Spotlight: Susan Edmonson, Fiber Artist
Susan Edmonson finds joy in making art, and she loves to share the good vibes with others through her mixed media art and teaching others to create, especially with fiber. Working small, Susan keeps lots of pieces in process so she always has a project to pick up that matches her goal for the day or a momentary whim.
How did you find yourself on an artist’s path? Always there? Lightbulb moment? Dragged kicking and screaming? Evolving?
Since I was old enough to hold a pencil, crayon, scissors or paint brush, I’ve been making something! Loved to draw, paint and cut out small designs as a child. I was an only child living in the middle of 60 acres, so not many other kids to play with. Which led me to art! I had to learn to entertain myself and my mom never hesitated at buying me any art supplies I wanted. Now I can’t imagine ever doing anything other than what I’m doing!
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Did you have a “gateway craft” as a kid? Which creative projects led you to the work you do today?
I loved ALL crafts! Especially pen and ink drawings. I wanted to try everything I could get my hands on!
My mom sewed a little (hemming, etc.), and one day (I was maybe 9) she taught me a few hand embroidery stitches. I loved the stitching! Later in high school I picked it up again when I saw some of the craft/crewel embroidery kits my “now” mother-in-law was working on. My mom helped me with flowers stitched with those dreaded French Knots and a small embroidery book purchased for, I believe, 25 cents!
In college I studied several types of art, and drawing was still my passion; but I tried, with a lot of stress, to make PERFECT pieces! After college I realized “perfection” is over-rated!!!
You have to learn to enjoy the process and if something doesn’t work out exactly right, it might even be much better! You need to just let your art evolve and take you on a creative journey all its own! Unfortunately, we are our own worst critic! Turn that little voice off! Don’t listen to it!!!
Tell us a bit about the work you do.
Now I am currently extremely passionate about all the hand embroidery I can create on tiny pieces of fabric which I refer to as Prayer Flags or Mini Quilts. Many of them I make into little fabric books, which I adore and love to create! I use mostly hand dyed fabrics, threads and trims because each piece is very different from any other, and always adding in bits of commercial printed fabric (that’s why I have such a huge stash of fabrics!!! LOL!)
Color inspires me! I love the unique and one-of-a-kind creations! Nature inspires all of my work! And it’s all in the details of each flower, moth or twig!
Look closely at nature and you will learn how to see color, and much more detail than you ever expected! Artists see more than the average person does in our world because we are looking at the details, shapes, colors and more!
Where do you find inspiration for your designs?
Inspiration comes from NATURE! COLOR! and my childhood, growing up with parents that loved the outdoors. Many of my pieces have birds in them. My dad raised all types of birds and little critters when I was young. So he and my mom taught me to love animals and nature as well.
Are there recurring themes in your work? Do you do series work?
Nature is always my theme – somehow it’s always there! I do work in series now, and I think it is because I do one type of flower, such as a “weed” and then I see another weed I like and then another. The ideas never stop and they just come from everywhere.
I think my brain is a little chaotic storm swirling around, but it’s what makes me so happy! My husband says, “One day my head is going to explode and all the little prizes will fall out!” I have so many ideas, it kinda makes me crazy sometimes. I have to remember to FOCUS! One of my sons is the same way – I tell him I’m sorry I passed that trait on, but not really! Teehee!
If we asked a good friend of yours to describe your work, what would they say?
Oh my, what might a friend say about my work??? Scary for me to think about. Some love my work, some don’t say anything, because many are quilters that are more traditional and don’t understand why I spend so much time creating the very tiny works, but one special friend is always there to keep me going when my head is spinning with ideas! I know she loves me and always encourages me to keep going!
When beginning a project, do you pre-plan your entire endeavor or do you simply follow where your inspiration takes you?
My ideas for a new project come in waves – theme, color, size, type (mini quilt, fabric book, box), mixed media. I never have a project totally planned out in the beginning.
I will draw a layout if it’s a new type of book or unusual layout (as that unique thought might leave my head never to be found again!). So I have to draw it out on paper! But if I had it all planned, in my mind the project would be finished and I wouldn’t need to create it. I LOVE the journey of where it takes me!
How much of your creative ability do you think is innate? Or is your creativity a skill that you have developed?
Creative ability is a combination of many things! You have to have some passion to learn new skills whether self-taught or professionally taught.
I do believe color is an innate trait – color is very difficult for some people and they stress over it way too much! Just do it! If it’s wrong or you don’t like it, well you just learned not to repeat that color combo.
Figure out what color makes you happy, sad, energized, calm or satisfied! If you could walk into a room painted with your favorite color and then walk into a different color, you would understand what and how color affects you! I love all shades of orange and gray makes me very depressed. I don’t understand why so many people want their entire home done in gray, just saying!
