Creative endeavour: “For me the act of making is essential. When living in India people would often ask why I didn’t get someone else to do all the hand stitching. But for me that is the fun part, when you get down to the meditative act of stitching.“
“I think hand stitched work forms a direct connection between the maker and the viewer, knowing that every stitch has been thought about. It is like being able to see the fingerprints on a piece of pottery, you know that it has been made by hand, not by a machine.”
Artist Susie Vickery
About the Artist
Susie worked for over twenty years as a costumier for theatre and film in Australia and the UK. In the last twenty years she has built expertise in development work and fine art embroidery. She has worked as a craft consultant with income generation projects in India, Nepal, Tibet, Myanmar and Turkey, responding to local materials and artistic traditions. She has also facilitated community engagement art workshops in informal settlements in Mumbai, in rural Nepal and with indigenous Mexicans and Australians. Her work is the inspiration for her embroidered animations, automata and textile pieces.
What inspired you to become a Textile Artist?
I worked for many years as tailor for theatre so I was sewing and creating everyday for nearly 20 years. After moving to Kathmandu in 1998 I could no longer make costumes so I began to study embroidery by distance learning, first doing a City and Guilds qualification and then a degree from a university in the UK, all by distance learning. I have since exhibited my embroidered art and automata in exhibitions in London, Wales, other places in the UK, Norway, Perth and Melbourne. I also work with development craft projects, so being a textile artist came about because of my work and is inspired by it.
Your work has taken you to many places across the world. What was your favourite place to work and why?
I have loved working in all of the places. Some are more difficult than others. Tibet could be freezing cold, and then in summer very hot. Our workrooms in the different places are often very rough and sometimes the travel is exhausting. But Tibet has such amazing cultural inspiration and extremely warm friendly people wearing fabulous traditional outfits. It is also amazing to work in such environments, surrounded by temples and awe inspiring mountains.
But after years working in extremely remote, rough and dirty places with sometimes very odd food, it was a joy to work in Turkey where the food is super delicious and the toilets are clean. Plus there are also wonderful people to work with and an interesting culture. In one of the Turkish projects we were creating handicrafts based on the nearby Roman ruin where we would sometimes walk in the evenings.
I have been so lucky to work in all these places and to get an insight into the cultures that you could never get just by travelling through. I am still in contact and working by distance with several of the projects in Tibet, Nepal and Turkey. And we have future plans for some online work with the project in Mexico.
How does the process and aesthetic of hand-stitching and embroidery add meaning to your work?
For me the act of making is essential. When living in India people would often ask why I didn’t get someone else to do all the hand stitching. But for me that is the fun part, when you get down to the meditative act of stitching. You first do all the hard thinking, creating and planning and then get to relax into the stitching. I think hand stitched work forms a direct connection between the maker and the viewer, knowing that every stitch has been thought about. It is like being able to see the fingerprints on a piece of pottery, you know that it has been made by hand, not by a machine. A lot of people also appreciate that skilled crafts are still being practised.
Act Belong Commit Mindful Stitching Map by Susie Vickery at Ellenbrook Arts, Jan 2021. Image courtesy Ellenbrook Arts.
How does it feel when you see people from the community engage with your Act Belong Commit Mindful Stitching Map?
I love to see the people bent over in concentration, focussing on creating with their hands. It is amazing to see the different interpretations and the creativity expressed. In one of our workshops a young girl with learning difficulties came and it was lovely to work with her and see the lovely stitches that she made. I think that developing dextrous skills are very important. I look forward to seeing the maps full of the joy of everyone around the state.
What are you currently working on?
I am about to start preparing the Botanist to go out on tour. I am also preparing for an exhibition as part of the Indian Ocean Craft Triennial in September which is going to be over several galleries in WA. My work will be in the Fremantle Art Centre where I am creating an immersive Indian Ocean full of sea creatures and stories about the Indian Ocean. I am working with a friend from India who is dyeing and printing the ocean in indigo which will be full of my embroidered interactive puppets of people and fish.
This Act-Belong-Commit Engagement Program presented by ART ON THE MOVE is sponsored by Healthway promoting the Act-Belong-Commit health message.