Suzanne Uschold went in search of a hobby and discovered the world of textile art. Inspired by walks in parks and hikes in the mountains of the Pacific Northwest, she captures the beauty with her camera and then creates art quilts that reflect the images.
How did you get started designing art quilts?
In 2014, as my kids were getting older and requiring less of my time, I went searching for a hobby. A basic quilting class at a local fabric shop piqued my interest as I have always admired the artisanship of hand-crafted quilts and had some basic sewing skills. I began making traditional quilts and quickly realized I had found my new hobby.
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A couple years into this journey, my daughter gave me a small, iron-on appliqué of a Northwest Coast orca whale she found in a local quilt shop. I loved the design but had no idea what to do with it. I looked online for ideas and discovered the amazing world of art quilts. With renewed inspiration, I pieced together small fabric scraps to represent the varied colors of the ocean and ironed the orca on top. Patchwork Orca was my very first art quilt.
I then went down the YouTube rabbit hole to learn as much as I could about this art form. I read books and magazine articles and began experimenting with different styles and techniques. Early on, I realized that I prefer making small quilts as they are much easier to manage on my basic sewing machine, and don’t take weeks or months to complete. Fusible web probably opened my world more than anything else, giving me the ability to easily make any shape I wanted. No more piecing for me!
What motivates you artistically?
Nature feeds my soul and is the primary source of inspiration for my art.
I am fortunate to live in the Pacific Northwest which offers endless possibilities for my art with its abundant natural beauty. My husband and I enjoy capturing this beauty with our cameras as we walk around our local parks or hike up in the mountains. I love the challenge of turning a photograph into a quilt. I use a variety of techniques including collage, fusible appliqué, thread painting and free motion quilting. While many art quilters embellish their work, I prefer to “paint” my quilts using only fabric and thread and the occasional addition of cheesecloth or lace.
How much of your creative ability do you think is innate? Or is your creativity a skill that you have developed?
This is a difficult question to answer as I never considered myself artistic until I discovered I could “paint” with fabric. I did some crafty things when I was younger, but it was mostly things like craft kits or paint by number. Freehand drawing or painting was a disaster. But for some reason, when I began quilting, I no longer wanted to use someone else’s kit or pattern for a design. I wanted to create my own. So, I guess my creative ability found me when I discovered art quilts and from then on, I have tried to continue to develop that skill.
Do you have a dedicated space for creating? If so, what does it look like?
I have a dedicated space, but it is in a corner of our basement surrounded by a lot of junk we store down there. It is a mess, and I will therefore not be sharing any pictures! However, my husband has promised that he will help me design and build a nicer space in the hopefully not too distant future. (I sure hope he’s reading this!)
How often do you start a new project? Do you work actively on more than one project at a time?
Since my artwork is quite small, I can create 2-3 pieces per month. I work on one piece at a time and finish it completely before starting the next piece. My workspace gets so messy during each project that it is strangely satisfying to clean everything up and start fresh on a new piece of work.
What is your greatest accomplishment to date?
The biggest accomplishment for me was being asked to submit an article to Art Quilting Studio Magazine and being published in the Spring 2023 issue. As a relatively new artist, I never imagined I would ever be published, and it was a thrill. In addition to that, I still get an adrenalin rush every time someone purchases one of my pieces! I never imagined I would sell my art when I started on this journey.
As a creative individual, do you believe that you perceive the world differently from other people?
I can’t compare myself to other people, but I noticed a change in myself once I began making landscape art quilts. Every scenic view became inspiration for a quilt. I started to experience the outdoors in a whole new way – looking more closely at colors, shapes, shading, and composition to figure out how to turn a natural landscape into a quilt.
Can you tell us about the inspiration and process of one of your works? How does a new work come about?
Most of my work is inspired by photographs that either my husband or I have taken. I also get a lot of inspiration from photographs on Pixabay and Unsplash which have many copyright free images.
One of my pieces was inspired by a book I read called “Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher: The Epic Life and Immortal Photographs of Edward Curtis” by Timothy Egan. It was a fabulous read and got me interested in Edward Curtis’ work. So much so that I searched online and looked at almost every one of his photographs searching for something that I could turn into a quilt. The inspiration photo by Edward Curtis that I used is called Kutenai Duck Hunter and my piece is called Kutenai Duck Hunter Reimagined. I loved his sepia tones in the photograph and was able to find some batik fabrics that worked well to recreate that feeling. I used fusible appliqué, thread sketching and free motion quilting.
Where can people see your work?
I show my work at least a few times each year in local businesses and art fairs in the West Seattle area. To see my work online, people can go to my website artquiltsbysuzanne.com or follow me on Instagram and Facebook @artquiltsbysuzanne.
Interview posted May 2023
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