Artist Interview – Sue Reno

Sue Reno and Wendy Edsall-Kerwin in front of her piece, Silk Mill #3
Sue Reno and Wendy Edsall-Kerwin in front of her piece, Silk Mill #3

This installment of the Art of the State Artist Interviews series features the State Museum Purchase Award winner, Sue Reno. Sue is a fiber artist who works with cyanotype and other surface design techniques in creating art quilts reflecting her surroundings in bucolic Lancaster County, PA.  (Plus she has good taste in jewelry) You can find her online at her website, her blog, and on Facebook. And of course you can see her piece, Silk Mill #3 at the entrance to the Art of the State: Pennsylvania 2013 exhibition at the State Museum of PA in Harrisburg.

I also want to point out that she will be participating in the Artist Conversations series at the exhibition on Friday July 19th at 6:30pm (free admission)

1. How did you get started in your craft?

I’ve been sewing since I was a small child, and have made everything from tailored clothing to slipcovers to contemporary hand-sewn quilts. Over time I began to narrow my focus to making art quilts, and worked on learning and refining surface design techniques used to transfer imagery onto textiles. Once I started making cyanotypes I never looked back.

2. What has been inspiring/influencing your work lately?

I’ve got twin passions at the moment. One is the Susquehanna River, which I’ve lived near for most of my life. I’ve started working with a needlefelting machine to construct intricate layered elements of the river and surrounding landscapes, which I then incorporate into a quilt. I’ve completed one, In Dreams I Flew Over the River, and have several more in the works.

In Dreams I Flew Over the River ©2013 Sue Reno, 54"h x 43"w
In Dreams I Flew Over the River ©2013 Sue Reno, 54″h x 43″w

The other passion is an ongoing fascination with the small, and not so small, mammals that I share my suburban lot and surrounding woods with. I’ve been collecting skulls, which fascinate me with the intricacy of their design and the elegance of the way their dentition fits their diet. I photograph the skulls with macro detail and use the images to make cyanotype prints. I then combine the cyanotypes with monoprints of plant life and vintage textiles. Some examples are Skunk and Garlic Mustard:

Skunk and Garlic Mustard ©2012 Sue Reno, 50”h x 51”w
Skunk and Garlic Mustard ©2012 Sue Reno, 50”h x 51”w

And Squirrel and Locust:

Squirrel and Locust ©2011 Sue Reno, 47”h x 37”w
Squirrel and Locust ©2011 Sue Reno, 47”h x 37”w

I’ve got several in various stages of construction in the works, and I feel like with each one I’m drilling down closer to where I want to go with the series.

And wonder of wonders, I was recently on vacation in Minnesota, and wandered into a tourist shop in Duluth. In the back, in a cabinet, they had some skulls for sale that I hadn’t been able to obtain before—a badger, a beaver, a mink and more! I can’t wait to start working with them.

3. Who are your favorite artists in your field?

Fiber art is a very exciting field to be involved in right now, and I have a lot of friends and colleagues who are doing really groundbreaking work. For a quick overview, check out the SAQA (Studio Art Quilts Associates) website. A few personal favorites would include:

Kristin LaFlamme, for thought provoking work including “The Army Wife” series

Allison Aller, who is updating the traditional art of crazy quilting in a wonderful way

and Kathy Nida, whose intricate and fascinating drawings form the basis for her art quilts. (Because she is a middle school teacher, and some of her work contains nudity, her site is password protected—don’t let that stop you if you are over 18.)

What I love about all three of these artists is that they are storytellers and also straight up truth-tellers, who let their unique voices shine through in their work.

4. What is your favorite customer quote or story?

Watt & Shand #4 ©2009 Sue Reno, 50”h x 52”w
Watt & Shand #4 ©2009 Sue Reno, 50”h x 52”w

When I was showing my series of Watt & Shand quilts, a lot of people who came to the opening told me stories about their memories of the building from when it was a department store. One man shared how his father, a Greek immigrant, got his start in this country selling peanuts on the sidewalk outside. Several talked about the gifts from their wedding registries, and eating in the restaurant. The best was a woman who pointed to a particular window in one of my images, which used to look out from the lingerie department, and recalled with humor her extreme embarrassment at shopping there as a young teen with her mother. I loved that my work was able to spark this kind of storytelling.

5. What is your favorite piece of art or fine craft that you own?

I have a small collection of functional ceramic pieces by fellow PA Guild of Craftsmen member Angela Shope.

They are a pleasure both to use and to display. I love her color sense and the dynamic tension of her work. Her patterning walks that fine line between chaos and control, and her imagery is fun and whimsical yet sophisticated.

And allow me to add an endorsement for your wonderful work, Wendy. I love the fold formed silver cuff I bought from you last fall, and wear it all the time. {Thanks, Sue!}

May Artist Interview – Ann Brauer

May’s artist interview is with quilter Ann Brauer. I’ve been following her on Twitter for awhile and read her blog as well.

1. How did you get started in your craft? (using your media)

Rainbows of Summer ©Ann Brauer 99x99”

I have always loved to sew. Growing up on a farm I was surrounded by the quilts that my grandmother and mother made but I never thought I could make one. Instead I made clothes, doll dresses and costumes for the high school musicals. Eventually I quit wearing the clothes that I wanted to sew and put away my machine. By training I am actually a lawyer. Even then though I was much better working with my hands. I had my own company that did research for other lawyers and would write out the arguments and then cut and paste them on my living room floor. At one point I had a roommate who made quilts and I realized that if I made quilts I could buy fabric. Soon I ran out of friends to give the quilts too and began selling them. A couple years later my life was at a crossroads and I decided to see what happened if I tried to support myself as a quiltmaker. I moved from Boston, MA to a cabin in western Massachusetts and taught myself to make quilts. I have not worked as a lawyer since.

