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yay retro! talk to artist Susan of Fir + Wren
One of the artists whose work is really attracting my attention online at the moment is Susan Kane's, who works under the name Fir + Wren. I simply adore the texture in her work, her minimal palette, calming compositions and of course her subject matter - mid century tableware!
Susan has kindly allowed me to show you her work on the yay retro! blog as well as giving an interview, so here goes...Fir + Wren has a small studio/shop at Manchester Craft & Design, where Susan and her partner make and sell their work. Her partner designs and makes furniture so it's an excellent complimentary set up.
Susan gained a degree in Printed Textile Design at Manchester Polytechnic, and I feel you certainly get a sense of this in her paintings and drawings. She says, "I feel energised by, and a natural affinity with, any design or art from the Mid Century, and for my paintings, specifically the ceramics of that era. I don't always paint the patterns directly from the crockery, (more the shapes) and am more likely to use the pattern elsewhere in the painting - not sure why that is - probably my Textile Design background!"
..."Although my paintings are still life, I don't tend to arrange still life sets, but I might buy a single object that catches my eye- a jug or coffee pot and it will spark off an idea. Recently I bought a lovely old, green, French enamel jug and some brown glass, stoppered bottles with numbers printed on them. Also someone gave me a load of laboratory glassware recently, which I plan to use in some watercolour flower paintings. I am naturally drawn to plants and flowers too and love to include them in my paintings."
Susan says she likes to work in a variety of media - watercolour and gouache were her first mediums at college, then she progressed to Dr. Martin inks in the Textile industry, sadly these aren't colourfast so she can't use them for her paintings. So she has moved on to using acrylics which have a versatility as you can water them down as well as use them thickly.
I get a sense of Meditation in Susan's work, and asked if she was interested in this kind of thing? She told me that:
"Other people have said something similar- about a Zen like quality and that my pictures make them feel calm. I don't consciously realise this when I'm making a picture but I am very aware of composition, spacing and of giving objects space to breathe so maybe it's this that gives them a calm feeling".
She goes on to say: "I like simplicity and often leave things out that I had intended to include such as a patterned tabletop. At the same time I aim to produce things that are happy or up-lifting. In the past, working in textile design studios, I was asked to put more imagery into my designs- to give the customer more for their money! It's quite hard to get out of that mind set after having spent almost 30 years in the industry but my natural inclination is towards simplicity, hence my current paintings".
Artists Susan particularly likes are from the Mid Century and include - Cy Twombly, Victor Pasmore and Antoni Tapies. She also loves the work of Paul Klee and Egon Schiele for his line drawings. Goodness these would also be in my top ten, textural, minimal and sensitive these are all truly wonderful painters in my eyes too.
I asked 'what is a typical art related day for you? How do you get started on a piece of work?'
..."It can take me a while to get started on a new group of paintings. A lot of thinking goes on, the best time being first thing in the morning before I get out of bed. Images and ideas come into my mind which I jot down. I also have lots of books and my own photos of plant and flower imagery. When I get into the studio I start a piece of work on un-stretched paper or cloth. If I prepare my surface before hand I get too nervous and tighten up, so I find it works better for me if it's not too precious. then I relax and can allow myself to make a mess. As soon as I do that it tends to work out well. I stretch my paper or cloth half way through or at the end - very carefully!" What a great tip this is, it's so hard to get 'stuck' when making art!
Susan's work is available from The Buy Art Fair from 24th to 27th September, at the Old Granada Studios, Manchester from 24th till 27th September. You can also see her work and buy at her shop in the Manchester Craft and Design Centre. Alternatively you can hitch up with Susan on her Facebook page Fir + Wren as I have.
I asked Susan the all important question - Does she have vintage-wares at home? If so, what are your favourites and why? She told me: "I have a couple of Poole Pottery and Hornsea coffee pot sets. My favourite is a Figgjo Flint coffee pot. I haven't seen another like it. It's a lovely shape and has a green spot pattern around the lid and base.
She goes on to say that that she loves the 70's vintage red enamel coffeepot in the yay retro! online vintage shop because it's fun and makes her think of family camping trips when she was a child. She also likes the ice green contour Poole coffee pot for it's great shape. Ah! A woman after my own heart!!