Susan McCraw



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Artist’s Statement

My primary inspiration comes from antique and modern carpets and other weavings made in traditional societies around the world. The pieces that appeal to me most are not the classic “Oriental rugs” from mansions and museums, but items used daily by ordinary people. In the desert regions of Turkey and Afghanistan, for instance, a carpet may be a floor covering, an interior partition, or the outside door of a tent. A stack of rugs may form a bed, a table or a seat. In Africa, India or Indonesia, a large rectangle of cotton, silk or bark cloth may be a skirt, a table cover, a baby carrier or a man’s principal garment.

Raw materials for a new composition come from my archive of sketches and photos of ethnic textiles. The starting point has often been a woven or embroidered shape or symbol that has survived since “time out of mind” in tribal garments made by hand in Africa, the Middle East, Asia and South America. Others have arisen from traditional combinations of colors, textures and patterns in fabric items created for personal use -- rugs, baby carriers, tents, horse blankets, salt bags and mirror cases -- carefully fashioned to be beautiful as well as to provide practical service. Often I mix elements from three or four sources.

I make my work to hang on walls, and my pieces are assembled and finished as fabric collages. Each one is a “sandwich” of three or more layers of fabric and pressed fiber. Some of the fabrics I have painted or printed by hand; others are produced commercially here or abroad. The top layer consists of many pieces of fabric and threads, sewn and fused together. The middle of the “sandwich” is thin cotton batting, like soft felt. The back is fabric again, usually one large piece or a few pieces sewn together. Often I embroider the top layer of fabric, and I always sew lines of stitching through all of the layers in order to bind them together. These lines of stitching (technically, “quilting”) create a relief design on the top and back surfaces.

The emphasis in my work in the last two years has shifted away from explicit ethnic models toward the manipulation of fundamental forms: zigzags, squares, circles and stripes, repeated, reflected, exaggerated and fragmented. My current pieces present concentrated and simplified variations on these elements. At the same time, I’ve begun to work with additional techniques – hand and machine embroidery, layering, monoprinting, screen printing, stamping and rubbing; and new materials – paints, wax pastels, pen and ink.

Still, I hold in common with the textile makers of faraway times and places the satisfaction of combining colors, shapes, and lines to delight the eye and stimulate the imagination of the beholder.


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My initial professional preparation was as a historian of Africa and the Near East.  I graduated from Harvard Law School in 1978, and practiced as a partner at a downtown Boston firm.  I have been making fabric art for over fifteen years, during which I have studied color and design at the DeCordova Museum School in Lincoln, Massachusetts.


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Juried, Invitational or Judged Exhibitions

Art Quilts Lowell 2012: Music, The Brush Gallery, Lowell, MA

New Legacies: Contemporary Art Quilts, Lincoln Center Gallery, Fort Collins, CO

"Images," Lowell Quilt Festival, Massachusetts
"Light Fantastic," Main Street Gallery, Groton, NY
"Quilts=Art=Quilts," Schweinfurth Memorial Art Center, Auburn, NY

“Art in Fiber,” Cambridge Art Association University Place Gallery,  Cambridge, Massachusetts

"Quilts Crossing Borders," Kniznick Gallery, Women's Studies Research Center, Brandeis University, Waltham, Massachusetts*
"Unbound," World Quilt Expo, Manchester, New Hampshire

“Layers and Milestones,” Thompson Library, North Grosvenordale, Connecticut*
“The Creative Force,” Houston International Quilt Festival, Houston, Texas

“Red,” University Place Gallery, Cambridge, Massachusetts
“Inaugural Exhibit,” Belmont Gallery of Art, Belmont, Massachusetts
“Fabric Harmonies,” Dana Art Gallery, Wellesley, Massachusetts

Messages in Thread,” Wellesley Public Library, Wellesley, Massachusetts*
"Inspired Stitches,” Newton Free Library, Newton, Massachusetts*
“Enchanted Places, Magic Carpets,” Municipal Art Gallery, Jackson, Mississippi; two-person show
“Art Quilts at the Sedgwick,” Sedgwick Cultural Center, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
“Image and Essence,” Landau Gallery, Belmont, Massachusetts*

“January Thaw,” The Center for Arts in Natick; Massachusetts

New England Images at the Lowell Quilt Festival, Massachusetts;
“Meditations,” The Center for Arts in Natick, Massachusetts

New England Images at the Lowell Quilt Festival, Massachusetts;
“Art at Harvard Neighbors,” Harvard Neighbors Gallery, Cambridge, Massachusetts

A Quilters’ Gathering, Westford, Massachusetts.  Honorable Mention, 1996

1996 and 1998 
Vermont Quilt Festival; Northfield.  Second Place, 1996 and 1998

* Shows by New Wrinkle, a group of six textile artists who work separately, but meet periodically to critique each other’s work and to plan exhibits


SAQA Lecture, International Quilt Festival, Houston, Texas

Jackson Stitchery Guild, Jackson, Mississippi

Quilters’ Connection, Arlington, Massachusetts

Harvard Neighbors, Cambridge, Massachusetts


Cambridge Art Association

Studio Art Quilt Associates


New Legacies: Contemporary Art Quilts, p. 39, Machine Quilting Unlimited, January/February, 2012

"Highlighted Artist -- Susan McCraw," pp. 8-11, SAQA Journal, Spring 2009 (click on article name to read PDF)

View from the Fringe, pp. 4-5, New England Rug Society, April, 2004

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This page was last updated 1 August 2012

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