Karen Suzuki is based in Glasgow, Scotland. She was trained in ceramics and was a professional ceramicist for many years. But by switching to working in textiles she realized it was her natural medium and have never looked back. The ideas come really easily – as though those animals are just bursting to get out into the world!
‘I’m inspired by so many things it’s impossible to list them all, but inspirations include battered old toys; animators as diverse as Aardman Animation and the Quay Brothers; Edward Lear and Spike Milligan’s books of illustrations and rhymes; artists Jean Dubuffet and Louise Bourgeois; and inspiration directly from the animals and fabrics themselves.
I use animal forms to explore the possibilities presented by combining and reworking fabrics. Rather than a strictly representational approach, I aim to capture something of the animal’s character. I tend to work with urban creatures, especially city pigeons, which attract me by the tenacity with which they survive the hardships of their city existence.
My materials and process-based approach is entirely worked using my version of traditional hand-sewing techniques, building up surfaces, on top of a cotton base, from small pieces of altered textiles and other media, sewn together vigorously with freeform stitching. I use small, freely stitched together pieces of existing textiles together with pieces that have been worked using embroidery techniques such as pulled thread and appliqué; reweaving elements back into fabrics; incorporating elements that are not conventional textiles, such as altered food packaging.
I sometimes layer textiles of differing opacity and transparency to give depth and cohesion to the surfaces, and to create a kind of history for the object from materials that have gradually accumulated and adhered to the surfaces over time. I hope in this way to reflect the fragility and complexity of the way in which animals exist in an urban environment.’