It is a joy to see public art all over the place: on buildings, billboards, under bridges and on utility boxes. I was fortunate to be chosen to create art for a condominium hoarding in mid-town Toronto. Altree Developments, in collaboration with the STEPS Initiative, commissioned me to design four panels of art that were enlarged to fit a construction site. Scaled to ninety feet wide and duplicated to double the width, the exhibit occupies an entire city block and is the largest assignment of my career! My aim was to reflect a tapestry of natural beauty, both wild and tame, amidst the humming rhythm of an urban community. It was a most enjoyable challenge and a pleasure to contribute to my local neighbourhood.
The Night is Deep and Wide is a board book by poet, Gillian Sze, for Orca Book Publishers. This beautiful bedtime story written in villanelle verse is launching March 16. How’s that for alliteration? It was fun to create black and white linocut illustrations with just a spot of color. Quite a departure for me!
I love making portraits and was so inspired by Kamala Harris, that I had to pick up my lino-cutting tools and make a print of her.
I was thrilled to be invited to join the Toronto Main Street Art Challenge by the Fairbank Village BIA and Steps Initiative. Fifty sidewalk decals are scattered about my neighbourhood inviting residents to return to local shops and businesses. My design incorporates the Fairbank Village BIA logo of a tree, representing growth and optimism during challenging times.
Years ago I picked up a piece of linoleum and started carving, developing an illustration style that is my trademark to this day. I still love the combination of hand-carved lino with digital colour but have an urge to try something different. A passion for portraiture was the impetus for taking on the 30faces30days Challenge by Sktchy. Although I have yet to complete all 30 portraits, it has been fun to mess around with traditional and digital media in search of a new voice. The ipad has become an indispensable tool as it is super convenient to work digitally at the end of the work day while relaxing away from my desk, and so versatile with brushes that convincingly mimic many traditional media. I use Procreate for drawing and Adobe Fresco for painting and love the Fresco live water brushes. This linocut portrait of Jules Verne was exhibited in a group show last year at The Framers Gallery, London, sponsored by The Little Chimp Society and HireAnIllustrator.com.
Question Number 4:
Women have historically expressed their creativity through the domestic arts. Is there a feminist motivation to your use of textiles as a medium or does it connect you to our sisters from the past?
This thought provoking question is a delight to answer, I have so many women to thank for who I’ve become. My grandmothers; their mothers and children, have guided me to create with textiles, giving me the lessons and space to learn. The picture below is my mother’s mother, Marie, she made beautiful dolls during my life but did so much more before I was even born. The dolls in the photo are more than 40 years old, amazing the longevity of a precious handmade heirloom.
My friend Terri Illingworth has always provided me with the gift of inspiration. Terri is a designer, supporting the greater (global) textile community, she loves to collect and share her passion, a great teacher.
Through her quilts, and desire for colour there is no way of missing her love for the art, she has supported my ambitions for many years and I believe delights in the act of creating something people can use; quilts, tea towels, and aprons. https://timetobeinspired.ca/
I admire Anna Torma, someone I had only heard about through my “Contextural” group, then saw her work while I was in Ottawa years ago and last year had the privilege of taking a workshop with her. Her dedication to her art or “craft” is what I aspire to do for my own art, she uses the “domestic” craft; embroidery, sewing, upcycling, historical icons and many more skills in her artistic statement, she says so much with out saying a thing. Her story is through her hand; using thread and fabric. https://www.annatorma.com/
I love that you navigate between 2D and 3D art. How do you decide which approach will best express a particular creative vision?
My drawings are spontaneous ideas that sometimes grow into linocut carvings or into ideas for sculptures. If I am really taken with a bird’s personality I will start playing with the 3D form. Colour is a big thing for me when working with fabric sculptures.
