Interview: with Susan Brubaker Knapp – professional fiber artist

Thank you so much to Susan Brubaker Knapp for taking time to be interviewed on my blog. If my blog readers do not know Susan I am certainly encouraging you to look her up! Susan Brubaker Knapp’s website is at http://www.bluemoonriver.com.
On December 5, 2011 I posted a blog entry for a FREE chance to win your book. Post a comment and you might win!
I thought it would be great to follow up with an interview. So here we go….

Susan’s Bio:

I am a fiber artist, pattern designer and teacher. Quilting started as my hobby, but has turned into a
passion and a business. I teach classes at quilt guilds, at quilt festivals – and occasionally online — and have published patterns and books for my original quilt designs.

I love traditional hand quilting and needleturn appliqué, but have embraced innovative machine techniques. I started making “art quilts” — works of art executed in fabrics and fibers — in 2005. My
quilts have won national as well as local awards, and have been exhibited at national and international venues. I have won six Best of Show awards at three different quilting guilds, with five different quilts.

My work has been featured in several national magazines, and in the 2012, 2011, 2010 and 2009 Quilting Arts Calendars and the 2012 Quilt Art Engagement Calendar. I am the author of two books – Point, Click, Quilt! Turn Your Photos into Fabulous Fabric Art (C&T Publishing, 2011), and Applique Petal Party (C&T Publishing, 2009).

I have also produced three DVDs with Quilting Arts: “Master Machine Quilting: Free-Motion Stitching and Thread Sketching” (2009), “Master Machine Stitching: Thread Sketching Beyond the Basics” (2010), and “Dynamic Quilt Design: Paint Meets Stitch” (2011). My series of six lessons on thread sketching ran in Quilting Arts magazine throughout 2010, and I appear in seasons 900, 700 and 500 of Quilting Arts TV. In 2011, I was featured in episode 901 of “The Quilt Show with Alex Anderson and Ricky Tims.” And I’ve been interviewed by Mark Lipinski and Pat Sloan on their radio shows.

Through Black Cat Graphics, my graphic design and communications business, I have been designing
logos, corporate identity systems, newsletters, magazines, annual reports and brochures since 1989.
I am an experienced writer, and have worked in corporate communications and also as a page
designer for The Charlotte Observer (Charlotte, N.C.) and The Herald-Leader (Lexington, Ky.).

I grew up in Mt. Lebanon, Pa., a suburb of Pittsburgh, and earned my B.A. in English at Allegheny College (Meadville, Pa.) and my M.A. in journalism at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. I now live near Charlotte, N.C., with my husband, Rob, and two daughters.

DG: I am going to be asking some broad questions here – so stick with me. 
Susan, what is your “main intention” as a quilter/author/artist today? I say “today” as intentions can and should be changing all the time. I am trying to get to your general mission statement. 

SBK: My primary intention as an artist is to create work that draws people closer, and invites them to savor color, texture and form. The art I make is my way of celebrating and documenting the deep mysteries of the world that are to be experienced only by close inspection of the miraculous details of nature. While my core materials — cloth and thread — are those used in traditional quilting, I often employ substances such as fabric paints and dyes, Tyvek, Angelina fibers, and water-soluble wax pastels, to transform the cloth. Nearly all of my work is realistic in style, and starts with original photographs of the subjects. I use two primary techniques – wholecloth painting, and fused applique – then heavily free-motion thread sketch the surface before quilting.

DG: What were you doing 3 years ago at this time? 

SBK: I was working to finish “Pink Petal Party,” the quilt that is featured in my first book, Appliqué Petal Party (C&T Publishing, 2009), and I had just done my first Quilting Arts DVD, “Master Machine Quilting: Free Motion Machine Stitching and Thread Sketching.”

DG: What would you hope you are doing 3 years from now? 

SBK: Pretty much what I’m doing now, except that I would love to be teaching in some beautiful, fascinating and exotic places, and having some time to explore them, and making enough money to bring my husband and children along. I am a big believer in the value of travel and exploration, and it’s been a long time since I have been able to travel. I’m starting down that path next year, with teaching gigs in the Netherlands in the spring, and South Africa (for the International Quilt Convention – Africa in Johannesburg in the summer. I am VERY excited about these opportunities. I also hope that I’m creating work that is challenging, and that is taking me in new directions. My work is largely realistic, and I would like to explore working in a less realistic way. This will be very difficult for me, but I have some pieces in my head that I’ve been thinking about for a while, and I think they need to come out soon.  

DG: What artists have influenced your work? 
SBK: I guess I can answer that question on several levels. Nancy G. Cook, a fiber artist who lives in Charlotte, has been a wonderful mentor to me. She encouraged me to join Studio Art Quilt Associates, and to attend one of their conferences, and it really opened my eyes to what was going on in the art quilting world. I love looking at the work of other artists I admire, but I have purposefully tried to avoid copying them. 
DG: Do you see your commercial products, such as your current book, a happy accident or something you carefully planned and worked hard to achieve?
SBK: No accident, no luck. It’s funny how some people think that, though. It has just been a lot of hard work, and keeping my eyes on my goals, even if the progress was difficult or slower than I would have liked. I also think that communication is key to success. You have to know how to ask for what you want, how to connect with people and build relationships. And you have to keep on keeping on, even when life knocks you around a little.
I do find it interesting that I ended up where I am now. My first job was in corporate communications; I wrote articles for an employee publication for Chase Manhattan Bank, and went all over the five boroughs of NYC interviewing people. But I found that I was really interested in the graphic design side. After I got my masters degree in journalism, I worked as a page designer at two newspapers, and worked for one organization where I did everything – writing, editing, photography and design of their publications. My career path seemed to meander, but it taught me all the things I needed to be where I am now; somehow everything came together. 
DG: What has been the most surprising thing that has happened to you on your quilting journey as your brand/name is growing nationally/internationally? 
SBK: I am constantly amazed at how technology – in particular, the internet, websites, and social media – are transforming how we live and work. It is so cool when people come up to me at quilt shows and introduce themselves as readers of my blog, or when I meet Facebook friends in person for the first time. The web of connections is absolutely astounding. 
DG: What has been the hardest part of the journey thus far?
 SBK: Juggling my home life with my work life. I have two school-aged kids, and I feel guilty a lot for the time I can’t be with them. Trying to find a balance is a constant struggle. 

DG: Now for some quick answers… it should be fun – don’t think too much – just answer:

Favorite TV show:

Honestly? I have no idea.I don’t really watch TV anymore, except for the news. 

 

Favorite Color: blue-green, from teal to aqua


Favorite Ice Cream: chocolate chocolate-chip

Favorite Holiday: Halloween; it’s my birthday, too!

Favorite Singer or Band: Dave Matthews Band, although I listen to classical music most of the time

Favorite Quilter: Oh, I’m not going to answer that one! 

Favorite insect: Praying mantis

Favorite Animal: All types of cats, big and small, wild and tame

Favorite Guilty Pleasure: Wandering in antique shops

Favorite Destination you have been to: Glacier National Park in Montana

Personal Mantra – or motto: Remember to breathe 

Please note that there is not a dot after the www in Susan’s blog address!
Thank you to Susan for giving us a glimpse of her life as a fiber artist/ author and teacher. Remember to go to the Point Click Quilt Blog entry and leave a comment to have a chance to win Susan’s beautiful book.
My next interview will be with Diane Rusin Doran – one AMAZING lady! Stay tuned!

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