Spotlight: Angela Grasse, Fiber Artist
Angela Grasse has been on an artist’s path her entire life, inspired by color and her collection of supplies in her studio. Never one for following a pattern, Angela used the scraps left behind by quilters in the family as her introduction to creating with fiber. She practices making art daily, and lets the piece speak to her as it evolves.
How did you find yourself on an artist’s path?
I have been on the artist’s path my entire life, with some detours. As a child, I had full access to arts and crafts materials. Even when I found raw clay at a nearby creek my Mom allowed me to bring it into the house and sculpt with it. Studying business administration at university was my major detour. It was the right decision at the time and I have certainly used those skills. However, in some ways, I regret not getting a BFA but I also delight in being a self-taught artist. Following my curiosity and passion has led me to where I am now, and things just keep getting better.
What is creativity to you? What are your earliest memories involving your own creative expression?
Creativity is exploring, playing, experimenting and diving in head first without fear of failure. It is at its best when I express myself without censure.
Colouring with my Mom was one of my first forms of creative expression. We would sit quietly passing the time with a box of crayons and a colouring book. It is a warm memory that we revisited near the end of her life. Funny how life comes full circle.
Why textiles? Why stitch? How did you get started?
I come from a long line of quilters. Fabric scraps were always available to me. I remember making doll clothes with scraps. Nothing fancy. I also fondly remember making stuffed animals – I think they would be called prims nowadays. I remember taking home ec but don’t recall learning a lot or even enjoying it. Following a pattern has never been my thing. There is no room for self-expression in a pattern for me.
Why stitch? Stitch is like meditation for me. I tune out the rest of the world and lose myself in my stitching. In a world that can be chaotic and ugly, I find myself completely absorbed by the beauty of self-expression with needle and thread. I have to admit that I equally enjoy getting messy with paints and dyes. I have a large stash of fabrics created with surface design techniques. Of late I have spent most of my time trying to use up these beauties.
Tell us about your interest in macro photography. How do your photos inform your work?
My love of photography also started at a young age. About ten years ago I purchased an excellent macro lens. I have that lens on my camera 90% of the time. There is no end to the magic of looking at things so closely. I have spent an inordinate amount of time at a wrecking yard. The rust and peeling paint and broken glass are endlessly fascinating and result in interesting abstract photos. Printing my photos on fabric or paper and then stitching into them is something I want to explore more. I am also really excited to be working with a technique to create kaleidoscopic images straight from the camera (no computer manipulation). These images work really well with my mandala series. Adding beading and stitching make them really sing.
Tell us about your studio. Where does the magic happen?
My studio is on the main floor of my home. At present my studio is a complete disaster. That is not unusual. It was supposed to be a temporary set up and that was three years ago. Other renovations have taken priority. There are a lot of windows in my studio so the natural light is lovely. I have pretty much all that I need in my studio. It is my happy place even when it is utter chaos.
What are your most important artist tools and supplies? What can you not live without in your studio?
My most important tools are my hands. I can always make my hands work. Next would be a needle and thread. I think I would find a way to make art if I was on a deserted island with no supplies. Since I am not in that situation I have an overabundance of supplies. My avarice for art supplies is actually bordering on the insane. I want them all and I want every colour. Possibly it is not crazy. The sense of abundance I have when I walk into my studio and see my supplies gives me a certain freedom. Nothing is too precious so I am comfortable using it. In reality, I can live without all of them but I would not be excited about it.
What inspires you? Are there recurring themes in your work? Do you do series work? How does that affect your approach?
I find inspiration everywhere. Colour and texture are the elements of art that most excite me.
Yes, there are recurring themes in my work. Water is one of them. Water in all its forms and being a good Canadian, snowflakes have to be included. Rescue is also a theme prevalent in my work. I love to take something worn out or stained and upcycle it into a thing of beauty. One of my mandalas features a frayed doily. Others might pass it over because of the fraying, but that is what attracted me.
