Meet Suzy Furness in our Artist Showcase
Know the Weaver # 19
As a part of our continuing series called Know the Weaver, this time we speak to Australia-based Artist Suzy Furness. Almost every one of the Suzy’s woven pieces are related to some aspect of the natural environment and guess what, “three” of the Artist’s works were showcased at the prestigious Complexity exhibition in USA in 2018! Read on to know more about Suzy…
1. When and how did your journey as a weaver begin?
My journey with textiles probably began when I was about six years old – with my grandmother’s teaching me to knit. That first ball of yarn entangled me for life. Many years later, I found an old loom at my Mum’s and borrowed it. Luckily my husband was intrigued with the mechanical aspects of the loom. In 1975, he built a 4-shaft floor loom. Soon I had two floor looms and two table looms. In the early ‘80s he begged me to let him computerize the shaft choice mechanism. Stupidly, I informed him that it wasn’t necessary. Luckily, he ignored me which ultimately resulted in a ten-shaft countermarche loom and two smaller floor looms and three table looms all with computer control of the shaft choosing process. His final effort was to build me a small double harness (draw) loom with 50 shafts on the back harness.
- Three of your woven works were showcased at the 2018 Complexity Exhibition in Reno, USA. Could you tell us more about these works?
In Australia, I have very limited options for exhibiting my weaving, so I am grateful for the opportunity that Complex Weavers offers me to show my work to a wider audience. It was a great honour to have three pieces chosen. Which part of the whole (fig tree, ocean, earth) doesn’t need our care was woven in Lampas, but with contemporary changes that are easy to do with the TC2. For example, I combined the weave structures of Lampas and Samit by using Lampas sometimes in the first shuttle but sometimes Samit to give a different appearance. With Do not use flowers for Assessment, I used Lampas, but also provided textural contrast for the stigma by wrapping the yellow weft around a satay stick!
Dawn to Dusk was also woven in Lampas but it involved both resist dyeing of the warp and then I painted different colours onto the warp as I wove each section. It was rather time consuming, but recently I have been awarded a textile prize for it by the Queensland based Flying Arts organization. Dawn to Dusk is now part of the “Wanderlust” exhibition which will tour various regional galleries in Queensland until the end of 2019. This is again a huge honour for me, but here at home this time.
- What do you make? Would you say that there are aspects to your weavings that are characteristic of you – a technique, a colour palette, a theme etc.?
I am a colour and texture weaver, but who isn’t?! I spend lots of time with my head in cupboards looking for that specially-textured yarn that will give the emphasis or contrast that I want. Then I will dye skein after skein until I achieve the exact colour that I want. Almost every weaving is related to some aspect of the natural environment, mostly of Australian bush. I always take a little camera on my bushwalks, taking photographs of anything interesting and different. I never know which images will make it to a weaving. At the moment in my “weird possibilities” folder, I have images of a spider in a web, a vigilant ibis waiting for a picnicker to make a mistake, an image of a spotty mushroom and more. The design for my latest weaving is taken from a rock I noticed on a walking trail – the Heysen Trail – in South Australia. A geologist described the rock as a “curiosity”. It was formed 300 million years ago probably via a sedentary process. After which various tensions and processes caused a discombobulation of the layers. A little bit like what happens in our lives. Each human baby starts pretty much the same, and then the processes of our lives change us into individual “curiosities”!
- Which part of the process do you find the most engaging – the preparation, the actual weaving or witnessing the life of your creations once they’re off the loom?
I love all of the processes. The choosing of the design; the choosing of the fibre; the choosing of the colours; the tying on; the weaving; watching the design emerge; the repair of the heddles (especially in the middle of a project); the cutting off and the finishing. ALL OF IT.
- What role do you think textiles play in contemporary fine art scene in Australia?
Within the wider art fraternity in Australia, there is little awareness of loom controlled weaving as a fine art. Curators very much relegate all weaving to the ‘home spun’ type of ‘bored housewife’ endeavour. There is little willingness to see a weaving as ’proper art’. They don’t understand that it’s three dimensional aspect evokes a different response from the viewer to two dimensional art works. I get on a soap box too, about the dominance of performance and installation art over traditionally presented art. Although there is a vibrant community of talented and interesting fibre artists in Australia, it is difficult for many to get art works into mainstream galleries. Our indigenous artists create wonderful weavings using traditional basket and twining techniques.
- What got you to choose a TC2 loom?
Peter drew the line at building a loom with a single thread lift. So I went googling and found Tronrud Engineering, Vibeke and the legendary TC2. (And the also-legendary Egil!). I feel that my whole life so far has been a preparation for weaving on the TC2. The sheer flexibility is the most daunting feature – so much choice, where do I begin? My brain is in overdrive when I am trying to find my next project.
I love the whole process of weaving on my TC2: the complete freedom in design; the transformation of that design; the programming of the TC2; even, and wait for this: I find the challenge of repairing the TC2 to be important for my brain flexibility, and strength of mind and resilience under duress. (It helps to know that Vibeke and Egil are only 15,358 kms away). Weaving is my reason for getting up in the morning. The TC2 makes it more so. I am sad that I have not been able to tap into any TC2 weave structure workshops to extend my knowledge. However, maybe that loss also forces me into my own “down under” solutions? Better for the brain!!? In any case, I will always feel very grateful to Vibeke for starting the journey that led me to a wonderful loom: the ultimate gift to an addicted weaver!!!! Thanks, Vibeke!!!
- Lastly, do you have any projects that you’re working on/planning to start in the near future? If yes, could you tell us a bit about that?
Here’s the thing: last year I only wove about 15 or so metres on my TC2. This is because I multi- dyed the warp. When I got this weird and impossible warp onto the loom, I didn’t know how to proceed! So a lot of time was spent trying to work out how to handle each next dyed section! At the moment there is about 50 cms of yellow morphing into 3 metres of purple! I think I have solved the problem as to how to use this colour transition – hopefully using an image taken three years ago on Lake Geneva of silhouetted trees about to burst into their spring foliage. After this design is completed I might have enough purple to do something very colourful.
May 22, 2019
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