Everything I learned over the years has all come together finally! It’s called “Mixed Media”! Anything goes and it’s all fun to work with so many types of art at the same time. So, yes, skills do develop the more you do!
How do you deal with creativity blocks?
I don’t have too many creative blocks – I just pick up a magazine or go to a fabric store or look through unfinished projects to get inspiration to work on something. Don’t worry – the ideas will come, just give it a little time.
For some (myself included), life events such as a death or illness of a family member will really knock you out of sorts. These are things we have no control over, and have to ask ourselves if that person would want us to be happy doing what we love.
Are you a “finisher”? How many UFOs do you think you have?
I do finish a lot of projects, but, oh my, do I have a lot that are unfinished, too! I don’t throw unfinished ones away, because I do go back and finish most eventually!
And that’s one reason why I like to work small. Small is much easier to finish while my mind has already moved on to a new project. I’ll never count my UFO’s! They are all learning experiences, if nothing else. I just know I have them!
How often do you start a new project? Do you work actively on more than one project at a time?
I work on several (2-6) projects at once. If I come to a roadblock, I’ll just grab the one that has a clear path, and then go back to the other once I’ve figured out what to do next.
I can’t imagine how bored I’d be just working on one project at a time! I know it would stifle my creative process. So I start a new project every couple weeks, but have new ideas everyday!
Do you have a dedicated space for creating? If so, what does it look like?
I have a GREAT space for creating! My husband and I had my studio built behind our house almost two years ago, which is as large as our first house. I LOVE being out there and it is very hard to come back in the house once I’m out there! It is totally my NEST!
My stuff is all there. Sewing machine stations, cutting space, beading space, kid space, sitting area for TV and visiting with friends and family, and STORAGE!
Two of my walls are of course painted orange! I worried about the color, but I was out of town teaching and my husband surprised me and painted it while I was gone, and when I walked in to see it, I IMMEDIATELY felt inspired! It was truly amazing what the color does for me.
What are the indispensable tools and materials in your studio? How do they improve your work?
I am a Bernina Ambassador and I could and would NOT be doing what I do without buying that first one many years ago! I totally believe in quality tools and products! They do make all the difference. My stash of fabric is essential, too. I can’t run out to the store at any given moment of creating. I NEED IT NOW!!!
Do you use a sketchbook or journal? How does that help your work develop?
I do use a sketchbook and journal to keep ideas fresh when they pop into my head! I write it down so I don’t forget!
What plays in the background while you work? Silence? Music, audiobooks, podcasts, movies? If so, what kind?
I am an old Beatles fan! My dad bought me my first Beatles album for Christmas after seeing them on the Ed Sullivan Show. My dad passed away in January that next year. So it was very special for him to have given it to me. I also love old Black and White TV shows. They keep me company and I feel like I grew up with them, especially Andy Griffith!
When you travel, do you stitch on planes and in waiting areas? What is in your creative travel kit?
I can NEVER leave home without my bag of “Stuff”; I called it my “junk” when I stayed with my grandmother as a child! I’m always working in tiny bits of time no matter where I am: planes, dentist chair, waiting rooms, stuck in traffic, riding in the car (not driving), and anywhere!
I always carry tiny scissors, needles and an assortment of hand dyed threads with small works I have already started. Or I just make random parts for other pieces not created yet!
What makes me crazy is when I’m working on a project made with very expensive threads, fabrics and trims, and someone asks, “Is that a pot holder?” I cringe and bite my tongue and politely say “No.” Geeezzz!
Do you lecture or teach workshops? How can students/organizers get in touch with you to schedule an event?
Yes! I do teach small and large classes, lecture and judge quilt shows. I love teaching and got into it quite by accident. As a child, I was very shy and did not want to talk in front of anyone!
But one of my friends was in a real bind two days before her big event at Myrtle Beach Quilt Party and BEGGED me to teach, and for some weird reason said yes. I stayed up all night to create the quilt pattern I was to teach in two days. Never been so scared in ALL my life! Terrified! But God and very kind and patient; students helped me get through the class and I have been teaching ever since that day. He knew what was best suited for me! So if you truly know something you should be able to teach it, that’s my theory! You can reach me via email or from my website: www.susanedmonsondesigns.com or [email protected] but please spell my name right or I will never respond…:) because it will not come to me!
Tell us about your website. What do you hope people will gain by visiting?
My website is definitely a work in progress! I do now sell my hand dyed products from around the world on my website, my original step-by-step patterns and occasionally an original piece of my art. I
hope to inspire people to think outside the box when they view the gallery of my work. It’s a fascinating journey to creativity and I hope everyone will take their own special and unique journey! We should never be bored with all there is to do in this life! I hope to create, inspire and teach others until the day I die!
Interview posted August 2020
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