31 x 47 inches
Quilt, hand and commercially dyed cotton fabric.
Based in Portland, Oregon, Sidnee Snell is a quilter who is inspired by everyday life around her, especially items that have had human interaction. Her vibrant work has a painterly quality yet she uses digital techniques rather than a sketchbook to create her images that capture the world around her.
Did you like textiles from a young age or did you come to it later in life?
I began working with textiles as child; first learning to knit and later making clothes for myself, my family and while in high school, my dressmaking clients.
Before being a textile artist you worked as an electrical engineer. Where did you learn to quilt?
For my first (very traditional) quilts, I learned from books, magazines and snippets of conversations among friends who were quilters. Eventually, I took a few traditional quilting classes. Before I knew it, I found myself in a classes taught by Nancy Crow, Michael James, Jane Sassaman and other prominent quilt artists. My current appliqué process is one I developed for myself that is suited to my specific skills and interests.
You use computers a lot for your designs, can you talk us through the process?
I use a combination of Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Illustrator to manipulate the images and create a line drawing. I then have the drawing printed to size on a large format printer. I trace the printed line drawing to a foundation fabric manually, then appliqué onto the foundation fabric. I quilt and wash the piece before trimming and binding.
How long does it take to make one of your quilts?
I’m embarrassed to say that I don’t really know; 8 to 12 weeks maybe? So much depends on the size and complexity of the piece. The work is often interrupted by other projects, or just life. Sometimes I start playing with an image but don’t get back to starting the construction of the piece for months.
Where do you source your fabrics?
Most of my fabric is hand dyed cotton. I dye a lot of it, and I purchase from other dyers.
How do you describe your style?
The words that come to mind include: vibrant, moody, painterly, textured and bold. I don’t seem to create pieces that are subtle, or muted. Even my most quiet work tends to have a sense of anticipation or tension. As I begin with an image of a real object, I consider my work representational even when the object is abstracted beyond recognition.
Your subject matter seems to be based on life around you. Where do you find inspiration?
Inspiration comes from anything that my eye lands on. Often, it is an everyday, often overlooked, object or view that captures my attention and begs for further exploration. I work from my own snapshots as well as imagery captured by other photographers. I’m drawn to imagery that includes a human mark. I am more likely to be interested in a flower arrangement in a vase, than in a field of flowers.
What challenges do you face as a textile artist and do you have any advice for others wanting to become a full time artist?
The biggest challenge is finding the balance between making and promoting. I am my very best self when I am making something – either art or craft. Promoting my work takes time and energy that I’d rather spend on making (even making dinner!). At the same time, I believe that I have a responsibility to share my work with others who may find it inspirational. I am grateful to the artists who stepped out of their creative spaces and made their work available for viewing and inspired me.
I would advise others to take their work seriously, but not too seriously. Embrace mistakes and failures; they’re the best learning experiences and sometimes aren’t failures at all. Most important? Play and have fun! My best work happens when I’m not trying too hard.
Do you take commissions?
Generally, I avoid commissions. However, like any rule, this one is occasionally broken. One of my latest pieces, “Sanctuary”, was commissioned.
Do you have a following internationally or mainly in America?
My work is exhibited and collect internationally. I believe that my primary audience is in the US, but the internet and social media have extended my international audience beyond my expectations.
Do you have any exciting upcoming plans for 2016 you’d like to share with us?
My exciting plans are all about learning new things. I plan to take some drawing and photography classes and to learn to use a laser cutter. I also have a solo exhibit at the Latimer Textile Center scheduled for the Spring.
And of course, I’ll be making new work!
Is there anything else you would like to add?
At heart, I am a maker. I knit, bake, sew clothes and quilts. Not all of my making is art, but all of my making feeds my art.