Cindi Huss, Kingsport, Tenn.
By Angela Wampler / A! Magazine for the Arts | May 30, 2012Rich color, strong contrast, and sculptural quilting characterize Cindi Huss's work. Her three-dimensional wall hangings are accomplished through techniques ranging from needle felting to machine quilting, using materials such as wool roving and hand-dyed fabrics.
"Ah, fiber!" she says. "I love to touch and pull, card and layer, and sometimes spin gorgeous wool roving. I love the scream silk makes when you tear it and the way it flows underwater. I love the slosh of the dyebath, watching the patterns in newly dyed fabric appear as I iron them, the rhythm of quilting, the dance of thread across the fabric's surface, the small boom as a needle pops through stretched fabric, and the way each work takes on a life of its own. It's sensory overload in the best possible way. Really, I just love everything about what I do — except maybe cleaning up."
Growing up, Huss tried her hand at traditional quilting, cross-stitch, and even a latch hook rug, but didn't become excited about fiber art until she began creating her own patterns.
"It's all about the rules," she says. "There are rules about how to piece, how to sandwich, and how to design a quilting scheme so that you don't end up with wavy quilt. But once you understand the rules, you can start to break them and get really cool results."
Now she incorporates dyeing, felting and embroidery into her quilting. "I really go about my work as a sculptor. I think in three dimensions. Whether I'm creating a traditional bed quilt or a contemporary work for the wall, I'm planning the dimensional aspects from beginning to end. Making the dimensional elements work is a problem-solving exercise that takes some time and sometimes a couple of drafts to figure out."
The piece "Contemplating Madness" began with a central branch figure on raw silk. "I just wanted to play around with painterly effects (shading, perspective) that I could achieve with needle felting," she says. "However, as I worked on the quilt, it became a meditation on life, how we strive to make a difference only to become discouraged or seek time alone only to crave company, how modern life is a constant struggle between solitude and overload. So when it came time to quilt the outer border, it was clear to me that I needed an image to contrast with the lone limb, hence the abundance of branches."
She continues, "I am really drawn to strong graphic elements — they usually slap me across the face." "Labyrinth II" was inspired by the top of a turnip. "Wending Onward" was inspired by a satellite photo of Mount Taranaki, a volcanic peak in New Zealand, from the Smithsonian's "Earth from Space" exhibit.
"My mind uses whatever inspires it as a jumping-off point but freely wanders off on its own tangents looking for a path to the finished product. I always know where a piece will start, but no quilt I've ever made has ended where I predicted. They all take on a life and voice of their own. For me, at least half the fun is listening to the quilt, hearing where it wants to go, and figuring out how to get there. Any quilt I've tried to force to go my way has gone poorly."
Huss's creations have been exhibited internationally, and her artwork and silk scarves are available at Cindy Saadeh Fine Art Gallery in downtown Kingsport. She teaches quilting at Heavenly Stitches Quilt Shoppe in Colonial Heights (a suburb of Kingsport); offers workshops and slide lectures to quilt guilds and other organizations; and writes articles and essays on quilting and the business and philosophy of art for national quilting and art publications.
Elaborate Wall Hangings, Sylvia Richardson
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Huss's Representational Landscape series includes (above) "After the Storm II" (detail) and (left) "Contemplating Madness."
Pieces from Cindi Huss's Mental Landscapes series include (from top to bottom): "Wending Onward," "Labyrinth" and "Labyrinth 2."
"No Parking" is part of Huss's Structural Artifacts series.