BNAFA – Rachel Suntop of Cool Climates

Please tell us how you became the amazing fiberista you are today. How did you fall in love with fiber arts?
At age 5, my mom taught me how to sew on the sewing machine. At age 6, I learned how to knit. Since that time period, I fell in love with all kinds of fiber arts. I did embroidery, needlepoint and latch hook rugs at a very early age, in addition to my sewing and knitting. About 12 years ago, I learned how to felt. I started spinning yarn in 2002. I took a class in beadwork in 2003. I have since been working with all of these techniques.
What is your most astounding fiber victory to date?
What technique(s) offers the most challenge? Probably creating nearly 2 dozen wild hats/headdresses for my graduate thesis show in 2002. I really challenged myself to use unorthodox materials and make very unique pieces. It took me about a year to make all the hats, in addition to writing a long thesis paper where I researched many different artists.
Who inspires you? Does that inspiration present in your fiber work?
I’m inspired by many artists, including Nick Cave, Annette Messager, plus numerous bloggers and fiberartists from around the world in Ravelry and Etsy. I also am really inspired by the textile art I’ve seen in Iceland (I did an artist residency there in 2005) and other Nordic countries. I would say that certain aspects of others’ work show up in my own work.
Why do you do what you do? What drives you?
I do what I do because I am passionate about it. To me, creating art is one of the most fulfilling things
for me ever. I feel like I live a much richer life by making art. I tackle various problems and challenges with it, capture bits of life that I want preserved (such as travel) and use it as a form of therapy.
Where do you see the fiber community headed? What trends do you see coming (or going)? {Gaze into that crystal ball.}
It’s hard to know for sure but I see a major movement coming in reusing or upcycling materials that had
previous uses to make new artwork. In this day and age where so much is wasted, I think artists are becoming more interested and passionate about making “green” art or art that addresses some of our problems with wastefulness. I also see other trends: shabby chic is very big right now. So is organic and natural things. I also see some very interesting things coming out in the political sphere and “craftivism” or people using crafts in ways to better the community and the world.
What would you like to see more of in the fiber community?
I would like to see more emphasis on how to find jobs and get careers with fiber. I went to graduate school at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and was disappointed because I was hoping to get a job

afterwards as a result of the degree. However, this did not happen and I feel frustrated about this. On another subject, I would like to see what Etsy people call “resellers” or people who sell cheap crafts made in third world countries banned from Etsy, a site that places a lot of emphasis on “handmade.” I feel these particular individuals harm the other sellers who really do make unique handmade art that has to be priced more steeply. I also wish that people didn’t underprice their art work (particularly knitting) on sites like Etsy. I feel that they are undervaluing their time and work and it gives people the wrong idea about the value of handmade.
If you only had 200 yards of sock yarn to create something amazing – what would it be?
a knitted vacation diary.
In 63.4 seconds or less…
1.  Favorite color: green
2.  Favorite color combinations: greens and pinks, colors inspired by oceans, forests and natural places, Japanese color combos (such as Noro yarns), unusual bold combinations of colors you wouldn’t necessarly think go together, neutrals/earth tones
3.  Favorite shape: stars, trees (roots), corals, organic forms like seashells
4.  Favorite food: Thai food, baby!
5.  Most fiberista friendly spot ever visited: hmmm. probably a tie between Penland School of Crafts in North Carolina, New York City, Portland, Oregon and Iceland.
6.  Favorite fiber to work with: I love all kinds, but probably luxury fibers like silk, cashmere, angora, etc.
7.  Most important quality when buying fiber: probably the colors
8.  Favorite film/show to craft to: too many to note! I love watching Lonely Planet, Simpsons, Wizard of Oz, American Beauty, documentaries, etc.
9.  Craziest place you have crafted: probably on the subway
10. Dream fiber destination: Again, too many to note! Especially want to go to Australia, New Zealand, Fiji/South Pacific Islands, Hungary, eastern Europe, Germany, Newfoundland and so many more!

Rachel was born in Rochester, NY and earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Ceramics at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign in 2000. In 2002, Rachel received a Master’s Degree in Textile Design with a Minor in Papermaking at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. She creates hats, scarves, jewelry and sculptures with fiber and mixed media. Felting, knitting and beadwork are techniques that appear frequently in her work.
Rachel draws much of her inspiration from nature; organic forms, landscapes, plants and animals all influence her designs. She also finds inspiration by the arts and crafts of various ethnic groups and world cultures. Her travels create strong themes in her art. In 2004, she was an artist in residence at the Red Cinder Creativity Center on Hawaii’s Big Island. In May and June of 2005, she was the visiting artist at Hafnarborg Cultural Center in Hafnarfjordur, Iceland. In June 2007, she returned to Iceland and also visited Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Finland. These three trips have had a significant impact on her artwork.
 personal website: http://www.rsuntop.com

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