Featured Artist Teresa Shields
Interview by Ann Buss
Teresa describes herself as an artist who works in fiber at this moment.
Teresa studied fiber in college, and also painting, and she has worked in several mediums, having shows and doing installations. But she says that she moved away from painting because she “likes to make things.” She has made things her whole life: when she was a child this meant making shoes or purses out of paper and scotch tape. She says that making things like the fiber works she does now is a different process of brain for her than is painting a picture. It feels to her like there’s an added element of play in making her fiber art and says it is “looser somehow.” She explains, “I picture it in my head and when I create it, it comes out looking that way. But a painting tells me what it wants to do next and may come out very different from the picture in my head.”
Teresa says modestly that, “Everything I do is basic,” and that after learning basic skills of knitting and stitchery from friends she just kept repeating those basic skills and playing with them and allowing her projects to evolve. An example is her fabric works series in which she explores color theory and themes in physics–like the laws of attraction—in a playful way. The designs stitched onto felt-covered squares look like cellular structures and are intricate and delightful, but the zillion stitches repeated over the surface are basic moves. A lot of moves: a 4 x 4” work can take a week or more to stitch. Lately, she says, these fiber works are morphing into something more like descriptions of shapes in nature, things like leaves or a close up of the inside of a fruit, the entire design described by thousands of French Knots. Basics taken into new territory.
Another example of Teresa’s work method is the hats and purses she learned to knit a long time ago. Friends showed her the steps of casting on, casting off, and how to pearl. She says she played with these basics and kept experimenting and over time her creations became more sculptural, which pleased her because she loves sculpture.
Where she once wondered what she would find to make art about, she says she now has such a backlog of ideas waiting to be produced that she “could keep doing what I’m doing a long time. I’ve tapped into something. It’ll evolve.”
Part of the reason her work continues to evolve, she says, is that she is always at it. She says, “When I’m sitting in the airport, I’m drawing something or sewing something or thinking about what I want to make.” When she had small children and was running a martial arts school (she has a Black Belt in Karate) she adapted her form of art to something she could do with her hands and have with her in her bag all the time. She loves being in her studio at home and gets to her desk by 8 or 9 daily, putting in 6 or 7 hours before the kids get home. She usually can’t wait to get into the studio and back to work. When I asked her what advice she’d give to any artist who feels stuck or non-productive, she advised regular hours and doing some bit of art daily. Teresa says that being disciplined this way “lays a foundation and allows me to play. Since I know I have lots of time I can relax and let things come to me.”
Her goals for herself are to continue with her new fiber series based on nature and to do 20 or 30—or even 50–and to show them all as a group. She feels challenged by the idea of “getting my stuff out there,” and acknowledges that that’s the part she doesn’t know enough about. She does not relish the chores and the marketing aspect or making art: “I resent the time away from my knots!” But she has been experimenting with getting her work into shows and has been mailing them to venues she would not have considered before. Two pieces just recently got into a show in California which she did not expect to happen.
Her stitching continues to evolve as quietly and creatively as cell division. This adaptable artist will continue to take needle and thread and basic moves and make them into works of art.