TAFA: The Textile and Fiber Art List

Friday, August 15, 2008

That creative chick, Susan Sorrell, teaches online!

I first saw Susan Sorrell's work on Etsy, several months ago. Immediately, I found myself drawn to it. Then, when I first started Fiber Focus, I invited her to write an article. She said, "Sure, I'll try." No word. Several weeks passed and a friend invited me to join Fiber Arts/Mixed Media, a social network, in fact, a very cool group. Guess who started it? Yep, that creative chick, Susan Sorrell. I joined and then decided to form my own, more informal network, as a companion to this blog, Fiber Focus, the group. Some time passed and then I got this e-mail announcing that Susan was teaching online classes. Huh? How does that work? I e-mailed her again and asked her to explain it in an article for this blog. Which she did. Scroll down. It's below...

First you have to look at some of this woman's work. Let's take a look at some of her sermons (Click on images for a larger picture):

Take the time to ingest the message. Susan is a Southerner (that's the lower half of the United States). Preaching is a Southern thing. As a pastor's daughter I am drawn to it, especially if it makes you think twice and is full of color and bead work. About 20 years ago I was managing an artisan's co-op in Chicago. I was sick of the traffic, or all the "issues" and decided to go on a pilgrimage. I went to Howard Finster's Paradise Garden, in Georgia. He was still alive, but barely. He was a preacher who got zapped by God and started painting. Susan definitely got zapped by something and spews out paintings and textiles. She obviously has a message. In her words, this is it:

Who Is SuSan SoRrELL???

With a needle and thread I will turn the art world on its ear.

I raise abandoned beads that people have discarded in thrift stores.

I color outside the lines….and do it with permanent markers.

I like the color red, because it is obnoxious, vibrant and loud.

Fiber art is not something you eat for breakfast….you hang it on your wall.

I am inspired by lots of artists and creative people…living and dead.

I pull my ideas out of the air like a magician.

I have a college degree in Visual Arts, so that makes me know less about how not to save money.

All my clothes are from Old Navy and have paint stains on them.

I am an artist…..watch me paint the world clueless.

Much of her work shows women or portraits challenging the world up front. Look at me in the eyes!

So what do you think? Can you learn something from this woman? I happen to LOVE her work, but maybe you think it's too busy, too cluttered, to full of something. Still, don't you think she could help free up that wild woman (or unlikely man) inside of you? Don't you think it could be worth a $60 or so investment to find out what demons (or unlikely angels) might be released? This is where the classes come in. Here is what she wrote:

Online Classes??
by SuSan SoRreLL

That is what people say to me when they ask me what I do for a living. First I have to explain to them what a Fiber Artist is and then how I teach classes over the Internet. “This is the wave of the future and pretty soon you will be able to do all types of classes on the web”, I tell them. People that have grown up with a computer see this a future trend, but people around my age….44….are still leery about the computer and a hacker stealing their ID. My great aunt, who is 91, just can’t get over the fact that I am making a living as an artist, plus this computer monster that has taken over the world. But now, computers are getting so simple to use that several years ago I was approached to design a Fiber Collage class for an online website. Now, I have a Masters in Art Education and had taught for 12 years in the public school system, so I saw this as an excellent opportunity not to waste this expensive diploma hanging on my wall.

Online art classes come in 2 categories, Projects and Creative Learning, in my opinion. Some classes that you can take will show you how to make a project, so you end up with the teacher’s example. (To me that is like coloring in a coloring book or following a dress pattern) The 2nd category is what I like to call Creative Learning. This is how I was trained to become an art teacher…to help the students think out of the box and try new techniques. I write my lessons like I would like a lesson plan in a classroom and shoot a lot of photos to go along with the lessons. Keeping it simple and using a lot of visuals is the way I like to do my workshops. I guess I write the lesson as if I was going to take it. I have taken many online classes and the teachers are really creative, but their lessons are wordy and don’t make sense. So, you will encounter a lot of different teaching styles out there, like you would in a classroom.

The Pros in taking an online class is you can do it on your time schedule. You don’t have to waste gas and drive anywhere. You don’t have to drag around all of your art supplies, they are right there in your studio. You can download the lessons and you have a mini book to keep of the class. You meet other students from all over the world and see how they interpret the lesson. You can experiment without feeling like you have to make your project perfect, so there is no pressure. The cost of the workshops cannot be beat!! I charge around 60.00 for a 6 weeks workshop and if I had to teach it in person I would have to charge around 350.00 a student.

Yes there are some Cons to taking an online class. No immediate feedback from your teacher and other students. No one on one, in person learning while you are working on your project. That is the biggest Con and there probably are several more, but I can’t think of any.

