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/ Exhibitions / A Thousand Steps, A Thousand Stitches: Figurative Quilts by Susan Sharpe

A Thousand Steps, A Thousand Stitches: Figurative Quilts by Susan Sharpe

February 3, 2017 – May 6, 2017(This exhibition has passed.)

Susan Sharpe embraces the “odd and interesting over the predictable and reasonable.” Her playful quilts are not for for the guest bedroom. They are colorful, quite large, and tell complicated stories in the best tradition of narrative quilt-making. Throughout history, many diverse communities have explored the art of quilting: to keep warm, to decorate their homes, as gifts, to express political and cultural view points, and to commemorate loved ones. Traditionally made by hand and often collaboratively, quilts are frequently made of whatever fabric can be easily found. Sharpe uses alpaca, mohair, silk and a variety of natural fibers: milkweed, yucca and hops in her hand-made and machined quilts.

Susan Sharpe; Leopard Sisters Surf Mountain Wave; Mixed Media Quilt: painted, dyed and printed fabric

Susan Sharpe; Leopard Sisters Surf Mountain Wave; Mixed Media Quilt: painted, dyed and printed fabric

Artist statement

My fascination with fibers and fabric began at an early age. I learned to sew from my mother, who made all of the clothes for the ten children in our family. My fondest memories are of the annual, back-to-school trips to the local textile mills where the most popular prints and plaids were being made in the 1950s and 60s. The trunk of the car would be filled with fabric and within one week it would be magically sewn into new dresses, skirts and jackets. The transformative and evocative powers of patterned fabrics and textile objects such as aprons, doilies and gloves began to take hold in these childhood adventures. As an adult, my training as an artist at Appalachian State University, East Tennessee State University, and Penland School of Crafts focused on drawing, painting and textile design. From these different experiences, my work evolved into a narrative style that exploits a wide range of fiber and fabric processes.

The found textile objects I use in these works are discovered mostly in antique shops. They come with their own histories, but they also provoke new stories as I begin to observe what is both on and below the surface. As a work progresses and the need arises, I design and produce original fabrics by dyeing, painting, and screen printing. Three-dimensional enrichments are added last with quilted drawing and stitched embellishments. Each of these large pieces develop slowly and organically, in several narrative layers—personal, historical and material. Many of these works have taken more than twenty years to complete and thus have their own stories within stories. I approach each day in the studio with anticipation as I pick up the work and follow the thread of the story. The excitement of discovery and the pleasure of the materials is my daily reward.

– Susan Sharpe

About the artist

Susan Sharpe is an artist and art educator who has been living in the Boone area since 1970. Sharpe’s works in fiber and fabric collage have been exhibited in regional and national competitions and have won numerous awards. Her works range in style from realistic to abstract and feature woven and non-woven tapestry, handmade paper, and painted, printed and quilted fabric in original designs. Sharpe earned graduate degrees from Appalachian State University and East Tennessee State University and also studied various fiber techniques at Penland School of Crafts. She has taught in a variety of settings with students of all ages.

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