Take a Look Inside Sue Reid’s Quilting Studio
We visit Sue Reid at her home in Victoria’s Goulburn Valley and see how her studio facilitates her creative activity, and her passion for the colour orange and textured quilts. Written by Erica Spinks.
Sue Reid’s love of original textile work is obvious when you enter her studio. It is a large room with plenty of storage cupboards, filled with the materials necessary for her endeavours. If contemplation is needed, Sue can gaze through her studio windows to her garden full of native plants, or take in the extended view to the paddocks beyond.
These paddocks are often filled with ibis when the weather is wet, offering yet another perspective for Sue to observe. Further practical encouragement is available from the many textile books that fill her bookshelves.
“I have a love of the colour orange, pattern and contemporary work,” Sue says. “My creative process starts with an idea or theme, which I research using the internet. I often have many ideas that whirl around in my head for days or weeks — many pieces of paper. I don’t make samples but just jump in when I feel I am ready, so many changes are made along the way.”
Learning to sew at an early age provided a strong background for this approach. Sue Reid made clothes for her dolls when she was a child and sewing clothes for herself in her teenage years. Through this, she developed a sound understanding of the best ways to work with fabric and a sewing machine.
“Sewing classes at school limited my creativity,” she explains. “So I did not excel in those early years at high school when I made underwear and cookery aprons. I continued to sew at home and, by my early 20s, I began to paint contemporary art as well.”
Each of these creative experiences added layers of skills to Sue’s expertise. She explored her love of pattern and design while she was a mathematics teacher and was exposed to yet another aspect of the creative process.
After leaving teaching, she made a Nine Patch quilt during a patchwork course she undertook. “This was my first and only bed quilt,” she says. “However, I learnt new techniques and confirmed my passion for the colour orange.”
Soon after, Sue enjoyed a freestyle machining course and was ready to unleash her creativity.
Having an organised studio means Sue Reid always has the materials she needs within reach. All her fabrics and embroidery threads are arranged by colour and stored in large plastic boxes.
This enables her to locate exactly the right shade of thread, as delicate variations in colour are important for the intricacy of her art quilt designs. “I have counted over 50 shades of orange,” she says. “There is always a subtle difference and sometimes it is still not right, so I have room for more.” It is this eye for colour that makes Sue’s work stand out.
With a large table and two Bernina sewing machines in her studio, Sue is always ready to work on a project.
The Project Process
“If I am going to appliqué, I will lay out my colour theme on the floor, using many pieces of fabric, and then gradually remove those pieces that just don’t quite fit. I don’t have many unfinished pieces as I only work on one at a time until I am happy with it or bin it. Occasionally I put it away to be revisited later,” Sue says.
Sue Reid’s favourite techniques are appliqué, painting, machine embroidery and freestyle quilting, and she often combines these techniques in her work.
Starting with an original drawing, she enlarges it with her printer. If it’s a large drawing, she will sometimes use a professional service. She then transfers this drawing to a piece of white cloth with the aid of a light box.
“Next I may paint directly on the fabric or appliqué dyed or batik pieces of fabric to the background. I prefer these fabrics so that it is the design that catches the eye. I love using satin stitch to highlight these pieces and fill in the background with freestyle stitches,” she says.
Winner, Winner, Winner
Sue Reid’s work has twice won One Step Further, the art quilt competition organised by Victorian Quilters Inc each year. In 2007, her winning quilt was Not Another Orange Quilt, and in 2009 she won again with Pear Shaped.
She is often motivated when working to a theme or a deadline. In fact, Sue is currently working on concepts for the Golden Textures Art Quilt exhibition, organised by the Central Goldfields Art Gallery in Maryborough, Victoria.
“I was fortunate to have two pieces accepted in the 2015 Golden Textures Art Quilt exhibition (The Eleventh Hour and Time Waits for No One), and the second quilt has subsequently travelled to England and France for exhibitions.
To be accepted for this exhibition, you must first send details of design progression and colours, sketches and drawings of a proposed new work. If accepted, you then make the art quilt. This is a wonderful concept, which is very challenging. I can send up to four ideas and I have three buzzing around in my head at the moment.”
Sue Reid belongs to Splinter Contemporary Artists, a group of exhibiting artists based in the Goulburn Valley of Victoria. Members work across a range of different disciplines including painting, ceramics, photography, textiles, sculpture and mixed media.
The group exhibits regularly at various galleries including Kyabram Town Hall Gallery and Shepparton Art Museum. “There is a theme for each exhibition and everyone is free to interpret it in the medium they use,” explains Sue. This cross-fertilisation of ideas and approaches is stimulating to all the group members.
Sue’s art quilt, And the Wheels Go Around, is currently travelling as part of the juried A Matter of Time exhibition, curated by Brenda Gael Smith. This is a whole-cloth piece that Sue has painted and then embroidered by machine.
“My creative goal at the moment is to enter further juried exhibitions in Australia, and then try overseas,” Sue says. “I love freestyle quilting as that is when the piece comes alive. I want it to jump off the wall and for onlookers to want to touch it.”
An Immersive Experience
Sue Reid’s studio facilitates her immersion in the process of creating concepts for each new art quilt and then the construction of each work. Special textile pieces hang on the walls. Some have been sold or are on display in the homes of her children, however.
“When I am in the midst of creating a new art quilt, it gives me such a buzz. Unfortunately I am not a tidy person, but organised in my own way,” she says. “I only have one project on the go, and clean up my room before I start, but by the end — I can only leave that to your imagination!”
Find Out More About Sue Reid