We've had a chance to talk to one of our favourite hand embroidery artists: author, designer, and international teacher Sue Spargo! This lovely lady works closely with WonderFil Specialty Threads™ and we've had the opportunity to create several lines of thread (and wool fabric) in her name.
Southern Africa had a considerable influence on Sue’s creativity. She was born in Zambia and then educated in South Africa. She is still influenced by the energy and color of traditional African designs. Later Sue moved to England; this shift between two very different environments also inspires many of her designs. All these early experiences combined to stir her love of “primitive” arts and crafts and grew into a focus on contemporary folk-art.
The United States had always beckoned and in 1989 that dream was fulfilled. Sue moved to Connecticut and subsequently to Tennessee, Utah and Ohio. Each new state presented sharp contrasts and stirred more new ideas. With each move she was influenced by many wonderful, quilt enthusiasts.
All Sue’s current designs are available as books or patterns. Her first technique book, Creative Stitching, was published in 2012 followed by Creative Texturing in 2014. Martingale published a coffee table book ‘Stitches to Savor’ of Sue’s work which was released in late 2015.
Sue’s other absorbing passions include being with the four strong and fulfilling personalities that are her children, tending her garden and traveling to new and exciting destinations.
Q&A with Sue Spargo:
Q: I understand you have gotten a lot of inspiration from the places you have lived. Is there one particular place that really inspired you?
A: I would have to say that a lot of my influences came from growing up in South Africa. I lived in Johannesburg for most of the first 30 years of my life (apart from a short move to the UK). The colors and art there were a strong influence.
Q: You are known around the world for your beautiful hand stitching. Has that always been your focus?
A: Oh, no. I started out as a traditional quilter. I have really only been doing the hand work for about 8 years. About 15 years ago, I started dabbling with wool, as a way to add texture to my quilts. Then I added a few embellishing stitches. I became fascinated with the texture and depth it added, and I found that my students were very enthusiastic about working with wool.
Q: So did someone teach you the stitches?
A: No, I am totally self-taught. I looked through many books to find the right stitch for the particular piece I was trying to accentuate, and I started to become fascinated with the difference made by the threads I chose.
Q: You are very much in demand as a teacher. What is your favorite part about teaching?
A: I love getting my students to be more creative; I want them to believe they can make their own choices. Rather than saying ’Do this’, I like to encourage them to be their own artist and grow to be confident in their decisions.
Q: Tell me a bit about your company; I understand it is a bit of a family affair.
A: Yes, three of my four children work full time for the company. My daughter Kelly is the manager, my son Jason takes care of the dying of colors, a lot of the graphics for my books, and the ribbons, and my daughter Amy is our accountant, and has really taken charge of our non profit work.
Q: How did you end up partnering with WonderFil for your Eleganza, and your new wool thread (Ellana) and fabrics?
A: That was really all Andrew. He approached me about it for 2 or 3 years in a row at Market, and I always told him I was happy with what I had. But in the end, it was just good timing. The more I did the hand work, the more I understood what I liked and didn’t like about the threads. I really wanted a thread with a shorter variegation, and he understood that. He has always been fabulous to work with, and when he says he is going to do something, he really gets it done.
Q: Do you have a busy year scheduled for 2017?
A: Yes, I am going to start teaching again in January, and I have a couple of new things up my sleeve. I will have a new book out for Market, and of course, we will be promoting the new wool thread and fabric.