Ronni Hunter is a mixed media textile artist who creates pieces that tell a story and are a bit mysterious. She uses a journal to try out ideas and a sketch book to work on shapes and stitches. Employing multiple collage techniques, her pieces may include a bit of paper, multiple fabrics and gel medium transfer designs to connect viewers with the stories her pieces share.
How did you get started making art? Why do you do it?
When I was in my mid thirties I worked at a very boring government job. Much of the time I had little to do, so I started trying to think about what else I might want to do if I could. It took a lot of thought but I eventually realized that what satisfied me the most and made me happy was being creative.
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I’d had many creative pursuits over the years but never really thought of taking it seriously and trying to improve my knowledge and skills. I planned my first trip to Europe and shortly after that I began going to art school. Ultimately some health issues forced me to leave school, but I learned a lot in the 2 years I was there.
After my health issues were resolved I decided not to return to school. I wanted to work on my own ideas rather than spending all my creative time doing school assignments.
Being creative fulfills something in my soul. The time spent working on my art is time spent being in the present, engaging in something I love. I find it is very beneficial to my mental health. Art is the way I express myself and the more I do it the better I get at expressing what I desire and need to communicate.
What is your signature that makes your work stand out as yours?
My work is definitely a kind of collage practice. My quilts always consist of various fabrics prepared with fusible webbing, that I use in much the same way that paper collage artists might create their work. Sometimes I paint or dye fabrics myself, but I also use a lot of commercial prints.
I think people would say my work is usually colorful, intricate, and busy. I’m definitely a maximalist – more is more!
Some of my imagery can be odd or fanciful. I have used painted papers in a number of my pieces.
Lately I’ve been using gel medium image transfers of Italian renaissance marble busts in my work. I usually use black and white images, mixed with colored backgrounds and other elements.
I like my pieces to tell something of a story and to be a bit mysterious. I hope that people will stop and wonder what’s going on, or think about what the symbology in my work says to them. I know what the symbols and images mean to me, but I want other viewers to connect with those things in their own way.
Do you plan your work out ahead of time, or do you just dive in with your materials and start playing?
My work usually begins with a plan.
Lately I’ve been using my art journal to try out possible ideas for a piece and then I translate one of my pages into a larger art quilt. My quilt work never ends up looking just like the art journal page, but the journal page gives me a place to start. One of the great things about doing it this way is that I get an opportunity to fix composition problems that I see in the art journal work before I translate a page into a larger piece.
Do you use a sketchbook or journal? How does that help your work develop?
I use both an art journal and a sketchbook.
The journal gives me the opportunity to work out color schemes and layout ideas. I do a lot of collage in my art journal and I enjoy trying collage elements that might seem odd or unusual. I often find the journal pages come out telling an interesting story and that is what motivates me to use that page as inspiration for a quilt.
I use my sketchbook to draw out elements and experiment with things like possible stitch patterns, or to practice getting the shapes of flower petals right. I will do sketches of images I find online so that I can develop an understanding of how an object is shaped and determine how I will need to cut the fabrics I use to make the quilt come together.
How do you manage your creative time? Do you schedule start and stop times? Or work only when inspired?
I have a full-time job so I only get to work on my art on the weekends, happily I have three day weekends. I try to spend at least a few hours every weekend day in my studio.
I’m very dedicated to setting this time aside for my art practice. Since I am almost always working on something I never feel like I am waiting for inspiration in order to motivate me to work.
Just being in my studio and handling the materials and tools inspires me. I’m a firm believer that you have to do the work whether you are feeling inspired or not. If nothing else, just cleaning the studio, or organizing my materials is enough to get the creative juices flowing.
Are you a “finisher”? How many UFOs do you think you have?
I almost always finish any work that I start.
Every piece goes through an ugly stage where I find myself asking “what was I thinking” but I enjoy the challenge of finding a way to turn it around. So many times I find that the thing that brings the whole piece together is the detail that I add when a piece is near completion. It’s worthwhile for me to finish what I start, and I am often pleasantly surprised at how well it comes out.
Do you have a dedicated space for creating?
A couple of years ago I turned my newly renovated sunroom into my art studio. I now have 352 square feet of space to store my art supplies and work on art. After years of being relegated to a small extra bedroom it is so nice to have so much space to work in. And, I can’t believe how fast I filled up all that space. LOL.
Can you tell us about the inspiration and process of one of your works? How does a new work come about?
I can find inspiration in a lot of places.
Some of my pieces were inspired by things I saw when traveling. Other times I might have a particular piece of fabric that I really want to work with. I’ll analyze how that fabric makes me feel or what it makes me think of, and then start brainstorming for other things that support my expression of those feelings or thoughts.
I have been inspired by the themes for upcoming calls for entry. And of course, I am often inspired by the work of other artists. I’ll realize that I’m really enjoying something another artist does and decide I want to try my own hand at it.
For example, I found myself enjoying a lot of floral imagery in paintings and mixed media work that other artists were producing so I realized that I would like to work with flowers too. And I particularly liked some of the more abstract floral imagery done by several painters. I thought I could be fun and interesting to see if I could do more abstract floral work using fabrics.
I will play in my art journal, pull fabrics out of my stash to create a color palette, sketch some of my inspiration out, or possibly work with an image or design on my computer. Sometimes I will do test pieces to see how particular ideas might work out before I begin the larger piece.
Once I have a pretty good idea what subject and materials I want to work with I will begin composing the larger piece. Lately I have been putting together all the elements of a piece before I begin fusing them down. That helps me be sure I’ve worked out the appropriate sizes and placement of elements before irrevocably committing to them.
Once I have all the elements put together I begin fusing, carefully ordering the layers, stitching as I go. Even with all this initial work I often find that after I have fused and stitched parts of the piece, I will either find problems that I didn’t see earlier, or I will be inspired by something and the plan will change. I really enjoy that element of making art.
I think I make better art when I allow myself to go with sudden intuitive ideas, but those ideas don’t come about until some of the work is already in place. It’s a push/pull kind of thing.
Tell us about your blog and/or website. What do you hope people will gain by visiting?
I do have a website but it has been neglected for the last several years. Between my husband’s illness and death, two hip surgeries, and covid, I found that I lost the time and motivation to maintain my website. However, I do plan to get that up and running again.
For now, my website shows some of my older work. I hope to not only show my work, both older and current, but also to offer free tutorials. I will be retiring in about a year and then I would like to develop classes that I can offer online as well as teach in person.
How often do you start a new project? Do you work actively on more than one project at a time?
Most of my artwork takes me a couple of months to complete.
I usually know what I want to work on next, so I often go from piece to piece without much of a break. Working in a series really allows me to explore a subject, but I almost never work on more than one piece at a time.
Working on one piece often gives me ideas for the next one. Sometimes those ideas end up being a series of related pieces, and sometimes those ideas will send me off in a new direction entirely.
Interview with Ronni Hunter posted May 2023
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