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  • Sara Nordling

Designing Weaver: Susie Taylor

Black twill Origami Weaving by Susie Taylor

Weaving and photo courtesy of Susie Taylor

I first encountered Susie through her work. She was working on pleated elements on the surface of a weaving like I was. Her approach to making them is very different from my own. Weaving is great that way! We got to meet in person at a Complex Weaver’s Seminar. I admire her work and am inspired by her weavings.

SN: How did you get started weaving? What drew you to it?

ST: I grew up in a family of builders, repairers and problem solvers. My father and brothers built things from wood and my mother’s sewing skills were very strong. I went to the fabric store with my mother many times and admired all of the different variations. In school I was drawn to art classes and took, home economics, woodshop and drafting in middle school and programming in high school. The first time I saw a loom I was attracted to the object itself as a mechanical tool. Weaving was the first thing that really awakened me as a young adult and brought together my interests of art and structure. In 1987 my first experience weaving was at Fort Lewis College in Durango, CO. After that, I transferred to Kansas City Art Institute to study weaving.

SN: What looms do you own?

ST: Currently a 16 shaft, 40” Macomber

SN: Do you use weaving software?

ST: Fiberworks Bronze for shaft weaving. EAT/DesignScope and JacqCAD master for jacquard weaving. I also use Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop frequently for design purposes.

SN: Do you do much designing for jacquard? If so, do you send your patterns off to be woven as you don’t have a jacquard loom?

ST: I mostly use my jacquard software to create repeating designs that I sell to industry. I am developing a relationship with several mills, in hopes to do more of the technical designing as well. I am still trying to figure out the work balance between art and industry but the more weaving and designing I do, those two activities become closer together for me.

Striped origami weaving by Susie Taylor

Weaving and photo courtesy of Susie Taylor

SN: Where do you look for design inspiration?

ST: The limitless possibilities of Geometry and abstract painting. I am also inspired by the limitations of weaving.

SN: I can relate to loving the limits of weaving. I used to hate that part but realize it’s necessary, at least for me. I’d like to hear your reaction to the following quote from Igor Stravinsky, “The more constraints one imposes, the more one frees oneself of the chains that shackle the spirit.” And this quote from Richard Rogers, “The problem with art is not finding more freedom, it’s about finding obstacles.”

ST: Honestly the Stravinsky quote does not resonate with me because my love of limitations has more to do with the opportunity to focus and not so much about freedom. The Rogers quote would be a better fit for me simply because the limitations of weaving are welcomed challenges that force me to be solve the visual and structural problems on a more basic level. Sometimes I catch myself drawing or sketching with certain limitations in mind which simplifies the process.

ST: Finding the balance between simplicity and complexity is also very important to me. I live by the Anni Albers quote, “...simplicity is not merely simpleness, but it is a clarified vision”.

SN: Huh, at first glance the Stravinsky quote and the Rogers quote are very similar, but the more I think of it, I can see the difference you point out. Lovely quote from Anni Albers! I’ll have to add that one to my quote collection.

SN: How do you approach designing?

ST: I draw frequently in a grid-lined Moleskin sketchbook. Ideas that I want to develop further will move onto my weaving/design software. I sample when needed which is usually when I am transitioning from one construction to another. I rely on my weaving software to simulate the look of the cloth if I cannot sample.

SN: What is important to you in your designing?

ST: I weave and design textiles to solve visual and structural puzzles. My goal is to give the viewer something interesting or clever to look at. I think a good design should have balance that utilizes healthy proportions of positive and negative space. In addition, I strive for structural integrity.

SN: Is that visual structural integrity or actual, physical structural integrity, or both?

ST: Great question! Initially I was going to say that I strive for both but wasn’t sure if that would be understandable. I think structural integrity is easier to understand but there is definitely something of value to the visual structure of a weaving or textile design. A valuable lesson that I learned, working in industry, is to not let the repeat be obvious. Also, I am a stickler for making motifs or weave structures work within the limitations of the pattern or construction. These ideas do factor into my idea of visual structural integrity.

Blue twill origami weaving by Susie Taylor

Weaving and photo courtesy of Susie Taylor

SN: Do you work in series?

ST: Yes.

SN: What benefits do you get from this?

ST: Once I thread my loom with a specific construction in mind, I stay there and explore the many outcomes possible. Working this way allows me to find a construction with much flexibility and then push against the perceived limitations. I gladly make alterations to the loom tie-up as many times as needed. I enjoy making variations that paint a larger picture.

SN: Do you have favorite weave structures?

ST: Plain weave and variations including double weave. Twills that weave at 45 degree angle. 6 shaft satin and variations. 2 block twills.

SN: Do you have favorite things to weave?

ST: Abstract, geometric compositions that have a central focus with a surrounding border. I also like to weave high contrast stripes in addition to dimensional structures that require hand manipulation along with loom controlled structures.

SN: How important is symmetry to you? What about asymmetry?

ST: Symmetry comes easier for me but I like the challenge of asymmetry. I listen to a lot of jazz which is causing me to think about improvisation and possibly asymmetry. You won’t be seeing purely asymmetrical work anytime soon but I have a construction in mind that will allow me to work within those parameters.

Green origami weaving by Susie Taylor

Weaving and photo courtesy of Susie Taylor

SN: As with all you do, I can’t wait to see it!

SN: You can learn more about Susie’s work at her website.

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