2. What has been inspiring/influencing your work lately?

Summer Sky ©Ann Brauer 50x81”

In my quilts I use color, commercially available fabric and the traditions of quiltmaking to create abstract landscapes that reflect the prairies of the Midwest where I grew up, the hills of western Massachusetts where I now live and different vistas of my imagination. The flow of color is very important to me. Last August I lost my studio as a result of Hurricane Irene. I had previously been experimenting with using thin strips of fabric to create an abstract intense color field within the quilts. Although my new studio is only across the river from where I had previously been I am now in a much more urban area. My view now is of trains and the metal structure of an Iron Bridge. My work is beginning to reflect these more geometric images and become even more abstract.

3. Who are your favorite artists in your field?

Into the Sky ©Ann Brauer 45 x 45”

There are so many artists whose work I love. When I began making quilts I was instantly taken with the abstract art of Michael James who was also using design and shapes to create feelings of depth and motion. Nancy Crow’s work is constantly changing and I do enjoy looking at it. While Susan Shie’s quilts are very different from mine, I love the intensity of her pieces and the stories she tells. Although very different from mine, I love the ethereal nature of Wen Redmond’s printed art. In addition I find many of the recent encaustic pieces of my friend Laurie Goddard to make me look at new shapes and design.

4. What is your favorite customer quote or story?

Quilts installed at the Federal District Courthouse ©Ann Brauer

In addition to making wall hangings and custom quilts, I make a selection of smaller items. Ten years ago a docent led a group of volunteers from the Springfield Museum of Fine Art through my studio. While she was visiting she purchased one of my very small quilts that I call whatevers. A few years later she was now a curator at the Museum and she wanted to have a solo quilt show. She noticed the little whatever on her coffee table and contacted me. This show resulted in my getting the commission to make 12 quilts for the new Federal District Courthouse in Springfield, MA. Amazing how one little piece could travel so far.

5. What is your favorite piece of art or fine craft that you own?

My very favorite piece is the quilt that my grandmother made for me when I was born. It is a postage stamp quilt made from feed sack cloth. Although I slept under it for years I was always finding new designs and details that she had inserted into the quilts. This was and remains the inspiration for my quilts. In addition I do treasure the quilt that my grandmother made for the closet of her guest bedroom. The quilting and design are her own based on the oak trees that grew in the pastures of our farm.

For more images–check out or follow Ann’s blog.

CraftForms 2010


Dream #41 ©2010 Lisa Call 24" x 24"

Every year there is one exhibition that I apply to no matter what: CraftForms at Wayne Art Center.  It’s an exhibition showcasing some the best crafts from around the nation and so far I haven’t been selected.  But when I go to visit it, I can see that the level of craft work that they have chosen is phenomenal.

I don’t go every year, but I made a special trip this year because Lisa Call’s art quilt, Dream #41, was accepted and I wanted to see her work in person.  Of course her piece was fabulous and it was great being able to see it close-up.  I could really see all of the quilting and the subtleties in the dyes on her fabrics.  It made love her work even more.

There were other wonderful pieces in the show as well.  There were a lot of fiber wall pieces, and I liked the weaving, Aspen Grove, by Sandra Rude.  It is a photorealistic depiction of a forest.  There was also a really interesting cabinet by Charles Sharbaugh that used inlay to depict a city scape.  It was so amazing!  He even used the grain of the different woods to show shading and texture in the pictures.

A Stitch in Time © Jerry & Deborah Kermode Spalted California Bigleaf Maple Burl with walnut stitches 7 3/4" x 11 1/4" x 10"

There were also some more abstract pieces that I enjoyed.  Jim Connell’s red teapot (which looks totally unusable) has a beautiful crackled surface (not crackle glaze, but actual tiny cracks in the surface of the pot) and and interesting angled spout.  Jerry and Deborah Kemode had a wonderful burl bowl with inlayed “stitches” across the natural cracks and crevices.  You know I love that idea and I was even thinking about doing that with my own Super Bowl (even before I saw this bowl!)

As for metalwork, there was an amazing collar by Victoria Lansford full of filigree.  I can’t even begin to think about all the patience that woman has setting up all the tiny pieces in that huge collar.  Another great necklace was by Davina Romansky and featured a cascade of formed silver.


Inspirational Ashes: A Reliquary for Campfire Remains and a Marshmallow ©Becky McDonah sterling silver, NuGold, bronze, copper, ashes, charcoal, marshmallow

There were a couple of fun pieces there that I liked too.  A ladder made of pennies from Stacey Webber’s Craftsmen series and an ode to smores by Becky McDonah.  This last piece was like a reliquary, housing an actual marshmallow and charcoal in a metal case made to look like a stick with an impaled marshmallow on it.  I particularly liked the ring of fire around the area the actual marshmallow sat in.

There were many other wonderful pieces in the  show and everything really worked well together.  It’s only up until this Saturday, January 22nd, but if you have the chance I highly recommend going to see it.