Susie Monday

Artist, maker, teacher, author, head cook and bottlewasher.

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The art I make is the result of a life-long love of pattern, texture and color. How I teach is a skill honed by experience (I started teaching creative arts to younger kids when I was 12). After earning a B.A. in Studio Arts from Trinity University, I helped lead an internationally recognized educational foundation, designed curriculum exhibits for schools and other institutions, wrote and edited for a major daily newspaper, opened the San Antonio Children's Museum and then, a dozen years ago, took the scary but essential (for me) leap to become a fulltime artist and art teacher.

About This Blog

This weblog is about the maker's life. The teacher's path. The stitching and dyeing and printing of the craft of art cloth and art quilt. The stumbling around and the soaring, the way the words and the pictures come together. Poetry on the page and in the piecing of bright scraps together. The inner work and the outer journeys to and from. Practicalities and flights of fancy and fearful grandeur, trivial pursuits and tactile amusements. Expect new postings two or three times a week, unless you hear otherwise. 

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    Laura's Art Cloth

    Laura Beehler delivered a piece of  beautiful art cloth, titled "Lambent Thoughts," to me this afternoon, work that I purchased last spring, but waited to receive until it came down from "Never Static," a juried exhibit  of art cloth at The Textile Center in Minneapolis.

    beehler's piece.jpg

    Layered organza gives this monumental and meditative piece  its  luminosity -- there's a kind of delicacy along with its power.

    Tomorrow, I've a plan to interview Laura and then edit this post with a few more details about her process and the ideas behind this piece, but with rain and FASA (local guild meeting) today, I didn't quite get around to everything I planned -- so check back in in 24 hours if you have time. Laura is part of Art Cloth Studios in San Antonio, Jane Dunnewold's teaching studio.


    Our Lady of San Pedro

    People ask me all the time how long it takes to make one of my art quilts. Who can tell? Do I get to count dyeing and screen-printing the fabrics? How about cleaning up the studio and resorting those scraps? And what about the search in my favorite thrift stores to find the Mexican dresses and Guatemalan fabrics that I can't resist? Let's not even try.

    our lady of san pedro.jpg

    here she is, about 8 hours in

    the cutting and pasting and

    staring into space stage:

    Our Lady of San Pedro.






    The process:

    • Audition a bunch of fabric, by color. This includes commercial fabrics, ethnic textiles, scraps of new silk and a couple of my scarves that haven't sold (the green cross), vintage table cloth dyed, discharged and screenprinted for the orange background.
    • Decide the size, in this case, as a companion piece I wanted her to be about the same size as Our Lady  of Nopales.
    • Start with the face, from a embroidered yoke of a dress made in the San Antonino village in the state of Oaxaca. I find them in thrift stores or the closets of friends. I first started making these angels and saints when I could not bear to keep my wedding dress (the marriage long over), but couldn't bear to throw it away either. And that Lady has given birth to a tribe of relatives.san pedro det3.jpgsan pedro det2.jpg
    • So next, find her shape.
    • Add layers.
    • Listen to what is going on and find the right ways to give her voice and presence.
    •  With this piece, I was still taken with the thermofax I had made by tracing an old lithograph image of a rooster, the crowing cock that is a symbol of St. Peter, so it seems she became his Lady, a kind of comforting presence to all of us who have ever betrayed ourselves, and the love of others.
    •  Fuse it all together with Wonderunder.
    • Add a few hieroglyphic squiggles to tie the surface together and add energy.
    • NOW, the sewing begins, the rather tedious part that I try to look upon as meditative. But it adds a delicious line that's almost a secret -- you have to look closely to see how it's a layer of drawing.

    Fear & Commitment

    David Bayles and Ted Orland in ART & FEAR have this to say:

    "Making art can feel dangerous and revealing. Making art is dangerous and revealing. Making art precipitates self-doubt, stirring deep waters that lay between what you know you should be, and what you fear you might be."

    Here I sit with fear -- which shows up most often in my world as procrastination -- trying to complete a companion piece to "Our Lady of Nopales" to send to an invitational exhibit in Kerrville that opens at the end of the month. I am in awe of more than a few of the other Texas artists whose work will be included, and I keep finding everything else to do.


    Bayles and Orland continue:
    "Yet viewed objectively, these fears obviously have less to do with art than they do with the artist. And even less to do with individual art works. After all, in making art you bring your highest skills to bear upon the materials and ideas you care about. Art is a high calling -- fears are coincidental."

    And: "Artists get better by sharpening their skill or by acquiring new ones; they get better by learning to work, or by learning from their work. They commit themselves to the work of their heart, and act upon that commitment."

    So ...Leap, girl. leap.



    The art quilt diptych (see the post of a couple of days ago) and side banners were installed at San Pedro Presbyterian Church, thanks to the assistance of custodian Luis, whose drill, ladders and manual competence were greatly appreciated. Here's an in-progress shot, and a "before", showing the off-the-rack church banners that my work is replacing.


    wall church.jpg

    Liturgical tapestries and wall hangings are, of course, nothing new in the world, and I have liked thinking about that continuity, my connection to the sorority of women whose skills and imagination have stitched sacred cloths for altars and choir lofts for as long as such places have existed. Maybe longer -- it's not too hard to imagine open air altars with cloths and banners, celebratory clothing and covers for sacred objects, existing before walls were built to enclose such ceremony.

    The research has appealed to my inner historian, and that one who might once have lived in a cloistered order.

    church window.jpg

    The key imagery and design reflects that of the symbols and images of this contemporary sanctuary's stained glass windows: the green leaf to stand for the growth of both Genesis and the Church (local reference with the cactus), the flaming heart and hands symbol of John Calvin (founder of the Presbyterian Church), the City of God with its golden rooftops (including the roofline of Mission San Jose), the silhouette of the crowing cock, a symbol of St. Peter (San Pedro). The cross motif has as its central emblem, the sun (Son).

    The side banners, overdyed silk of various weaves, allow for changing colors and themes, to reflect the most important seasons of the liturgical year:
    Advent and Christmas (combined): Gold
    Lent: Violet/deep purple
    Easter Sunday: Gold
    Pentecost: Scarlet
    Ordinary Time: Green