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Sarah Ann Smith lives in Hope, Maine (approximately two hours north of Portland and four hours south of the nearest point in Canada). Hope (population 1313) is just eight miles inland from her “metropolis” of Camden (population of about 5600 in winters, lots more in summer).
In 1997, she shares that she, her husband, son and “son-under-construction” left the rat race. She and her husband had been U.S. Foreign Service Officers; he retired and she resigned to be a mom. They moved to San Juan Island, Washington, and built what they thought would be their “forever” retirement home. The school (only one on the island) wasn’t quite cutting it for their older son, so they decided to move. Happily, they ended up in Camden, Maine, then 18 months ago moved to more land and a one-level (for senior years) house in Hope. “Since I wasn’t born in Maine, I can’t really say I’m a Mainer, but I should be! My birthplace was an accident of geography, and I am finally home where I belong: in MAINE!”
Tell me a little about yourself.
Perpetually crazed I think! I always want to do way more than there are hours in the day/lifetime. I love art and color and cloth and have since I discovered sewing while aged in single digits. Nearly 50 years later, things “cloth” are still my passion!
After living and traveling abroad for most of my life, at age 40, I resigned from the Foreign Service and am quite content to enjoy this beautiful country–perhaps with forays abroad every few years if I can afford it. My past life influences my work and world view, but I am really inspired by the world around me and my friends and family.
As a kid, I always admired the kids who were good at art, and never thought I could do that. However, I’ve learned that you can learn, and that you just need to practice. Do it, do it again, and keep doing it and eventually you get better. Every quilt, every postcard, every sketch or doodle helps me improve. I figure if I haven’t learned something from every piece I make, I’m not trying hard enough! And I love it. I love the process of creation and love to share that with my students, friends, and folks in this group!
Why did you join Postmark’d Art?
I love the serendipity and joy of a card in my mailbox!
When did you start making postcards?
I don’t remember! A decade or so ago maybe? Maybe a bit longer? They were an offshoot of the Artist Trading Card swaps that were so popular a while back.
How do you display your postcards?
On a cast-off thread spool rack in my studio, in a basket, and sometimes just propped against the salt shaker on the dining table!
What have been some of your favorite themes?
Alphabet, various artists, Fruit and Circles.
Tell me about your other interests.
Reading. My family. My critters (four cats and a pug, who appears to shed more than four cats combined!). My quilty friends! Exercise sometimes; I NEED to do it, but don’t like it as much as I should! I taught myself drawing (sort of) about 9 years ago, and have recently begun working on sketching more and using watercolors as a way to brainstorm ideas for quilts. I love photography, but haven’t had time to indulge that art form too much lately, but if I ever get to travel again, “have camera, USB cable and laptop, will travel!”
This month we are in Pendleton, Indiana, visiting with Sherry Boram.
Do you call it a studio or sewing room? To yourself, to friends and family? Why do you think this is so? Difference in starting point between quilting and art? Thinking of this as a business rather than a hobby?
This is my studio. All of my previous sewing spots were simply places that I sewed – part of the laundry room, the dining room table, a corner of a large basement room, on the table in our Airstream, and in travel trailer park sheds during our vagabond years. In 2006 we decided to stay home and enjoy our family, friends, community and hobbies full time, so now I have a whole room dedicated to my favorite art form that warrants the name!
I’ve been sewing since 1957, though no quilts until 1990. Creating art from fabric became the perfect yin to the yang of my complex life. It’s never been meant to be a business; income from an occasional commission or sale helps buy thread and needles!
What do you have in the room? machines, supplies, fabrics, paints, etc. Anything that might surprise the rest of us?
My studio used to be Larry’s woodworking shop in our walkout basement and it is large enough for everything. Other than the cartons of “family stuff” on the shelf above my worktable, everything else is raw materials, tools, and things that inspire me. Under the shelf hang many of the artist trading cards that I’ve collected.
My favorite light is this little Janso LED lamp from IKEA (in store only) $10 which uses 80% less energy, lasts 20 times longer than incandescent, is cool, and so versatile. I use it for precision vision at the sewing machine and for hand sewing and detail work. I prefer it to Ott lights.
How is your “stuff” organized? How do you organize your fabric? By color? Amount? Any separate categories (batiks, hand dyes)? How do you organize your thread (color, weight)?
The shelves behind the table hold plastic baskets of printed cottons sorted by colors, themes, and style. Different types of fabrics are stored in cartons underneath – wools, neutral silks, colored silks, colored Kona solids, upholstery, PFD, flag nylon, Ultra Suede and leather, vintage, denim, linen, velvet, artificial flower parts, etc.
The main pressing/fusing station is handy to the sewing area and to the little drawers with all kinds of stored necessities. The black file boxes hold my cherished Postmark’d Art collection. The orange curtain covers things like cutter books, art-dedicated toaster oven, polar fleece, pillow forms, extra iron, chemicals and foam.
Beads are stored in small bags in self-lidded plastic boxes according to colors and types. Beading needles and Silamide are right there as well. Above them are sequins, watercolors and painting supplies. Thread is stored in the drawer stack according to type and utilitarian thread is in bags arranged by color.
The pegboard holds all kinds of tools along with scissors and rulers. Underneath are art papers, shipping materials, canvasses, projects, and quilt storage. This is where I usually paint, stamp, emboss, and pound. Along with the large work table, I have plenty of horizontal space which makes tidying up after a project optional, though my creative juices flow better when things are uncluttered.
I love bulletin boards and have 6 of them fully engaged in this room. Two are tucked in beside the bookcase where I stash my spare sewing machine, serger, and embroidery machine along with books.
The 3-tiered rolling white display table ($20) came from a Carson Pirie Scott store that was updating. Perfect for holding all the containers that used to be on the workbench. They hold sheers, metallics, yarns, roving, embellishments, specialty threads, floss, ribbons, batiks, fused scraps, hand dyed and painted fabrics, paints, glues, mediums, stamps and inks. A rolling metal rack from a Michaels store holds pillow forms, fleece, batting, and interfacing. By the way, used and bargain commercial display tables and racks from stores can be perfect for use in studios.
Anything more you want to add about your studio, organization, working methods, etc., please do.
The windows and door leading to the driveway are the only sources of natural light. We use this door a lot, so it’s not unusual to see a pair of serious work shoes on the floor! Over the door hangs a collection of small works that I’ve collected through trades and purchase.
Left of the design wall is the door to a large family room. The sink in the small kitchen is convenient for cleaning brushes and paint stuff. My studio is a good place to be and I appreciate having such a great space to make art. Aside from more natural light and maybe a cat, it’s everything I could ever want in a studio!
Thank you Sherry for a great tour. I know I’m envious of all that clean horizontal space.
Next month: Meta Heemskerk