I was so excited to be asked by Interweave to do an interview with this brilliant lady. Susan Brubaker Knapp. She is known for her art quilts…elegant, fun, yet inspirational. She’s a well-known author and designer. Susan mentions on her blog, “I find great joy in creating works that draw people closer and invite them to savor color, texture and form.” And it’s pretty obvious to me, that’s exactly what she does.
I myself, am a modern (contemporary) quilter. In fact, my own dishcloth designs were inspired by the modern quilts I would make. Creativity is a lovely thing…
Susan seems so sweet and someone I could (easily) call friend, and such a beautiful person inside and out. As a designer myself, I’m completely in awe of her work, and I appreciate the attention to detail she provides in all her pieces.
There are four places you can find and follow Susan:
Meet Susan…well-know designer, author, and nationally/internationally known teacher. She reaches a diverse audience that includes contemporary art quilters to traditional quilters. Fwmedia has provided a nice article pertaining to her new role on Quilting Arts TV. I do hope you’ll have a look. Definitely worth your time!
Now let’s chat with Susan…
Hi Susan, you must be over the “Blue MOON River” with excitement that you’ve been asked to be the host of “Quilting Arts TV!” How does that make you feel?
I am absolutely thrilled. Probably the best part is that I will have a front-row seat to see some of the best fiber artists and contemporary quilters in the world while they talk about their work, and demonstrate their techniques.
I myself appreciate contemporary quilting. As a contemporary quilter myself, I appreciate new techniques, and seeing others work. Where do you hope to take the show?
I’ll strive to continue the shows tradition of bringing in amazing guests who are well-known for their styles, techniques, and their craft. But, I also want to really focus on bringing in newcomers and fresh faces; people that our viewers haven’t heard of yet, but should. About the only criticism of the show that I’ve heard is that people want more, more, more; that they’d like some of the segments to be longer and more in depth, so that they can understand the techniques better, or see more of the guests work. We are definitely going to do that within the next year.
Sounds so exciting. I’ll definitely be tuning in. If I may ask, how many quilts have you made? And do you ever name them?
Actually, I’ve never counted them. But, I just went to my website to count the original quilts I have documented there, and it looks like I’ve made more than 95 art quilts and 25 traditional and contemporary quilts. (I’ve also made numerous quilts from people’s patterns.) And yes, I always name them.
That’s a total of 120 quilts plus those that you’ve made from others. I’m so inspired by you! As a (knitting) teacher myself, I respect the various ways in which others teach. What would you say is one of your “signature” techniques you like to teach in your classes?
Right now, wholecloth painting and fusible applique based on original photos are the techniques I teach that are most popular. When I teach, I try to keep everyone moving along at her or his own speed, so I often demonstrate multiple times. I have found that one of the most enjoyable – and at the same time, challenging – parts of teaching is the role of psychologist. People bring all their fears and insecurities to class, and part of my job is figuring out what is getting in the way of them creating the kind of work they want to make, and encouraging them to see that they can do it. I also try to offer solid, constructive criticism that will help people improve.
A hands on teacher is what I would call you. Obviously, art quilting in your thing, do you include modern design in your work?
I include all types of design in my work. Many of what I think of as my traditional quilts (including lots of the quilts I designed for my pattern business) would be considered either contemporary or modern. Good examples are “Blueberry Jam” and “Polka Party”
Good design is good design, and using the basic principles of art when you make any kind of quilt makes it stronger.
I love those two quilt designs! I also love the pictures of your studio on your website. I can’t help but feel inspired myself while looking at them. How much time do you allow yourself each day/week to create new things?
It depends on the week! I have a busy family with two teenagers, and I travel to teach and speak a lot. Sometimes I only get a few minutes a day; a whole free day is a luxury! But, it is not just in my studio that I am “working”. I am trying hard to make creativity part of my everyday life. For example, when I walk my dog in the morning, I take my camera or iPhone, and photograph interesting things I see. I find that this helps jump-start my creativity each day. I take my sketchbook or handwork when I take my kids to their practices and after school lessons and appointments. I sketch in airports while waiting to board, even the more mundane daily chores – such as cooking, cleaning – can be done in ways that encourage creativity.
I’m sure everyone asks you, but how did you become interested in art quilting?
In 2005 or 2006, I was desperate for a day out and away from my toddlers, and I signed up for a class with Bonnie McCaffery on making portrait quilts. We painted a realistic face on fabric, and at the end of the day I came home with this beautiful face, with a bald head. I decided to make her into a mermaid, since my oldest daughter was obsessed with them at the time. As I worked, I became obsessed too, but with the process of creation. It was like I was on fire. I had never realized that I was capable of making this kind of art. I barely slept the month I made “Teach Me to Hear Mermaids Singing,” and when I was done, I knew that I was forever changed. I had figured out how to harness the creativity that had been waiting inside me, and used it to get to a place in my brain and my soul that I never knew existed. It was truly an epiphany.
You know, we learn so much from others in the industry. Any industry leader can help us see things in a new light. Susan definitely can do this.
Thank you, Susan, for sharing your story and giving us in-site as to who you are. I thoroughly enjoyed this time.
So as I always say,
Knit (Quilt) On!