How I teach my online class is everyone in the class are given a password to an online forum and you can download the lesson from the forum. The forum is there for students to share, ask questions, and make comments about each lesson. I download the photos that are in the lesson, that way you can get a clear picture of what I am demonstrating. Plus, in the future I am working on having videos accompany my classes. The forum isn’t in real time, since there are students from all over world in different time zones. But if there is a new way for me to communicate with my students, I will find it. I am really big on the learning experience and want to make it a positive experience with all of the students. When the class ends, I have a Yahoo group and Flickr.com groups set up for everyone to keep sharing their work. Just because the 6 weeks might be over, doesn’t mean I am not there to help.

If you are considering on taking an online class, choose something that really interest you and you will be more apt to do the lessons. You need some motivation, but it is a really inexpensive way to try out new crafts and meet wonderful people.

Hope to see you online!!
Susan Sorrell

I'm not going to list all the classes because I have a feeling this is a post that will be searched often. Here is the link info:

Creative Chick Studios-Online classes:

I wish I could let Susan unleash the demons/angels inside of me... Let me make this clear, though. I've never met the woman, have had very little contact with her, but all I know is that if an artist's soul speaks through their work, then that creative chick, Susan, is someone I like. I mean, look at how she ends her e-mails: "Laugh, Love and do the Hokie Pokie" I can't dance and have no clue what the hokie pokie looks like, but if I could and I did, I think I would want to try it out with her.

Disclaimer done, I need to add one more thing. Susan joined the little itsy-bitsy network I started, Fiber Focus, the group! Hubba, hubba, try-very-hard-to-dance-something! I have a good feeling that we will get to know each other better over time. A cyber-relationship I look forward to! (OK, I'll let you know if it turns into a nightmare, chuckle, chuckle...)

Now, to her links. The woman is all over the place! I've been spending a lot of time trying to learn this blogging/networking thing (with the supposed goal of promoting my store on Etsy, ha!) and there she is... I've given you some active links above, but here are more that you will have to cut and paste in your browser:

Blog: www.chatterbox.creativechick.com
Studio: http://www.littlehouseartstudios.com
Shop: http://creativechick.etsy.com/

The weirdest and funniest?
Need to get hitched quick? www.weddingsinaflash.com

Definitely an entrepreneurial woman! I will study her closely...
Following you will find her bio, but I just need to say one more thing. It's been like pulling teeth to get people to leave comments on this blog. I have no clue why. Traffic is growing and people spend an average of 5 minutes here, so that means interest is being captured. But, I look at other blogs and they have 26 or 52 comments. Why? I have no clue. But, here is something that might tweak your interest.......... Ask Susan (lowering voice to a whispered tone) about the Bigfoot sightings in her area. Let's see what answers she comes up with....

Susan Sorrell has always had a “wild imagination” growing up. Traveling all over the world with her father’s job, she has had to entertain herself with all kinds of arts and crafts. She didn’t become serious about art, until she made it her major at Winthrop University. Earning a Bachelor’s degree in Visual Design, Susan worked for a short time as a graphic artist, then decided to get her Masters in Education at Converse College, to teach art. Being around children was a great way to get her creative juices flowing, so she quit after 12 years and became a full time artist. Susan calls herself a “mixed media” artist, since she likes to dabble in a lot of different medias. She has been working with textiles since 1998 and hasn’t tired of it yet. Combining painting, sewing, beading and embellishing on fabric has opened new avenues to express her self. Her pieces are whimsical, colorful and have a personal theme. Susan likes to draw her inspirations from her life and what is happening in the world. Her recent series of work, “Southern Fried Fiber” is inspired by her “Southern” roots. Susan lives in Greenville, South Carolina,USA. To view more of Susan Sorrell work visit her website www.creativechick.com.


  1. Wow Rachel,
    I can't get over how cool I am!! :) It is like reading about a different person....I hope I can stay on that high wire. ;)

    Bigfoot has been located in Northern Georgia...where my family is from. I think it is great Uncle Earl that got lost in the woods and has been living off of possum and kudzu. Check it out on www.cnn.com (I wonder if they found him by his gin still?)
    susan :>

  2. Im off to check out Susans blog - her work looks great - ver interesting. I noticed your comment re comments. I dont know the trick to lots of comments either, but one suggestion - i find blogs that have a truncated feed in feedreaders such as googlereader(the one I use) -are easier to skim over and not read when i am in a hurry. unless the first line grabs me i dont bother to click to go to the full blog post, especially if Im in a hurry. those blogs where i can read the whole thing in googlereader im more inclined to click on to leave a comment, even when Im busy. also generally with comments- i dont have time to comment often - i try to spread them around a bit, just so my cyber friends know Im around and reading, but commenting all the time would be a round the clock job!

