Monday, March 16, 2015

Member Profile: Suzie Hammond

Suzie Hammond, formerly from Southern California, but now lives in Chile.
1. Describe the work that you make;  Like the melodic, complex classical or jazz usually playing in my studio (think Schéhérazade or The Lady is a Tramp) my favorite art works are subject driven. Social commentary is where I mostly live artistically. Depicting the homeless vet with old kakis purchased off the scrap table, showing the unbalanced student who is hallucinating violence or the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake and tsunami in Chile where I used fabrics in a paper pieced collapsing house block from a recovered ladies’ dress found on the beach are examples.

2. Do you have a signature style?  For most of my quilting life, which started in the 1970’s I did not have access to all the goodies available in the US where they were being invented. As soon as the US started to develop the delights of interesting cottons and tools like rotary cutters my husband’s musical career had enticed us to Canada. Then as the first imports trickled across the border we were heading to Australia, then England,with short bursts in China and Russia. Now Chile is home. Every move was right before quilting tools, books and cottons got there. So I always used whatever came to hand in terms of fiber content. What I was doing was considered ‘not real quilting’ or ‘real art’ anyway. But it satisfied my creative urges.

Since I was a photographer, developing my own photos in chemicals I was an early experimenter with photos to fabric. I had to make my own ‘Bubble Jet’ for years as it was totally unobtainable unless someone carried a bottle back from the US for me. Signature-wise I make a lot of fabric via printer and permanent ink dyes. Only when we were living in the US did I get the huge stores and low shipping prices that others have access to all the time. So I often have to make what I want to use. There are many more options now of course. But I have still stayed with the love of photo work and simply dyed and stamped fabrics. (Tea and hair dye being favorites.) I love my permanent pigment printer and hallelujah! these printers and their inks are one technological thing cheaper in South America than in the US.

3. Favorite color palette?  I love just about everything but yellow/orange are my least used colors. A good challenge can always change my mind for a while but generally I tend to decorate in blues/greens/purples/reds/blacks

4. How do you work?  Experimentation with technique is always fun as it adds to the tools I can use to further a statement. But for setting my mind to creating some art the idea always comes first for me. The portrayal of how transient life is for example is the focus of an ongoing series that started in 1995. I have used many a photo of a South American crypt, photos of animal skeletons and photos of ancient archeological ruins for those. These are all exclusively photo based and there are 2 more planned. Scrap piecing,paper piecing, raw edge applique, fusing and gluing are all there along with painting and dyeing and whatever else will get the job done. Like most artists every color, thread type, photo, overlay, etc. is calculated to add to the overall statement I want to communicate on a visceral level. It very much depends on project results desired. But I almost always have some photo layers in there somewhere.Then standing back and discovering how others view your work is always a delight as each individual brings their own history to the work.

5. Where do you find your inspiration? Perhaps examples of the process would illustrate best. As a writer I am a story oriented person so the curiosity behind why a house by the side of the road was abandoned can fascinate me for a long time. It leads me to do a series on abandoned dwellings—Just past a beautiful collapsed adobe off a dirt road in Ecuador I talked to the lady in the little corner grocery. There was a bad cholera epidemic years ago she says and everyone in that house died. Another house in Chile was left because the family was out of favor when the government changed and they had to flee. They are in Canada but still own the property. The series ended with our own beloved ruined burnt out house in California before it was torn down. In addition to the actual photos and piecing of the houses each work had bits of the story of that particular house in it. The blood stained corner of kitchen towel I found in the house from the fleeing family. Using black and the colors of sickness in the cholera work, photos of album covers from the 2500 records that were burned in our house. I use these not so much because anyone would pick up the significance but I knew they were there. I included the location and some of the house’s stories in the notes. Since I adore narrative and explanation I figure others do to.

While a work can definitely stand on it’s own merit I also think art can often be even more loved when there is more information about the who, when and where. A life of dealing with some of nature’s calamities has me toying with all the earthquakes, tsunamis, lava flows and hurricanes in my life, but it hasn’t developed into enough of a thread yet. Just the experiences alone aren’t enough for me, I need a story thread.The stories behind the lives we lead and the problems and solutions we create intrigue me and I love portraying them. Commentary art is the home of my heart and so any good story, cultural difference or idea will captivate me.

6. Do you enter your work in shows? US quilt shows were mostly out of my reach for many years. Instead I have shown work in art galleries/shows and sold to corporations and art collectors. I found that well mounted or stretched quilts were often accepted if it was presented in terms show organizers and patrons could understand.  Because I was out of country, and not in Europe, the most recent impressive sounding exhibitions I have done would be the invitational shows from the US Embassy art and culture events, plus collectors events. (Chile, Argentina and Ecuador 2009-2014)

7. Describe your studio space.  For the last 5 years I have been split between 2 very small bedrooms in our rental house. We are currently building a new house here in Santiago, Chile and I am welcoming all ideas for my 25x15 studio! I have a 12’longarm machine which will be set up mid-room. There will be two framed 4x8 sheets of batting covered insulation on one side creating an 8x8ft wall with lots of projects in process. Hubby gets the sunshiny side of the house for the music studio and I am backed up against the granite hillside. There will be lots of light and airflow via clerestory windows and sliding glass windows with an extra dark closet full of shelves for fabric storage. There is a custom designed L-Shaped sewing area overlooking the second story view of the valley and the city. It has oversized desk top with drawers and cupboards underneath for tool storage. I have a couple of machines and an overlocker too so I wanted room to swing back and forth between projects.Flooring will be torn brown packing paper—layers of this with polyurethane over it looks like polished leather and wears like hardwood without the cost. You DIYers looking for a new cheap floor should check You-Tube. That project will have me slaving over it before the actual move in the next few months. There will be an inside/outside, painting/dyeing, dog washing shower area.Am I spoiled or what? But all suggestions are welcomed as we are building still. Here many materials are more costly than the US but labor to have cupboards built is inexpensive. So what have I missed on the wish list?

8. How do you balance your life between art, family, friends, etc? I’ve always been a writer, homeschooling teacher- due to our globe trotting, and an artist. Our kids are grown and flown the nest but these activities could be done anywhere, anytime. Carl’s musical events- a few months in Russia, a year in England, time in Australia, etc. created an oddball lifestyle and schedule. The result was a far flung network of good friends and family mean we can go many places and have a pillow for our heads in many countries. Skype makes it all seem much closer than it is and we use it almost daily along with semi-regular trips back to the US.

9. What other profession organizations are you affiliated with?  SAQA has an international reach and offers great value for the dues. I locally hang out with all sorts of artists plus there is now a lady who has organized a quilt group and they are making log cabins and coming to use my machine. There is a good sized show in Brazil which is the other side of the continent. (By the way Brazil has the most awesome cotton batting anywhere if you ever get the chance to use it.

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