My creative vision begins with a story, for instance while walking in nature I witness a flock of crows congregating, they seem to be keeping an eye on me (and my dog), I wonder, “what are they saying?” This inspiration may begin with drawings and a few phone photos. However, if I see black fabric in the studio later that day, I’m reminded of crow, then cut bird forms or feathers from the fabric.
Sometimes, the story ends with a bird drawing, or a handmade fabric sculpture, other times the story becomes a flock with chapters (or a collection).
I believe that my art is continually assisting one style with the other.
Thank you, Susan Fae, for sharing your unique style of art, both 2D and 3D. It was a pleasure to learn about your media, process, and influences, and I am very happy to be the owner of one of your lovely textile bird sculptures, Miss Fancy Feet.
Question Number 3:
Your textile bird sculptures are wonderfully naïve, yet they represent the subject quite accurately through expression, texture and colour. Each bird has a character of its own and I am curious about your process. How do you capture the essence of bird using fabric, needle and thread?
Birds are a joy, they continue to excite me even during -30 winter temperatures. Birds are my passion, a continual sense of inspiration just outside my window. It doesn’t take much to get me inspired to make a shape of a bird and then layer it with colour and textiles.
I believe that when you share what you love, people want to be a part of it and their enthusiasm sometimes comes in gifts of; thread, fabric, and stories.
Recently a friend gifted me a box of thread, yes! A variety of colours and a real treasure. Once I went to collect my mail and found a bag of fabric piece attached to my mailbox, talk about a surprise bag of inspiration. These wonderful gifts motivate me to get to work.
My process of creativity starts with an abundance of a colour or fabric texture, then, excitement takes over and a bird is formed. I work one bird at a time, which makes each bird uniquely “one of a kind”.
Though, it seems like I’m spontaneous with ideas and creation, I do begin with a bird shape in mind, often having to test and remake the basic form a few times to make it sustainable. The adornment is usually the most spontaneous, then, balance is often the final stage of the bird. Finalizing, the bird is the most difficult for me, sometimes I fall in love with the process and don’t want it to end.
Check out Susan Fae’s Etsy shop
To celebrate the Lunar New Year, I created another mixed media illustration using my traditional hand-carved lino-cut technique and ProCreate. That little app is pretty versatile and compatible with Photoshop.
According to the Chinese zodiac, the rat is a symbol of fertility and abundance. The rat is intelligent, creative, charming and ambitious. On the downside, rats can be timid, stubborn, greedy, devious and terrible gossips. Rats are compatible with dragons, monkeys and oxen.
Wishing an abundance of happiness and success to one and all!
Question Number 2:
How does your love of nature and animals inform your art? Does your work with airport therapy dogs influence your creative expression, and could you tell us a little about it?
I believe that my surroundings influence my art; living in a beautiful landscape with wildlife and having my pets part of my personal space, supports my purpose for creating. And, yes Charlie is a nice tactile work of art if I do say so myself, though the airport houses a lot of fabulous art and architecture influencing my own art making as well.
Charlie, and all the airport therapy dogs comfort so many travelers and staff, it’s a true break from the stress of flying or the departure delays & cancellations. It is amazing how open and expressive people are with the dogs; they hug, stroke, talk, even hold their head and look right into the dogs eyes, it can be a personal and touching moment.
I love to build and experiment with a structure, give me a idea like “flamingo” and away I go. I create a base; usually a simplified shape, then layer it with character (colour & pattern), after that I adjust the sculpture so that it can stand on it’s own. I would call it therapeutic, handling the soft sculpture is like observing and talking to a dog, lucky for me I put the art sculpture away when it’s misbehaving.
Changing weather conditions will affect my art practice as well, in Calgary the Chinook arch and the hoar frost are pretty remarkable works of nature. If I’m out for a walk or drive and I’m moved by what I see and feel, when I get to the studio I express my feeling of wow with fabric and threads.
Click for an article about Susan’s work with airport therapy dogs at the Calgary airport.
Check out Susan Fae’s Etsy shop.