Do you have a passion for art, but are not sure traditional painting and drawing is for you? Sue Smith, a member of the Craft Workshop has found a way, but it’s taken her almost 60 years.
Her quest began as a youngster in Blackpool where she was born, when she pleaded with her parents to let her attend an art club but they preferred a Latin and Classical Studies Saturday group.
“My high school art teacher reinforced their scepticism, as I couldn’t even draw a decent stickman! Well I still can’t: but my passion for colour, texture, fibre and paint only grew as my teaching career took me down avenues far removed from a traditional mainstream curriculum.
Shortly after a year teaching classics in Ellesmere Port, I retrained for special needs and found myself in a pupil referral unit teaching mixed media and creative writing. For most of my career I operated on a wing and a prayer, hoping no one would remove the mask I wore to hide my lack of skills and confidence”, she added.
During the 80s she set up one of the first alternative ‘Woodlands Schools’ in West Wales, designing and creating sets and costumes for theatre and dance amongst many other courses, providing kinaesthetic learning, but it took its toll on her.
Aged 50, she took a six-month sabbatical to teach in Bali.
“That lasted more than a decade and I dreaded my return to the UK,” she said. “The culture shock was indeed overwhelming, yet the biggest adventures were in store as I entered my retirement years.
Within weeks of landing I was to meet my husband to be, (marrying within eight months of us meeting), and then moved back to my home town. I was destined to meet two wonderful members of LSAAS in Ashton Gardens, full of enthusiasm and passion for their art.
So I joined the art society and this gave me the confidence to pursue a foundation course For Art and Design (FAD) at B&FC College, which I have just completed. It was one of the most memorable years of my life. Punctuated by sleepless nights and long hours it has been amazing. Naïvely, I thought I was going to learn to paint, but the most used brush was the one for glue!”
The course opened Sue’s eyes and expanded her outlook. Photography, printing, drawing, wire work, graphics, typography, illustration, ceramics, textiles, cultural and contextual movements as well as digital art and Photoshop were all ways to experiment.
The three photographs shown on this page reflect some of the themes underlying her studies.
“My interest in environmental concerns was behind all my major pieces, reawakening my passion for activism and engagement with the community,” she added.
The power of creative textiles as a narrative tool became her specialist practice. Integrating digital media with what is historically seen as a traditional woman’s craft and using only recycled materials, she has highlighted the damage caused by fast fashion.
Alan joins Sue at the Wednesday afternoon group, creating embroidered pieces.
“We are so happy to be members of the LSAAS and are looking forward to further artistic adventures together,” says Sue.
As the pressure to complete the course grew, Sue uttered the words “Never again” says Alan, but now she is thinking ‘What next?’ It will be fascinating to find out.