Her pieces are surreal and fantastic yet focus in on the daily routines and rituals we all can relate to. She tries to keep her work fairly ambiguous and enjoys allowing the audience participation factor where people are able to add their own interpretations to the pieces.
It requires a unique blend of skills to be able to visualize your work in three dimensional form and then to be able to follow through and execute the finished pieces with such perfection. Susan is a pioneer in the unique niche of making quilted sculpture and we hope that you enjoy her work as much as we do.
RUNNING WITH SCISSORS STUDIO: Did you always want to be an artist?
SUSAN ELSE: No, my parents are both artists. I grew up with people asking me if I was going to be an artist, too. I always said "No!" I mean, who wants to do what your parents do? When I was about forty, I realized that I had become an artist by accident.
RWSS: Do you have a dedicated studio space?
SUSAN: Yes. When my kids were teenagers, I stole our family room. They didn't seem to mind.
RWSS: Favorite place you've been or lived?
SUSAN: I really do love living here in Santa Cruz, California, except, of course, for the San Andreas fault.
RWSS: Have you ever held a traditional 9-5 job?
SUSAN: I was an editor, writer and proofreader for twenty years.
RWSS: What is the one thing that people would be most surprised to find out about you?
SUSAN: I can't spell!
RWSS: If you had to choose another career what would it be?
RWSS: Best advice you've ever received?
SUSAN: "Don't worry about making it pretty; you'll do that whether you want to or not."
RWSS: Worst advice you've ever received?
SUSAN: "If you want to be a successful contemporary sculptor, you'll have to get rid of your beautiful surface treatment."
RWSS: What do you do to unwind?
SUSAN: Murder mysteries and crossword puzzles.
RWSS: Your pieces involve a lot of structural work building armatures. Do you spend more time on the "behind the scene" construction elements or more time actually sewing?
SUSAN: Sewing!!! I jerry-rig the insides, knowing that the fabric sleeve will keep it all together.
RWSS: What prompted the transition from quilt maker to sculptor?
SUSAN: I got bored with the flat surface and started adding raised elements to my flat quilts. At the same time , a friend showed me how to make figures. The two elements came together as figures on a stage, giving me a way to tell stories that I hadn't had access to as a flat quilter.
RWSS: Do you start your pieces with a detailed plan and course of action or is it a more spontaneous evolutionary process?
SUSAN: Ha! I'm the original cut-and-go artist. I start with a wisp of an idea, create one element that works and add to the piece from there. If I know exactly where I'm going, it takes all the fun out of it for me. I've occasionally built models for complicated buildings because I didn't want to have to redo too many sections, but I have yet to make a prototypes of a figure. I always start with the real thing.
RWSS: What inspired your piece Nothing to Fear?
SUSAN: Ah. Death, life, ancestors, joy, pain, you name it! I like to take contradictory ideas and conflate them into a single sculpture, so viewers don't know quite where they stand.
RWSS: Who would you most like to meet and how would you spend the day?
SUSAN: Oh gosh, there are so many people in my life that I don't get to spend enough time with -- can't I spend the day playing with one of them, instead?
RWSS: Favorite quote?
SUSAN: For my dad's birthday one year my mother had a Matisse quote calligraphed by a friend of mine. It hung in his studio until the end of his life and now it hangs in mine: "Work is Paradise".
RWSS: Best part of your day?
SUSAN: When I collage fabrics and the colors sing.
RWSS: What are you excited about right now in the world of art quilting?
SUSAN: What's happening on the three-dimensional edges of the art quilt universe.
RWSS: I'd be lost without.........
SUSAN: My husband.
RWSS: What's on the horizon for Susan Else?
SUSAN: More skeletons, groups of them interacting: a couple, a guy with his (skeleton) dog, skeletons having coffee.
RWSS: Any words of wisdom?
SUSAN: Play. Play hard.
Susan's work has been featured in both solo and selected group exhibits with her recent piece Nothing to Fear being included in Quilt National 2009. She is currently available for both lectures and workshops. To view more of this boundary breaking artist's work, we invite you to visit Susan's website www.SusanElse.com.