Suzanne Connors has been an artist, a gallery owner and a teacher. She shares her story and the meditative process of her work.
ABI: How did you end up going into business as an artist?
SC: I think I have always been an artist. When I was a child I took whatever art classes I was able to take. In high school, my curriculum was split between advanced math and drafting and independent art studies.
I spent my working life on the creative side but never really diving in. I transferred into interior design and loved working with textiles. In construction management, I enjoyed the process of building and the joy of finally seeing things come together.
In 2009, the Aya Fiber Studio was born. After losing my job in the constuction industry, I began recreating myself toward producing art on a full time basis. I established a fine art gallery in an effort to mingle with other artists and have a place to exhibit my work. I spent my summers on the island of St. John volunteering at the Maho Bay Camp Fiber Studio.
The gallery business is consuming. Back home, I found little time for my own artistic creativity. So I channeled my energies into creating the most beautiful gallery I could. And I was successful. Then I relocated the gallery and focused on creating another beautiful gallery. And I was successful.
But inside I was yearning for more, I missed the studio in the Caribbean. I was burning out. After my gallery was broken into. I felt a huge violation and it was over. Just like that, I closed the gallery.
Now I was able to spend my time creating. I found a great waterfront studio space in Stuart Florida that reminded me of my times on St John and started going there every day. When a studio finally became available, I was blessed to be able to move into it. I have recently expanded my studio to include a teaching studio.
ABI: What is the focus of your work?
SC: My focus is fiber art. Currently I am concentrating on traditional Japanese shibori techniques using indigo dye. The Indigo blues make me happy and remind me of the sea and the sky.
Today’s fashion movement is fast and disposable. Shibori is slow. It takes time. It takes planning and it is carrying on tradition. Shibori originated in the 8th century. All of my life experiences are being used in my studio practice. As a seamstress and a designer, I love working with natural fibers. I am incorporating a lot of hand stitching into my work which is very meditative. I am interested in all things connected to sustainability and experimenting with natural dyes. Every item produced in the studio has had a thoughtful approach to making.
There is an element of pure surprise when working with fiber that is hard to describe to people. The combinations of fabric, dye and whatever resist technique used will create results that are not revealed until you finally are able to unwrap the fabric. It is magical when the freshly dyed indigo fabric comes out of the vat a vivid bright green and then oxidizes right before your eyes to its dark blue color. Dyeing reminds me a lot about life. There are no mistakes. Everything can change in a moment and imperfection is part of the process!
ABI: Tell us about the Fish House Art Center where you are working.
The Fish House Art Center where my studio is located is a unique artist’s colony. We are located on the waterfront in the historic Port Salerno area of Stuart, Florida. The Fish House Art Center started as a fish market, built in 1913. It went out of business in 1999 when the local fishing industry was impacted by new fishing laws.
In 2000, the buildig was purchased and repurposed as a waterfront art center with studios, a gallery and a café. The freezers and ice rooms were converted into artist studios. There are currently eight working studio artists. People can wander from studio to studio. watching the artists at work.