As artists, many of us spend the majority of our days alone in our studios. If you’re like me, you welcome the solitary hours to puzzle through the many stages of a piece as it evolves toward completion. But as much as I need that time to myself to let my ideas grow and develop on their own, I have come to realize that one of the greatest assets of my studio practice has been developing a trusted relationship with another artist.
In 2009, I fortuitously made the acquaintance of Dianne Shullenberger, another artist working with fiber. Less than four years later our friendship and artistic relationship has blossomed and we have come to rely on each other, not just as a means of constructive critique or moral support when one of us is wrestling with a particular piece mid-stream, but perhaps more importantly as someone who shares a similar commitment to her artistic practice. Our views coincide in that our love for visual expression completely flavors our individual perspectives on life, despite the fact that those perspectives may differ.
I consider Dianne a mentor, as well as a friend. And even though I am fiercely independent in my approach to my work, I have learned through our friendship the boundless advantage of having a colleague with whom to frankly exchange ideas. It is an invaluable benefit to know someone who will challenge your reasoning, pushing you to reach further and to dig more deeply as you work to manifest your concepts.
We both work in textile collage, which was the original impetus for our connection. But our work is entirely different, and perhaps that is partly the secret to the success of our alliance. Dianne is thoroughly engaged with the outdoors; her daily excursions on foot, bike or skis, are as important to informing her work as her methods and choice of materials. I, on the other hand, am a formalist and my work evolves from an interest in exploring conceptual subjects through a love of design, surface, and color. Dianne works largely by machine with minuscule pieces of commercially printed fabric, while I sew mostly by hand, implementing larger segments of silk, and sometimes non-woven material, that I have dyed or painted, incorporating resist techniques and intensive hand embroidery.
Yet there is much that we share: curiosity about working methods and artistic approach, respect for learning, and a feeling of responsibility to contribute to the arts in our communities. Dianne holds an annual artists’ salon in her gallery, aptly named “Delicious Words”. This popular event highlights local artists, authors and poets who talk about or read from their work. The audience is also treated to the talents of a local dessert chef mid-way through the performance. All proceeds from ticket sales are donated to a local charity.
We make a point of visiting as many exhibitions as we can, going our separate ways initially as we move about a gallery, reuniting afterward to view the works together and discuss our varying opinions. Often the pieces that catch our individual eyes, for good or bad, will be different, but the visit is all the more satisfying for the resulting exchange.
Above all, we share both a love for the work we do and a sense of gratitude that it is a driving force in our lives. We honor studio time as sacred, but have learned to appreciate that our time spent together contributes in large part to what makes the solitude of the studio so fruitful.
Thank you to guest contributor and textile artist, Elizabeth Fram. Visit her website to see more of her textile collage work.