Conversations with the Makers

An array of questions to fibre/textile artists and their answers.

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Conversation with Susan Purney Mark, CANADA

As a textile artist, Susan has embarked on a life transforming journey into the world of colour, design and pattern. Working with textiles has become her method of self expression and the focus of her processes of communication.

She has studied Art, Design, Patchwork and Embroidery with the prestigious City & Guilds Institute of London, England and has studied with internationally acclaimed teachers/quilt makers Nancy Crow, Jan Meyers Newbury, Elin Noble, Gail Harker and Ruth Issett. Susan has also been awarded two Certificates in Art and Design and Textile Design/Decoration from the Gail Harker Creative Studies Centre in Washington, USA.

Susan has spent the last 20 years learning, experimenting and finally teaching a variety of surface design techniques in dyeing, painting, screen printing and image transfers. Most recently she has focused on soy wax resists and her work is known for its use of unconventional methods with contemporary design and materials.      email: 

Conversation with the Makers(CWTM) Did you always envision a life as an artist? 

Susan Purney Mark(SPM) Oh, I wish I had, at times I yearned for a rather bohemian, free style kind of life. But it was impressed on me rather early that I had to have a "career"!


CWTM What was your first experience with making art?

SPM I think I was about 5 years old and I was part of a summer program called "Painting in the Park". We did lots of murals and trees as I recall.

 CWTM Do you have a dedicated studio? 

SPM I am fortunate to have a 250 sq ft. studio for my office, library and design and sewing area, plus a small room dedicated to my dyeing, painting and wet techniques. As my children moved out of the house, I took over their spaces, just in case they hinted they'd like to move back!


CWTM Can you describe a typical day? 

SPM I'm at the pool early most mornings and try to be in the studio by 9am. I quickly go through emails and other computer tasks and then focus on my creative work, sometimes sewing, design or quilting, sometimes dyeing or waxing. The wet techniques mean there's lots of "work 10 minutes, leave for an hour" so sometimes the day can be broken up into chunks of different activities. I try to maintain a work focus at least until lunch and then may be have to run errands, post office and such and then another spurt of work for a couple hours in the late afternoon. My biggest challenge is not being distracted by "shiny things" that can pull me away from what I really should be doing.


CWTM Would you consider your art making to be more about the process than the outcome?

 SPM The process is where I can work for hours getting lost in what some might call the "zone". That time is where I can converse with the piece, build a relationship and feel that some part of "me" is going into it.

 CWTM Do you agree that a small element of uncertainty about the finished look is what makes the process of creating so enticing?

 SPM My vision usually comes into my mind and I "see" what I'd like the work to be. But often the piece tells me what it wants to become. I have learned to "let it be".....


CWTM Any indispensable tools or equipment? 

SPM What I have, I use. I generally don't indulge in purchasing items.....just in case. But if I named one thing: a bolt of PFD cotton and my wax pot! ooops, thats two things!


CWTM Do your pieces start with a planned course of action or are they more spontaneous?

 SPM Often a brief sketch, just to centre me and remind me of a course of action. Sometimes I can veer off course quite a bit, the end results are sometimes not what I have in mind but I prefer to think the work is better because of that.

 CWTM How do you know when to “stop” – when do you consider a piece actually finished?

 SPM Oh my, thats a tough one! But one of my tutors said "if in doubt, do more" and I generally follow that advice. My failing is in stopping too soon.



CWTM Favourite quote? 

SPM “Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it!”
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.....or other similar quotes


CWTM When do you do your best creative thinking?

 SPM Sometimes when working on a piece, or in that soft, drifting off to sleep time. The tricky part is remembering it in the morning!


CWTM What do you enjoy most about your work?

 SPM The beginning....a time when all is perfect and full of infinite possibilities!

 CWTM Best advice you’ve ever received?

 SPM "Just Do It" and ignore the naysayers!

 CWTM Worst advice you’ve ever received?

 SPM You need to make a living......


CWTM Best part of your day?

 SPM Every minute is a blessing....

 CWTM Who would be 6 people that you would invite to dinner?

 SPM Emily Carr (Canadian artist...she has to leave the monkey at home)

Bishop Desmond Tutu (I'd ask him to bless the meal)

Bono (for musical entertainment and sing along)

My brother (we have lots of catching up to do)

Carl Sagan (for the really BIG picture)

Michael Smith (Canadian chef to prepare the meal)


CWTM What inspires your creativity?

 SPM A thought, a word, a picture, a memory, a conversation, the shadows, a path, the sunlight.....

 CWTM What are you excited about right now in the world of textile art?

 SPM The growth and acceptance as a strong and viable medium to work in and find success.

 CWTM You’d be lost without…

 SPM My dye pots and my Ipad!

 CWTM What would you do with a few extra hours each day? 

 SPM Knuckle down and sketch more, its too sporadic! Listen to the wind and walk more.



CWTM Your favourite luxury in life? 

 SPM My gym pass and Starbucks!

 CWTM Has the advancement of computers and technology impacted your work?

 SPM Immensely but not for design, I'm still a pencil and paper kind of gal!

 CWTM What do you enjoy most about your work?

 SPM Being able and free to explore in any direction and in any medium I choose.


CWTM Is it important for us to be recognized by the art world and if so, how can we help affect that change?

 SPM Oh, I have ambivalence about this topic, for many years, yes, it is important, but also a constant struggle. I think we are making headway, slowly but its unlikely that I would/could be a part of that.  The importance is to keep presenting the very best of what we create, entering into dialogues about out work and taking the paths that are important and resonate with ourselves and our creative spirit.

 CWTM What is next for you?

 SPM Exploring new themes while narrowing and defining my focus so that I can more fully create work that I hope for. Plus, hanging out with grandkids, kayaking and travel.