  3. Paula Hewitt- Very interesting.... The articles that I have read suggested choosing the shortened version in order to keep people from stealing your material. If you have the full version, they can easily take it without leaving a traceable record. I would be very interested in hearing from others whether this is an issue or not.

    I admit unashamedly that I am very green at this whole blogging thing, but I have also looked at enough blogs to know what interests me and what makes me go "ho, hum..." Obviously, I feel that the articles I write or the guest authors I have interests me and will hopefully inspire others, but I also do much of it under the "clock" Even simple posts can take 2 hours of my time. More complex ones take up to 5 hours. If I read something I wrote a months ago, I might cringe with all the mistakes I see, but I just can't commit more time to it. So, it's mostly about shooting from the waist. (What a weird analogy!)

    I have many friends who openly admit they are lurkers, but I don't quite understand it, especially when I see lots of comments on low content articles. I guess it's a matter of loyalty. I would love more comments, not because I want the numbers, but because I am truly interested in what other people think on certain topics. That's why the Fiber Focus group came into being and why it's turning out to be so much fun.

  4. Wow - she is so fruitful! As in produces a lot and as in nutty like a fruitcake. And I mean that in a good way!

  5. I am a Susan Sorrell "groupie." I've taken all of the classes she teaches online except "Fear No Color." Susan is like no other teacher I have ever had. She encourages creativity, taking chances, and stepping outside of the box. I was a landscape painter with a little bit of experience in quiltmaking when I took my first class from her. Now I consider myself a tried and true fiber artist. I still occasionally go out to do landscape paintings, but because of Susan my creative energies are devoted to fiber art. BTW - I am going to have my 80th birthday in January. So, you see, you can teach an old dog new tricks. LOL

  6. Caroline Commins- your comment got me all weepy! That is absolutely wonderful!! So many people think their life is over at 60 and here you are, learning new things in your 70's! Admirable.

    My mother bought herself a pair of snowshoes for her 70th birthday. Wish I had her energy. By the way, all three of us are capricorns...

    Thanks for your comment!

  7. Hi,
    Greetings from London (Great Britain). Great to find your blog to read. Here in GB I chair a Textile Forum (ERTF) aiming to take Textile Art out of the realms of 'craft', as it is often considered here, and into an equal standing with other disciplines in the fine art world. The forum website will be online by October (hopefully) and updates on its progress can be found on my own blog, so please visit. There are now several such groups based in GB and we are banding together to get textile art a much higher profile - we're fed up as being described as ' nice women who do a bit of embroidery etc..' We think its about time we are taken seriously as the artists we are. We have a lot of exhibitions coming up in Great Britain in the coming years esp. in our area of East Anglia . We are taking our lead from Boudicca- Iceni, warrior women for Textile Art!

  8. Excellent work Susan!

    I personally love the online class idea because I'm in Turkey. Fiber art is becoming quite interesting here - our Selcuk art festival last summer featured amazing work from women all over the country. Most women here quilt, crochet, knit etc, but many are taking these traditional crafts and evolving them into very unique expressions. Check out Etsy's Geolocator for "Turkey" sometime and see what I mean.

    Totally in love with your 'karma fairy', who I'm thinking will be inspiration for a Turkish version with evil eye beads!

    Cheers, Catherine

  9. I just learned about your blog. I love it, so much eye candy and wonderful things to see and learn. I'll be back!

    In reading the comments, I'd like to say that I prefer to read the entire post in my reader, then come to comment as I wish. If I can't see the whole thing, then I get irritated that you are MAKING me me come, and unless your lead-in is completely fascinating (if I take the time to read it), then I will miss your whole post. My understanding is that even if someone reads through a reader, you still get their stats.

  10. How to get more comments: ask questions, offer prizes, respond to the comment writer directly. Most people will not go back to reread comments on a post they have already read, so they will likely miss the answer you post. Send them an email, or write on a comment on their blog.

  11. What a great article. I HAVE to share this with my readers. I've scheduled a link to your post to go live on my blog early tomorrow morning (central USA time), August 22. Thank you so much for publishing this rockin piece.


  12. Great article! Susan is an incredibly gifted fiber artist and she's a terrific person too!


“Sing like no one's listening, love like you've never been hurt, dance like nobody's watching, and live like it's heaven on earth.”

“Whatever you say, say it with conviction.”

(Both by the master, Mark Twain)

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