Storm Watch © 2017 Sue Reno
An Interview with Sue Reno
Sue Reno is an award-winning fiber artist who gives us insight into her cyanotype printed quilts in her article, Working with Web Cyanotype, in the January/February 2018 issue of Machine Quilting Unlimited. Learn more about Sue in this online interview.
Originally posted on January 15, 2018, by Cheryl Sleboda
Tell us a little about when you first learned to sew. When did you make your first quilt?
I started sewing doll clothes when I was able to hold and thread a needle, about five or six years old. I learned to use a sewing machine when I was eleven, made myself a blouse, and went on to make most of my own clothes. At thirteen I started on a postage stamp quilt, cutting 2” squares by hand from scraps. I machine pieced and hand quilted it. I worked on it sporadically for years, and was distracted by many, more interesting projects, but I did eventually finish it.
When did you first learn about cyanotype for fabric and what made you want to try it?
In the early days of the art quilt movement, I saw an exhibit that included a quilt by Wenda F. von Weise. She had taken photos of a farm near her in Ohio, and the older couple who farmed it, printed them as cyanotypes on fabric, and constructed a quilt from them. It was a very radical use of imagery and technique for the time, and beautifully and evocatively done. It opened my eyes to a world of possibilities previously unknown. I wasn’t able to pursue it then, but the images and the idea always stuck with me. In 2002, thanks to the internet, I was able to source some pre-treated cyanotype fabric. I made my first print, turned it into my first art quilt, and never looked back. I love the technique because it’s simple enough for anyone to try successfully, but it’s infinitely variable. I learn something new each time I do a printmaking session. This past year I had the pleasure of developing and refining the wet cyanotype process, which produces such wild and colorful results.
Storm Watch (detail) © 2017 Sue Reno
What is a technique that you have never tried that you would like to?
I’m currently fascinated with encaustic artists. I like the soft mellow look and texture that wax brings to surfaces. I would love to learn how to work with it while including fibers and textiles. I need to find some time to experiment!
What advice would you give to a beginner in art quilting?
Be bold! Try the techniques that appeal to you, explore different subjects and materials, and don’t be overly concerned about the outcome. As you proceed, you will naturally start to focus on those aspects that best reflect your unique vision. And once you’ve found your groove, dive in and explore it fully, working variations on a theme.
I have a lot of fun with my art and my career, but I take it very seriously. I’m personally not a big fan of the “quick and easy” mindset. Don’t be afraid of working on things that are hard and messy, complicated and time-consuming, as they are often the most rewarding.
What is your next project shaping up to be?
I have a huge pile of wet cyanotype prints I made last year that I am sorting for inclusion in two meteorological themed quilts I have planned. I have several quilts in my ongoing series about the Susquehanna River in progress. And I am trying very hard to finish the quilting on a monster-sized quilt from my Flora and Fauna series featuring cyanotypes of rabbit skulls that has been an UFO for an embarrassingly long time.