One of the best parts of Art Camp for Women that you can’t see – is that we meet many amazing artists. Many of these women also have a kind of pioneering entrepreneurial way about them which we also greatly admire. We can only hire so many artists every year and scheduling etc. also weeds out many others. Thus was born our Artist in the Spotlight series.
Our Artist in the Spotlight this time is Sue Bleiweiss. We want to let you get to know the woman behind the Sketchbook Challenge – an anthology of a blog that has a monthly art theme. Sue organized some of our favorite mixed media artists to show what art they make using the theme. Sue also authored the book derived from that blog: The Sketchbook Challenge: Techniques, Prompts and Inspiration for Achieving Your Creative Goals.
ACFW: Sue, thank you for taking the time to put this interview together for our readers.
ACFW: Please share a little about yourself. Where did you grow up and what were early influences on your work? Where do you live now?
SUE: I’ve lived in Massachusetts my entire and I currently live in a small town about 40 miles west of Boston. I didn’t begin a career in art until 12 or so years ago. I had just decided to leave my corporate job for a slower less hectic lifestyle and signed up for a weaving class. I was hooked from the first moment I held the shuttle in my hand. I wove for a few years doing a lot of commission work until a shoulder injury forced me to hang up my shuttle. At that point I made an attempt at making a traditional quilts, which didn’t go well because I hate following directions. Once I realized that I just didn’t have the patience or skill for traditional quilt making I started exploring mixed surface design and mixed media techniques and that led to becoming obsessed for quite a few years making books and journals. Something I still love to do. I started dabbling in art quilts as a way to explore creating art to hang on the walls and that led me to where I am today.
AC4W: What is your art media of choice, do you consider yourself a mixed-media artist, a book artist, a fabric artist or all of the above and more?
SUE: My media of choice is fabric and I label myself an artist, teacher and author.
AC4W: At what point in your life did you become interested in making art?
SUE: Well I don’t think that in the beginning when I first started dabbling in lots of different media that what I was doing was making art. I’d call it more about experimenting with different processes and techniques. It wasn’t until 3 or 4 years ago that I really got focused on making art.
AC4W: Did you receive any formal art training?
SUE: No I am all self taught.
AC4W: Do you have any off-the-cuff tips for beginners? Women that would like to become full or even part time artists?
SUE: Try everything until you find the techniques and medium that speaks to you. Don’t get hung up on worrying about not having focus or stressed out about not having a voice or style. That comes much much later after you’ve spent time dabbling in lots of different things. I found my voice gradually over the course of many years of experimenting and dabbling in several different styles. It evolved naturally and got stronger and louder once I found the style and method of working that I found myself coming back to use again and again with each new quilt that I began.
AC4W: When you get stuck with your work – do you have any tricks to get unstuck?
SUE: I rarely get stuck but when I do I will flip through some of my old sketchbooks or art books for inspiration. Sometimes I’ll take a trip to the museum and just wander the exhibits. I have found that the best thing to do when I’m stuck is to not force myself into the studio – that tends to just make it worse because I end up feeling bad about being stuck.
I think one of the most important habits that I’ve developed over the years is the ability to say no.
AC4W: Do you have particular habits that you think support your art practice?
SUE: I am a very organized person and I think that helps make it easier for me to be a prolific art maker and I’m fortunate enough to have a studio right in my home so it’s easy for me to keep regular studio hours. I think one of the most important habits that I’ve developed over the years is the ability to say no. There was a time when I would say yes to every request and project that came across my desk but all that did was lead to a crazy schedule full of deadlines. Now I’m much more particular about which projects I will take on and I make sure that there is plenty of room on my calendar for art making on my own terms.
AC4W: Do you have other jobs other than making art?
SUE: No I am a full time artist
AC4W: Why do you teach?
SUE: Well there are a couple of reasons. I enjoy interacting with other like minded people who are enthusiastic about learning a new technique or project. I also like being able to pass on to others what I’ve learned and to help them along on their own creative journey.
If you’re going to teach, teach it all
AC4W:Do you have a particular method or slant on teaching others to make art?
SUE: Back when I was weaving I took a week long class from Joan Tallarovic. It was one of the best learning experiences I’ve ever had and during a conversation I had with her about her experiences teaching she said something to me that I have used as a model for my own teaching method and that was (and I’m paraphrasing here) if you’re going to teach, teach it all. Don’t hold anything back from your students to let them figure it out on their own. You’ll enjoy the process more and the students will have a much better experience. I took that advice to heart and have adopted it as my own teaching philosophy.
AC4W: Do you have a community of artists in your everyday life?
SUE: I don’t have a local one but I am part of several online communities.
AC4W: How did you develop a sense of community with other artists, and how do you support your art colleagues?
SUE: With regular communication and respect for their opinions and feedback.
AC4W: Where would you like to be in 5 years as far as your art making?
AC4W: Is there anything else that you would like people to know about you as an artist?
SUE: My DVD Coloring Book Fabric Collage: Dyeing, Fusing, Designing, and Quilting will be available through Interweave Press sometime in August. Readers can sign up for my newsletter here: http://www.suebleiweiss.com/newsletter.html to be notified when it’s released.
AC4W: Sue, thank you again for taking the time to share your art and your art process with Art Camp for Women and our readers. We can’t wait to see your new DVD!