Sue K.

History

I was born in the morning of June 16, 1950, in the middle of the month, in the middle of the year, in the middle of the 20th Century, in Oakland, California. My parents were living in Berkeley while my Dad finished a degree in Architecture at University of California, on the GI Bill. Mom had graduated during the war years, and had taught in what they then called a Junior High School for a couple of years, but quit working to raise the kids. I have two brothers, one only 17 months younger and the other 10 years younger. They are both creative and imaginative men with varied skills.

I had a happy childhood, growing up among our parents’ families in their home town of Sacramento I liked school and was a good student. I always liked music and learned to play the piano starting at age 7. I was good at it, too, as a kid. Music was important to both our parents and has been to all three of us kids, and we were exposed to all genres. 

I must have been 7 or 8 also, when I started learning to sew. I had dolls, and wanted to make clothes for them. I started by draping and tying and pinning any pieces of cloth I could get my hands on, onto my dolls. My maternal grandmother, an accomplished seamstress herself, really got me started doing proper sewing. And I started, mainly, sewing with a machine. I learned some rudimentary hand stitches then, but I still prefer working with machines.

When I was bored and had nothing to do, I would whine to my mother “I want to make something.” She would say “Okay, go ahead.” So I did. All kind of things, whatever I could thing of. I saw my Dad do this too...he would suddenly get a brainstorm and just do it. My making habit has persisted to this day, with long time-outs for things like a career and raising kids, and all the other busy-ness of adult life. I went straight from High School back to Berkeley at age 17 and spent two years there paying my lower division dues. When it came time to declare a major, I made a bid for the Textile Design program. When the rejection letter came in mid summer (sorry, too many applicants, not enough space) I was so dissappointed I decided to quit for awhile. Instead, I did an 18 month course in Patternmaking, Tailoring and etc at a fashion design trade school in San Francisco. I was good at all the technical parts of fashion design, but not at desigining clothes. After graduation, I worked for a couple of years at a garment manufacturer in SF, during which time I married, but by then was living 50 miles north of the City and the commute was a real drag. So, I enrolled in Cal State U Sonoma, and completed my BA in English Literature, working part time as a secretary for a Civil Engineer. The CE discovered I had a talent for drafting and began teaching me how to put together various maps and plans used in his work. This let me to another job, as an Engineering Technician, and finally to my career job of 26 years, as the Engineering Director for the small town we live in. 

After 10 years of marriage, we had a daughter and a couple of years later, a son.  During the years they were young, a lot of my creative efforts were centered around them--Hallowe’en costumes, helping out with sets and scenery for school plays, making parties, holiday decorations, and so on. I didn’t have the space or time to do much art of my own. The kids are now both in their 30s, one married, one almost so, living and working nearby. We feel very blessed to have them close to us, and that they seem to enjoy our company. 

I retired a little over a year ago, determined to get back to what I always wanted to do in the first place, and have had some success. I’ve joined a group of art quilters, and spent a lot of time reading books and blogs and so on, in search of inspiration, information and a community to share my interests with. 

Which brings me to what I am today, an apprentice artist of a certain age.

Process

I like to go into a room full of materials and start messing with them. I like to pull fabrics out and touch them, and put them next to each other. I get bored and distracted easily, and move from project to project. I have lots of UFOs. I'm trying to think of them as the seeds of future projects.

I enjoy working improvisationally, just seeing what will happen. I would say at this point that the processes I have enjoyed most to date (in no particular order) are piecing and quilting; mono-printing; thread sketching; collage; fused raw edge applique; photography; image transfer to cloth. I use all of these processes fairly consistently in my work. I also want to explore more ways of coloring and embellishing fabrics, using dyes, paints, prints, stamps and stencils, but have not done much exploration in these areas yet. Now that I have my studio set up, finally I will have the chance to play with some other methods.

Content

I favor abstract images over literal or realistic ones for my own work. I am inspired by the natural world, its shapes, textures and colors; rolling hills, ridged rocks, patterns of erosion, seaweed, lichen, mossy fences, reflections in still waters, flowers, jungles, huge granite boulders,  undersea corals, dark skies and the play of light, pine woods, the golden-brown hills and oak woodlands of the part of California where I live; I also am inspired by the built world, structures, details, windows and doors, interesting types of construction, village streets, boats. Other things that grab my interest include music, mathematics, and good literature, though I read less now than I did earlier in my life.