Speaking out is difficult for me. My rugs and wall art until recently conveyed the messages of human impact on our frail environment visually using vignettes around our home in West Virginia. They celebrate the seasons, mountains and wildlife with an innocence that viewers absorb with pleasure. Those who read the titles and descriptions will gain a deeper understanding – straight electric power paths cut through the forests, green pipelines laid in fresh brown dirt, wind turbines and harvested hay rolls are all examples of our dominion over nature.
There are some issues where I have found it necessary to use words for my voice in a louder, more forceful message. The series “Pillow Talk” incorporates handcraft skills commonly used by homemakers: rughooking, embroidery and applique’ on utilitarian pillow objects. The tactile joy settles me while working with fibers and textiles. Thinking through an issue using simple hand tools, slowly (very slowly) stitching and pulling loops helps to process emotion into a message. The prep work often includes a hot dye pot and glorious colors soaked into the various neutral wools, creating a palette to embolden the design on my frame. With hook in hand each pulled loop added to the others creates a picture. The embroidery needle writes my message, stabbing the fabric and pulling threads aggressively or calmly but always careful to make my best mark for the future owner.
Generations of artists used traditional crafts to communicate: reflecting, documenting events, and voicing opinions. Equality, gender identity, climate, natural resources, domination in politics, civics, history and the future are explored more bluntly than I have ever created art. Perhaps it is my comfort with age, a realization that my voice is heard, or a confidence that others can be encouraged to think; whatever drives me the making of this body of work is cathartic.
Women and men in my life have shared responsibilities of family and entrepreneurship presenting lasting examples of independence. I honor the rights of all in the series Icons, and my embroidered clothing. Wearing the jeans and talking with people who react leads to advocating and listening, actions we need to learn to take time to do in the 21st Century of disconnected hi-tech.
Hopefully viewing my work begins a conversation with yourself, or even better with a neighbor.
“Settled in West Virginia, within woodlands and fields reminiscent of my youth, the natural rhythms of seasons are a recurrent theme. ‘Haying Stages’ captures the weeks in the fields spent by farmers as they cut, tether, and roll the grasses, preparing feed for their cattle.
Working with fibers, connects me with generations of artisans’ spirits. Due to the slow, repetitive process, there is time to dwell on natural subjects within my art and the materials selected. Now living in West Virginia, I have come full circle – back to the farm, and rural lifestyle of my youth.”
Susan L. Feller