I sent her the ‘Artist Questionnaire’ I ask everyone to fill out. “But I’m not an artist!” was her reply. I said fill it out anyway; people should know more about you. I think we should know more about the people behind the scenes, most of whom are volunteers who make so much possible for all the rest of us.
I could make a bullet-pointed list (she would probably like that) of the accomplishments Susan Wernecke has worked toward in her tenure as volunteer Board President and Marketing Director of the Wisconsin Museum of Quilts & Fiber Arts. But that doesn’t really capture the person who loves to experiment with quilting, dabbles in knitting, has a taffy pink leather sofa and loveseat in her living room and who adores her four kids. In spring 2014, I reached out to the Wisconsin Museum of Quilts & Fiber Arts to talk about building a fiber arts trail in the Cedarburg area. Hoping they could visualize a fiber arts trail the same the way I did, I figured their location and gift shop, that sold my Fiber Art Almanac, (not to mention my crossed fingers and toes) would at least entice them to speak to me. That’s how I got to know Susan.
Each time I’ve make the trek to Cedarburg on fiber arts trail business, she’s opened her home to me with flowers, chocolate and water waiting for me in her daughter Claire’s room. We laugh because typically I bring some sort of precipitation with me—I’ve had to delay my return a couple of times while Wisconsin plows itself out.
Getting things done comes naturally to her. Whether it’s her business school background, Girl Scout leader training or getting up early in the morning, Susan works fast and plans ahead. She’s a total pro and working with her is easy because you can always count on it getting done. When we first talked about the Cedarburg Spur, she asked me for my work plan. Work plan? Because she challenged me and I knew she was right, I took my thought cloud fragments of concepts, goals, and mission statements and worked feverishly for the next ten days putting it together into a work plan. It was long, single-spaced and detailed. It was then suggested others might find an info-graphic and a little more white space easier to read. The Cedarburg Spur was launched this last spring and we’re heading into year two in March, 2016.
But that’s just the business side. Here’s more about Susan, the quilter & lover of colorful fabrics, in her own words:
When I was a little girl, my mother – a prolific home sewer – would get mail order fabric swatches each month. She’d give those swatches to me, and I would create quilts by hand-stitching the swatches together. We also spent many hours in fabric stores, where I loved to touch and see all of the pretty bolts on display! Over the years, my focus has changed from garment sewing to knitting to quilting (that’s where I spend most of my time now). I am a big fan of the modern quilting movement. I love the “no rules” combination of fabrics, and doing free-motion quilting designs.
I try to spend some time every day doing something creative – looking for inspiration in books or online, actually piecing or planning out a new quilt design, or working on my longarm machine. When I can’t sleep at night, or when I am bored or stressed or just swimming laps, I think about new quilt designs or longarm quilting patterns to fit the quilts I have created. I find just thinking about creating quilts very relaxing.
I am lucky to volunteer for the Wisconsin Museum of Quilts & Fiber Arts, where many, many creative fiber artists display their work, teach classes, and just hang around as volunteers. [If I had to name a few quilters I admire they would be] Kaffe Fasset for introducing such wonderful color into his fabrics, Victoria Findlay Wolfe for inspiring me to create my own fabrics and break rules and Angela Walters for saying “close enough is good enough” which helps me focus on creating, not perfection. I see so many creative ideas of others, and fall in love with their work. It is sometimes hard to push myself to create my own designs.
The biggest pleasure is giving quilts to those I love. I often incorporate personal messages into the quilts I make for others.
And lastly, what tool could Susan not live without? My longarm quilting machine, for sure!
Susan can be contacted through the Wisconsin Museum of Quilts & Fiber Arts. If you are interested in learning more about the museum, their website lists upcoming events, exhibit and education as well as the story about their farm/homestead campus east of Cedarburg.