Linda Sweek is passionate about embroidery and all things to do with a needle and thread.
I first met Linda Sweek a year ago, when she took on the volunteer role of Marketing Director for Wisconsin Museum of Quilts & Fiber Arts. Linda is a studio textile artist living in the Milwaukee area who divides her day between teaching workshops, hosting retreats, exhibiting her work, marketing for the museum and trying to find time for all her creative ideas! In her previous life (many of us have previous lives) Linda was no stranger to time constraints having spent twenty-five years in corporate PR trenches while raising three boys with all the hoopla that goes with those life-sized familial roles.
I’d love for you to get to know Linda a little bit more, so I invited her to complete a written interview with me.
A little bit of background about your interest in fiber and textile arts.
What types of fiber (medium) do you work with most often?
Embroidery on fabric is what I work with most often. I love using a variety of textile mediums, but I realize I lean towards creating a mini story with applique or collage and usually enhance it with embroidery.
When did you first become interested in working with fiber?
When I was eight, my mother put in my hands a sampler to embroider and explained how to stitch. It was like painting a canvas. I was enchanted and haven’t put down that needle since. She also taught me how to sew and read a pattern starting at the age of nine.
My grandmother was an artist and an interior decorator. She took me to art museums and galleries and discussed everything. Plus, I was allowed into her studio to design and watch her paint or work with clay or pastels.
My own passion is textiles with my paint and brush being needle and thread. Because of this early art influence, I see have long seen textile creations from the eyes of an artist.
What about the medium of fiber appeals to you?
The touch of fiber appeals to me; the vast array of colors and uses is also what I am drawn to.
Your creative expression.
Describe how you approach your work and your creative process.
Most often I envision something and then find fabrics or threads, yarn, embellishments and beads that create that vision. This happens frequently when I should be sleeping…I just keep creating new pieces in my mind. One morning close to Valentine’s Day, I woke knowing I wanted to make a pillow and how it would look. So I created it that afternoon.
Sometimes, I take out a few fabrics from my stash and have them sitting on my project table so that the fabrics take the form of a new piece in my head.
I’ve done a few commission pieces. I approached those similar to creating a brand. I ask questions, see the surroundings and get to know the individuals. Then I sketch a concept or create a mini version.
Are there themes or recurring ideas in what you make?
Yes – flowers, lots and lots of flowers, oh and birds and home or the concept of a comfortable home. I want my work to make me happy, as well as others, so positive colors and a splash of whimsy are often reflected in my work.
Do you have any creative challenges?
Not enough studio time is my greatest challenge. I have lots of visions of projects yet to be started.
About two years ago, I committed most of time to the studio. It was wonderful, but I felt too isolated and I wanted to teach. That’s when I became involved with the Wisconsin Museum of Quilts & Fiber Arts. Now I serve on their board of directors as the marketing director and am on the adult education committee. The museum is a wonderful place and I’ve meet extraordinary people and fellow textile artists, plus learned a lot about the quilt and fiber arts.
Additionally, I started Sew and Sew Retreats. I value the opportunity to be creative with others. Thinking others might value the opportunity to be creative and learn together too, as well as enjoy a getaway – I arranged a yearly sewing retreat with creative textile projects, where one can laugh, relax, create and sew. That branched out to offering individual classes at area venues too.
So now I need to find the balance for all those opportunities, which is a good thing, but it is important not to allow studio time to suffer.
What are some of the pleasures you get out of working with fiber?
It just seems so natural to work with fibers – like I was always meant to. Working with fibers is calming and contentedness. I am very happy that I get to use the label “you’re so creative” on making art vs. a corporate brochure (previously career, 25 years as a marketing, public relations, communication director).
The community around you.
Describe ideas that inspire you. Where do you find inspiring ideas?
I’m inspired by things around me every day. I take photos of things I see out and about and as I search online for, well, just about anything, I find I’m inspired and save photos. I have a file folder on my laptop called “Inspiration” that has at least 1,000 photos in it. Books of artist’s stories and photos of their work are another source of inspiration. But, despite having a photo for inspiration, my own finished pieces never looks like someone else’s work – so it truly serves only as inspiration.
Fabric inspires me. It may just be so beautiful I have to have a piece of fabric and maybe it goes into my stash, but I have a plan forming in my head for that one piece of fabric.
People inspire me. For example, I am creating three separate pieces right now – one each for my three sons. (Note – these are all in progress, not completed).
Where do you sell/exhibit your work?
I sell my work in several local Milwaukee shops and also online at my web site, www.lindasweekdesigns.com.
Privileged to exhibit work in several juried art shows including the “Second Fiber Arts Biennale: Wisconsin State of the Art” 2015 at the Wisconsin Museum of Quilts and Fiber Arts, Grace Fine Arts Festival, Fiber Innovations II, Alverno College Juried Art Show, and Milwaukee Third Ward Gallery Night’s. Awards received include Martha Stewart American Made 2014 Award Nominee, Best of Houzz – 2014 Badge Award Winner, and multiple Wisconsin State Fair first, second, third place ribbons in textile categories.
Here's where you can find more info about Linda.
For the past two years, Linda has hosted the ‘Postcard Making Station’ at WMQFA during the Cedarburg Spur Fiber Arts Trail. This year the theme is vintage postcards and she’ll have pre-stamped cards and many types of materials to make your own souvenir Postcard From the Trail. Cedarburg Spur Fiber Arts Trail Weekend