filigree...
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A Little About Me

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Sunday, June 29, 2008

Fiber, Paper, Scissors

Recently I took a little side trip away from making jewelry into the wonderful world of paper and fiber by taking an online class called Journal Making for the Fiber Artist. During the 5-week class, students learned techniques to make five different types of blank journals that have fiber covers and stitched-in paper sections known as “signatures.” Although I have only completed the first lesson in the series (my first journal is pictured to the left), I enjoyed using new techniques and working in a fresh medium. I found I had fun playing with paper, especially applying embellishments using paper punches and eyelets. There is nothing like diving into a new artistic realm to spark one’s sluggish creativity. one’s sluggish creativity.

Our instructor and creator of the journal projects is Sue Bleiweiss. Sue is a talented mixed media fiber artist, a teacher, publisher of the online mixed media zine Fibre & Stitch, and an energetic, creative individual who is always experimenting with new techniques and materials to develop unique surface treatments for her many artistic projects. Her primary focus at the moment is exploring the creation of 3D structures such as fabric boxes, sketchbooks and journals. Sue writes that she is “enjoying the challenge of adapting traditional book binding techniques to work with fabrics and fibers.” Her work is showcased in her Etsy shop, http://www.suebleiweiss.etsy.com.

I had the pleasure of meeting Sue at her home where she gave me a tour of her studio, which contained many works in progress, including fabric in process on her loom for a magazine feature, and new designs for fabric journals. When asked what sparked the development of her handcrafted journals, and how the marriage of fiber and paper took place, Sue replied, “I'm not really sure why I started making journals. I think it came from wondering if I could adapt traditional bookbinding techniques to work with fiber and fabric. My first designs started out fairly simple with plain paper insides. Now I spend just as much time (and sometimes a lot more!) creating the insides as I do on the outsides.”

Although her worktable is currently covered in supplies and notes for creating samples for her latest journal making class, she is always thinking about the next project. Sue’s talents cover a wide range of interests, including weaving, fabric painting and dyeing, handbag design, construction of fabric boxes, and papermaking and embellishment. Sue is now happily immersed in fiber art and teaching, but until six years ago she worked in the high tech world building online reporting and financial analysis systems. Sue recalls her decision to make a career path change. “I decided that I wanted a less stressful and slower paced way of life so I left it to pursue some other things. I started out weaving and spent a couple of years selling my weavings and handbags. I fell into online teaching a couple of years ago when I was approached about creating an online class teaching silk fusion. I love to teach and have been developing and offering online classes ever since.”

Sue’s enthusiasm for helping her students and seeing them enjoy exploring new mediums is obvious; she is very prompt and thorough in replying to their questions during class. “I absolutely love to teach, it's one of my favorite things to do besides the actual creating,” she explains. “I am in the process of developing a second journal making class and another mixed media techniques class. The techniques class will either be a 12-week class or two 6-week classes. I haven't decided yet. I also have on the ‘to develop’ list to create a new updated version of my Silk Fusion class.”

During our visit, I found myself inspired by Sue’s willingness to dive into new projects and to venture into unknown artistic realms, places where many of us hesitate to go without much deliberation and analysis. I wondered if her creative process had a particular format; if there was a pattern to the way she brought an idea from a passing thought to a finished product. Was there something that inspired her or got her creative juices flowing? Sue provided this insight. “My creative process is a hit or miss one. I'm typically in the studio for 6 to 8 hours a day starting at about 6 a.m. Sometimes I go in with the intention of working on an idea that I've sketched out or written down in my notebook and sometimes I go in with no plan at all. The only thing that I do consistently with regards to the creative process is to keep a notebook going at all times. Nothing fancy mind you and it doesn't have any artsy-sketched drawings done in colored pencils or watercolors. It's just page after page of scribbles and notes. Sometimes I paste in something I cut out of a magazine or catalog that caught my eye but mostly it's just notes and lists. This helps to keep me focused and organized so that when I'm ready for instance to start developing a new class or working on a new idea I can refer to my notebook and everything is in one place.”

Sue seems to have a boundless creative energy, which she applies to anything she attempts. I asked if there were any aspects of crafting that she didn’t find appealing and that she wouldn’t try again. Sue did acknowledge, “I tried spinning once and that didn't go well at all! I tried doing glasswork once but didn't really enjoy that either. I prefer the tactile nature of working with fiber.”

Sue’s other hidden talent lies in publishing, and she greatly enjoys the production of the online magazine Fibre & Stitch with her partner Terri Stegmiller. Sue explained how the “zine” was developed. “F&S was started on a whim believe it or not. I was looking for a new challenge and I thought why not try my hand at online publishing. I sent an email to my good friend and now business partner Terri Stegmiller (http://stegart.blogspot.com/) and asked her if she wanted to start up a magazine with me, and two months later we were up and running and taking subscription orders. We're just about ready to publish our 4th issue and we're looking forward to the next four.” Sue and Terri also collaborate on the website Two Creative Studios where both artists offer a number of online learning opportunities in a wide variety of mixed-media fiber arts subjects such as journal making, paper quilting, mixed-media fiber collage, surface design and much more.

Undoubtedly Sue has been very successful in many artistic avenues from weaving to journal making to publishing. She has been featured in magazines such as Belle Armoire, Somerset Studio and Handwoven. I asked her to suggest some tips for those just starting out in the world of marketing their creative work. Sue responded, “My advice to those just starting out is to make yourself as visible as you can. Market yourself online in Yahoo groups, Ning groups, and by being active in the blogging community. Submit work to print and online magazines. Getting published is a terrific way to get your work and name in front of an audience without having to spend any money up front.”

I am thankful to Sue for opening her studio to me and for offering insights into her creative process. I am looking forward to seeing what new techniques and fiber designs emerge from her workshop, guided by her talented hands and inspired by her very fruitful artistic imagination. To keep updated on Sue's latest projects, visit her blog at http://suebleiweiss.typepad.com/sueb/ .

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8 Comments:

Blogger Sue B said...

Thank you Liv!

June 29, 2008 at 6:06 AM  
Blogger maryeb said...

This is a great profile. Such a good title too. I really like your writing style.

June 29, 2008 at 10:45 AM  
OpenID mrsroberts said...

Great article!! Sue is a very interesting person.

June 29, 2008 at 10:53 AM  
Blogger AltheaP said...

Wow. If I was Sue I'd print this and read it every day! Wonderful profile.

June 29, 2008 at 11:25 AM  
Blogger ZudaGay said...

I love your journal, Liv!! What a wonderful feature article on Sue! Very well done and so interesting!

June 29, 2008 at 1:18 PM  
Blogger Melissa & Emmitt said...

Hi Liv!
Your journal is beautiful. I am so excited to be signed up for Sue's New Journal Making class in the Fall.
Great post and interview. It is fun to learn more about Sue and her process.
It is nice to meet you!
Melissa

June 30, 2008 at 12:02 PM  
Blogger Liv said...

Thank you all for visiting, for reading about Sue, and for your kind comments about my journal. :-)

July 1, 2008 at 12:54 AM  
Blogger MargaretR said...

Great profile of Sue. She is a wonderful person to work with too.

July 11, 2008 at 8:14 AM  

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