Conversation with Nonie Sutcliffe

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Did you always envision a life as an artist?
I came to seriously think of myself as a maker about 1983 when I began studying Weaving at Melbourne College of Textiles. Embroidery and felt-making followed on, rounding my skills and broadening my view of textiles.
What was your first experience with making art?
Having a hand woven Kimono piece chosen to be photographed for Craft Arts Australia. I still have a copy of that magazine!
Do you have a dedicated studio?
I have a small studio space at my home and love the ability to go ‘to work’ whenever I want. I have recently stripped down the ‘stuff’ I have, to store just the materials needed for stitch, collage, paint and encaustic wax projects.
Can you describe a typical day?
I try to spend 15 minutes each morning with a small collage and a coffee. I do find it difficult to only work on one and will often have 5 going. They are sometimes resolved quickly, others not so. Moving on to larger works can lead to many hours standing at my work bench or easel. The afternoon can see me quietly stitching. A balance is required in order to reflect on progress. The next day another viewing clarifies or challenges the work.

Would you consider your art making to be more about the process than the outcome?
It’s all about the process, often with no obvious starting point they can grow quite organically. Staying with a limited palate and simple stitch helps me reflect the thought process while ‘listening to the conversation…..’.
Do you agree that a small element of uncertainty about the finished look is what makes the process of creating so enticing?
I rarely know just how a piece ‘should’ look completed – the abstract is my goal, a pleasing aesthetic the jewel.

Any indispensable tools or equipment?
Needle and linen thread, paint, wax, boards and a blow torch.
Do your pieces start with a planned course of action or are they more spontaneous?
Most definitely a spontaneous response to the surface. I look for marks within the cloth, water marks, stains or holes suggest the next step. My listening and conversation cloths are the paper my thoughts are transcribed onto. Rarely actual words but repetitive marks recording conversations.

How do you know when to “stop” – when do you consider a piece actually finished?
My conversation cloths can always have more stitch…….
Your greatest source of inspiration is….
My close textile friends are responsible for exposing me to all manner of inspiration. Books, Instagram, magazines and blogs feed my thirst via the electronic media. Regular visits to the wonderful galleries in Melbourne and Australia to see both textiles and modern art can make my head spin with a myriad of ideas.
When do you do your best creative thinking?
Often at 3.30 am – waking with a solution to a piece unresolved. I also become the most productive in a like-minded environment with other textile artists. The feedback, critiques and encouragement are invaluable.
What do you enjoy most about your work?
The act of doing……
To exhibit my work allows a part of me to be shown publicly, something a shy person can sometimes struggle with. I continue to do this as each time becomes easier.

Best advice you’ve ever received?
Limit your colour palate and only use materials that are pleasing to you.
You will never be happy with the results a poor colour choice or fabrics no matter how inspired the design is.
Best part of your day?
Waking up knowing I can work on my art today.

Who would be 6 people that you would invite to dinner?
Raul Marlo, Emmy Lou Harris, Georgia O’Keefe, Marc Rothko, Junko Oki and Shawnna Moore
What inspires your creativity?
Light in my studio, travel, macro views through my camera lens
Old vintage fabric, mostly linen although I recently received 12 hand rolled men’s handkerchiefs which may become something else….
What are you excited about right now in the world of textile art?
Encaustic wax painting has me in its grip at the moment. The painterly way texture can be built up or scraped back to show the layers below intrigues me. Marks applied with oil bars and pastels adds a dimension I have not been able to achieve with paint.
The blow torch is the best !!!!

You’d be lost without…
Music to work with, I can get lost for hours as long as I have music
Your favourite luxury in life?
My beautiful bed, where the day begins and inspiration can surface.

Has the advancement of computers and technology impacted your work?
Digital manipulation of my photography prior to printing are often the background for my encaustic pieces. I do consider this a valid form of art, how else can we place our own stamp through all layers.
What do you enjoy most about your work?
The making is all important, the act of stitching, painting or fusing wax brings me much joy. A day working on my art is a happy day.

What is next for you?
Beginning to work full time in my art practice and joining Glenys Mann in Fibre Arts Australia is my next adventure.
To be able to meet and work with the many amazing textile artists from around the world is an opportunity I would not miss for the world.

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