Thursday, March 22, 2012

getting to know suzie chaney

there simply isn't any more appropriate way to introduce suzie than through the thought-provoking, delicate, raw beauty of her work. a photographer, book maker, mixed media artist, and sculptor,as well as a world traveler and mother, suzie chaney inspires me with her thoughtful work and exuberant appetite for life.  her plaster and burnt paper sculptures hunt my dreams. 

i hope you relish discovering her work and lovely being as much as i did interviewing her for my friday series of interviews with strong creative inspiring women.

some things you love:
In a former life I think I was a dolphin; I love water. Then again, I'd hate to eat fish. I'm with Linda McCartney and the never-eat-something-with-a-
face way of thinking. I'm so happy snorkeling round the little rocky coves on the Costa Brava in Spain, bodyboarding the Atlantic breakers or simply lying on my back in the nearby lake on warm summer evenings.
I love coming home, and that glimpse of the mountains that lets me know I'm almost there. Catching my breath when I see a deer, a boar, a hare, an eagle and feeling enthralled by their wildness, but equally loving my dogs and recognizing their inner wolf-like spirits.
Having no map or timetable. I stubbornly refuse to have GPS or a watch. With my trusty flask of rooibos tea and ancient Lion King blanket in my car, I'm always prepared for a picnic and I love being a Baudelaire flâneur which brings me round to... Pentax Spotmatic loaded with film.
Live music; impromptu get togethers, street entertainment or an amazing concert. The best ever was Radiohead in Nîmes at the stunning roman arena in 2009. {I've got my ticket for this July too, yay!}
Stumbling across surprising, thoughtful work in an unexpected or tiny, out of the way venue.
Playing cards with the kids in my bed.

some things you love about yourself (go ahead, brag a little):

My beautiful and creative three children; my sense of adventure; my compassion, patience and iron will.

what you're working on at the moment:
I have several things on the go right now. Preparing for an art event that takes place in my part of France in May, which is mostly going to be sculptural pieces and photography. As these are still evolving I can't really explain very much, but the work all relates to writing. One thing that tends to happens with my sculptures is they take on a life of their own, and almost dictate to me how they shape themselves. These sculptures will later be shown at an exhibition in a beautiful medieval town with an 8th century abbey, which is very exciting. I'm also creating a body of work for a local b&b, making linocuts which are based on imaginary or hybrid creatures derived from our local flora, fauna and landscape, and alternative photography methods like cyanotypes and pinholes of our environment. On top of all this I'm setting up a shop on my website, giving me a whole bunch of problems that are causing me sleepless nights but hey, that's where the patience and the iron will kick in. I definitely inherited that from my Dad. My siblings and I like to remind him he once said "give me an instruction book that tells me how to do it, and I'd happily remove your mother's spleen".

where do you draw inspiration from?

For years I used to make work about animals. Then I had a bad accident, and once I recovered enough to work again I was obsessed with the body and the mind; bone, anatomy, physiology and psychology. The animals are still often present though sometimes if only as an abstract idea of flesh, fur or feather. Also fragility, memory, a sense of transience, the idea of ghosts and the traces left behind.
Moodiness and melancholia; light, air and space; organic shape and muted colours; the art of storytelling.
The Japanese have a word for imperfection, asymmetry, emptiness and melancholia: wabi-sabi. It's my fundamental principle.

what is your creativity nemesis?
Looking too much at other peoples' work on the internet. It clouds my judgement, makes me worry I'm utter shit and distracts me from being in the studio.

and your most effective weapon against it?
Getting absorbed in my own work.

something you've learned the hard way:
Not to make work specifically to sell. When I opened shops on etsy and elsewhere a few years ago I made horrible clichéd illustrated digital prints, bookmarks etc. Oh yes, they sold OK but I felt lost. This work had nothing of me in it; my journey, my meaning, my soul. It also laid me wide open to plagiarism as that kind of work can be so derivative anyway and made me question whether I was guilty of it too.
So I kicked myself in the head, shut up shop and got back to creating work that came from within, that had something to say. Funnily enough my work now sells much better, not online however but in the real world.

would you please recommend a book?
'Fireworks: Nine Profane Pieces' by Angela Carter. A collection of short stories that are dreamy, beautiful and disturbing.

favorite natural food to snack on:
homemade houmous. Mmm mmm.

when I say feminine you say...
intuitive, strong

something you need to do less of:

stressing about my rather chaotic house. It's been a 'project' for 7 years and seems to not move forward at all. I have to just accept the wobbly floorboards, crumbly stonework and leaky roof.

something you need to do more of:

Others would say housework! I say spending time in my garden. I love to grow veggies, roses, meditteranean herbs and fruit trees. I also crave more traveling.

your perfect day:

I think a day is only perfect while you are living it or reflecting on it, it's impossible to prescribe one.  But it would probably involve some of these; the sunshine, my family, a city with great art, music, tomatoes in some form or other, photography, a funfair, laughter, a swim in the sea, horse riding, a campfire, a beautiful sunset.

thank you, suzie for kindly sharing your life, energy and creativity with us!

for more of suzie's work and updates of her lovely blog, please visit her website at

images via used with suzie's permission.


  1. Bravo Suzie and anca! creating work that comes from within...gotta love it.

    1. that is the hope and the constant battle. thank you, leslie!

  2. Thank you so much Anca, I was honoured to take part! x

    1. it was my absolute pleasure to get to peek inside your life!

  3. Suzie knows, I love her work, having featured it myself a couple of times. Very pleased to see her here and to learn more about her.

    1. and i am thankful you stopped by, deborah! for now i have discovered your lovely blog!

  4. thank you for introducing me to this awesome work and person

  5. Anca....fabulous interview with Suzie. I love her work and so identify with everything she says....the nemesis of looking at other people's work and then trying to make your own....ah....yes. Also, what happens to the "work" when it's so intricately tied to the marketplace....I got myself lost that way's a delicate line to walk. Love the way you structure these interviews....great job and many thanks!!!

    1. grateful that other artists have the courage to speak up about these struggles. these are delicate and vulnerable places and it is a blessing that we have this community and we are able to learn from each other. thank you, patti, for partaking in the conversation!

  6. Anca, thank you for introducing Suzie and her work.. I love the understated elegance and depth of meanings in her work and words.. and I needed to read her approach to her work-- creating from within as that is my continuous search for myself and my work.

    1. thank you for joining the conversation, donna! although we all battle in our own ways in this quest to create from within, there is much encouragement and wisdom in sharing our struggles and breakthroughs. pleased that you are finding suzie's work as thoughtful and beautiful as i do.

  7. oh my goodness, i think i just filled with awe and fell in love. both her work and her philosophy/outlook are simply beautiful.

    1. a beautiful artist and a sweet soul. i am pleased you are loving suzie and her work as i do.

  8. Anca, I just loved this interview with Suzie. Her work is stunning. Her words, epiphanic (spell check says that's a word) and inspiring. Thank you.

  9. i believe you can invent a word that already exists. cheers to that! thank you for chiming in!

  10. finally, i get time to sit and enjoy and absorb this great interview... insightful open questions, eqully open, inspiring answers... thank you both so much :)
    PS thank you, anca, for dropping by and leaving comments... it means a lot x

  11. A lovely interview that is just right for me to read today. "creating work that came from within" ..... I know that this is the only way for me to work. When I stray from it I tie myself in knots. It's strange how we need constant reminders even when we know what is right for ourselves. I LOVE Suzie's work. Thanks Anca and Suzie!