Sue Stone Interview: The angst of fine art
Innovative textile artist Sue Stone is a member of the 62 group and the Society of Designer Craftsmen. She studied Fashion at St Martins School of Art and Embroidery at Goldsmiths College in London in the 1970s. She now lives and works in North East Lincolnshire.
Using hand and machine embroidery as a means of mark making, her inspiration is drawn from subjects both past and present, all with some connection to her own life and environment. Her work lives in limbo somewhere between the angst of fine art and the therapy of making and is often figurative and regionalist, usually narrative and sometimes has a surreal sense of humour.
In part one of this two-part interview she discusses how her love of textiles developed from an early age and her journey to becoming the artist she is today.
TextileArtist.org: What or who were your early influences and how has your life/upbringing influenced your work?
Sue Stone: My earliest influences were my Dad who gave me my work ethic and the determination to succeed and my Mum, who was a tailoress. She taught me to use her Singer treadle sewing machine at about the age of 6 and from a very early age all I ever wanted to do was design and make clothes, first for my dolls and then for myself.
My Mum was unfaltering in her support when I wanted to study at Art School during a period when ‘Grammar school girls didn’t really do that sort of thing’.
My Dad was a Grimsby fish merchant during the 1950s and 1960s. My content always has a connection to my own life or environment. I make reference to family and friends, the Lincolnshire coast and environs, to Grimsby’s reliance on the fishing industry and it’s sad demise and to time spent in London and on my travels, both at home and abroad.
Versatility of the sewing machine
What was your route to becoming an artist? (Formal training or another pathway?)
I studied Fashion Design at St Martins School of Art and then Textiles/ Embroidery at Goldsmiths College, London where I was taught by Constance Howard, Christine Risley, and Eirian Short. All three have had an influence on my working practice ever since.
Constance Howard was a small charismatic person with bright green hair and the first time I met her she introduced herself as Mrs Parker. I had no idea who she was at the time or of her importance in establishing textiles as an artform in the 20th century. She was just Mrs P, an inspiration to all her students who gave me my life long love of stitching.
Christine Risley was an inspirational teacher who taught machine embroidery and opened my eyes to the versatility of the sewing machine and the spontaneity you can get with free machine stitch.
Eirian Short introduced me to the 62 Group of Textile Artists in 1975 when I was first a member for a few years until other commitments got in the way of my stitching.
After Art College I went into business and made a living from designing womenswear for 28 years but always knew I would return to stitching eventually which I did in 2002 at the age of 50.
The therapy of making
What is your chosen medium and what are your techniques?
My chosen medium is stitched textile. My techniques are simple and straightforward I combine hand and free machine stitch with appliqué and needle weaving. By using a small vocabulary of simple stitches and varying the fabrics and threads, the end result can be very different.
How would you describe your work and where do you think it fits within the sphere of contemporary art?
My work lives in limbo somewhere between the angst of fine art and the therapy of making with content given precedence over technique.
I produce mainly figurative textile art and which is regionalist, usually narrative, and sometimes displaying a surreal sense of humour.
For Part 2 of this interview please click here
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