” wide) that I completed in January 2015.
Last year I curated a show at the Museum of Geometric and MADI Art called “Quilts: The New Geometry” that included two of my works as well as quilts by nine other artists.
Is your work represented in galleries, and if so, what hints would you give to artists looking for gallery representation?
Yes, I am represented by several galleries in the United States.
My advice would be to be prolific, make a lot of work. Develop your ideas and work in a series—or several. Get high quality professional photographs made of your work. Join professional organizations. Keep detailed records of your work, shows, and build your resume. Enter contests and calls for entry. Visit galleries where you want to be shown. Get to know the gallery director; be visible.
Here is the big thing: Show your work outside your medium, not just in quilt shows.
Do you sell your work in any online gallery?
I do not sell work online in my own website (www.suebenner.com), but prospective buyers are able to contact me on it. I also am part of a selected group of quilt artists called Through Our Hands (www.throughourhands.co.uk) out of the United Kingdom that actively promotes, displays, and features my work in their website and online magazine.
What is your favorite art quote? I have many, but one that seems particularly poignant right now is from artist and illustrator, Maira Kalman from the commencement address she delivered to the class of 2013. (My older son, Kellan Jett graduated from RISD that year as an illustration major.)
“Caring passionately about your work will make you happy,” Kalman said, and later closed with this admonition: “Go forth with kindness, meanness, courage, fear, compassion. Go forth with knowing and having no idea – and knowing that having no idea is completely acceptable and real. Commence with confusion. Commence with a sense of humor. Walk, breathe, retreat. Commence with an idea… It’ll be amazing to see what you do.”
Describe your studio.
My studio is located right behind my house and my short commute makes going to work every day very convenient. The main room of the studio is about 22’x45’ with a garden shed on one end and a bathroom and utility/dye room on the other. One long side of the studio serves as my design and photography wall, and the other long side is a bank of bookshelf-lined windows that allow for lots storage and natural light. On one end is the “office,” the sewing machines are in the middle, and the design/painting/dyeing space is adjacent to the utility room. I have a great table (15’ long) and some open floor space that gets used for dyeing and painting or strewing fabric about.
My studio is in a state of constant flux and sometimes chaos. It is not a fancy, cute, or decorated space (maybe someday…), but it a great place to work.
My studio assistant is Judy Sullivan, and she helps to keep everything together!
Read more of our recent Instructor interviews:
An Interview with Elizabeth Barton, Art Quilt Designer and Instructor
An Interview with Tony van Hasselt, Watercolor Artist
An interview with Lorenzo Chavez: Prominent Landscape Painter in Pastels and Oils
An Interview with Leah Lopez, Award-Winning Artist and Instructor
An Interview with Frank Francese, Watercolor Artist
An Interview with David Daniels: Artist in Watercolor + more
An interview with Judy Coates Perez, mixed media textile artist.
Interview with Liz Kenyon, Pastel Painting Instructor
Patti Mollica discusses creating her art, and teaching
An Interview with Kim English, Oil Painter
An Interview with Barbara Nechis, Watercolor Artist
An interview with Hollis Chatelain: Fiber Artist
An Interview with Natalya Aikens: Computer + Stitch = Art Quilt
Ruth Powers: Designing and Sewing for Picture Piecing