I have started working in a series. I have set myself some basic parameters for the series as I hope to have it hang as a show someday. My work is based on a circle whether it be a mandala or a kaleidoscopic image. Each piece is 12 x 12 inches and fairly heavily beaded.
Technique(s)? What do you do differently? Do you have a “signature”? What is it that stands out about your work that identifies you as the artist before the viewer sees the label?
I am having a hard time answering this. I am uncertain as to what makes my work stand out. Possibly it is my unabashed love of colour. One friend described me as the queen of colour. Or maybe it is my use of mixed media. I feel free to incorporate just about anything into my work. Nothing is off limits.
Do you plan your work out all ahead of time, or do you just dive in with your materials and start playing? Do you visualize your finished product before you start it?
Rarely do I plan my work ahead of time. I am a dive in, fly by the seat of my pants and intuitive artist. I feel like the piece tells me what it needs as I work on it. Even though I have a free approach to my art I am rather disciplined. I work on my art daily. Earlier this year I spent a two month period creating a mandala on a coffee filter every morning. I also spent a period of time doing some quick collages every morning. These practices felt really good and I am now looking for a new one. Part of what gave me so much pleasure was the fact that I had no intention for the end result. It was very freeing. Most of my other work is going to be displayed and that puts a certain pressure on me.
How do you deal with creativity blocks? How do you get unstuck creatively?
I have more creative ideas in my head than I can do in my lifetime. Creativity blocks are not an issue for me. Sometimes I am unsure as to what piece/project to start next so then I tidy my studio and something usually jumps out at me. I almost always have more than one project going at a time. Having the energy to work on a project is more often the issue. Because I work intuitively I find it difficult to make good decisions when I am tired. I do try to pre-plan some evening stitching so I don’t waste a whole evening.
Upon more thought, I do have to own up to using Pinterest to find inspiration for my seniors’ classes. I teach art weekly at a long-term care facility. Sometimes an idea comes quickly but there are other times I have to go searching for inspiration. I never directly copy an idea. Most often it needs to be adapted as there are a lot of challenges for these folks. Projects need to be simple but not childish. There also needs to be room for self-expression.
Tell us about a challenging piece. What were the obstacles and how did you get past them?
I have two pieces that I considered to be challenging. Both of which started in guild workshop. One remains unfinished. I really hate to give up on a piece but that one is not going anywhere. It was my very first workshop with a quilt guild and a fellow participant was trying to be helpful. She gave me a piece of fabric to use because the colours were right but the fussy little floral print really did not go with batiks I was using. I was trying to be nice by using it but it totally ruined the piece. I have tried adding some surface design to those parts but it is still not successful. Maybe someday I will figure out a way to redeem it or maybe it is just a lesson learned.
The other piece was a landscape that I returned to time after time. Each time adding something that improved the piece but never completely to my liking. I have it in my trunk show because I refused to give up on it and did complete it. People have told me it is their favorite of all my work. It is also the only representational piece that I have done. I guess it is so different from my original vision that I just can’t past that. Another lesson learned. Representational is not for me.
What do you learn about who you are through your creative endeavors?
I have learned that I am brave. Even though it is scary to put my art out into the world I still choose to do it. I am willing to face the inevitable rejection for the thrill of acceptance. Not that I am dependent upon the good opinion of others. I make art for my own pleasure and sanity. Having others like it is a lovely bonus when it happens.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received?
I am not given a lot of advice. I sure hope it is not because I come across as a know it all. Because I was raised to be independent and figure things out for myself, I rarely ask for advice. Not always a good thing but mostly it has served me well. Not that long ago someone told me in a very kind and gentle way that I am hiding my light under a barrel. It is not advice per se, but I am still pondering it.
Do you lecture or teach workshops? How can students/organizers get in touch with you to schedule an event?
Yes, and yes!
I absolutely love doing trunk shows/lectures and workshops. People tell me my trunk show is inspiring and entertaining. I have a variety of workshops that I teach that are always fun. Altered books. Bead Embroidery, Crochet, and Sumptuous Surfaces are a few of my offerings. Email is the best way to reach me. firstname.lastname@example.org My blog is https://
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