Selvedge: Fenny Suter
Sometimes it takes long hikes through dense greenery to find the perfect spot for a refreshing swim — a hidden lagoon with crystal-clear water surrounded by lush foliage. Fenny Suter’s vibrant embroideries capture this idyllic scene in thread and fabric. They’re a little piece of paradise, but without the sweat and exhaustion of hiking.
Her lagoon fibre artworks look like they’re based on exotic travel destinations, but Fenny was actually inspired by a more mundane location. “Growing up in landlocked eastern US, I thought all oceans looked similar – dark blue and murky,” says Fenny. “On a trip to Asia, I saw the brightest, turquoise-blue ocean off the side of the road. The colours were so surreal and mesmerising to me that I couldn’t stop staring. Interestingly, I was not vacationing in Bali or Bora Bora. I had this magical experience with the ocean on the side of a highway next to a construction site.” Her work is a gentle reminder to find the beauty that’s all around us, even in the most unlikely of spots.
Using a combination of materials and techniques, Fenny portrays the vibrant ocean colours, from light blue and bright aqua to teal blue and light grey, along with a variety of rainforest textures, in her work. Beginning with a sketch, she fills in the image with appliqué, embroidery and punch needle. Punch needle works by pushing thread through fabric with a special pen-like needle tool to create loops and a textural surface. “Like many punch needle enthusiasts, I originally got the punch needle because I thought it was a magic embroidery pen,” says Fenny. “It’s faster to create embroidered images with it, but I also love using it to create woven textures. It’s a very versatile tool and perfect for all sorts of fibre experiments.” The punch needle sections make for a lush, tactile rainforest top.
As for the embroidered swimmers, they may look very serene, but creating them can be frustrating. “My least favourite part is when I’m embroidering the tiny figures and they don’t look right. I feel so accomplished when I get every curve right, but it only takes a tiny crooked stitch to make a messy blob,” says Fenny.
Even during the inevitable periods of making mistakes and unpicking, Fenny continues to hone her skills and is improving daily. “There are weeks when I feel doubtful, but being persistent has proven to pay off every time.” As a result of her determination, she has gallery shows, collaborations and workshops in the pipeline. She doesn’t limit herself to stitching either; her interests expand to all forms of art and design. “Ok, maybe not oil painting (I like to admire them, not actually do them),” says Fenny. “For the most part, drawing, crochet, natural plant dyeing, sculpture and photography are also activities I enjoy. When the opportunity arises, I like to take classes in ceramics and metalsmithing (I took a blacksmithing class recently and that was a pretty cool experience).”
This multi-talented artist doesn’t take her opportunities for granted. “My family makes a lot of sacrifices so that I can work at something that I love. I also feel very thankful for the community I have online; their support motivates me to keep making art and to keep improving for them.”
Fenny hopes her artworks “convey the wonder of discovery” and transport you to your own paradise. “I want the places I create to be ambiguous so that even if you haven’t been there, you can imagine what it feels like and enjoy it.”