Current Sulfur Studios On::View Artist in Residence Suzanne “Suzy” Hokanson is someone whose work you’ve probably seen before. In preparing for her interview for this week’s episode of Art on the Air, I managed to compile a massive eight pages of notes. Four of those pages is her Curriculum Vitae, cataloging the art exhibitions, curatorial work, volunteer efforts, and workshops that she’s been a part of during her career, the last decade of which has taken place in Savannah.
But her work as a fiber artist started long before the first line on that impressive resume.
“My mom was interested in textiles,” Hokanson told me, “She was interested in knitting and got me started knitting. I think, like a lot of little girls, I was making little potholders. And not only just one potholder at a time. I would make bunches of them and sew them together and make different things.”
That early instinct to combine individual pieces into a larger whole would come into play in Hokanson’s later work, but the journey from then to now was a long one.
“I’ve been weaving for 45 years,” she continued. “The first weaving I did was very traditional. I would find a pattern…and I would weave something. But I always would get bored with doing the same thing over and over again, and want to push it into something else. And now that I’m retired from teaching and I can spend more time developing what I want to do, I’ve really gotten more into what’s called Saori style.”
Japanese weaver Misao Jo, who passed away in 2018, developed Saori as a reaction to the “flawless” fabric created in commercial factories. According to her website, the idea is “to achieve a hand woven quality through intentionally making a ‘flawed’ cloth.”
“It’s really freestyle weaving,” Hokanson explained. “It’s taking the colors and textures and playing with them, and not having a defined idea of where you’re going to go with it.”
The creatively flexible nature of Saori suits her On::View Residency project, titled “Weaving the Fabric of our Community,” particularly well. Visitors to the space are invited to complete the handwritten statement “My community is…” on strips of paper that either they themselves or Hokanson will weave into long banners that will be hung as they’re completed. Locals are encouraged to bring in personal artifacts to add as well, a feature of the project that has created some unexpected challenges for the fiber artist.
Her husband, for example, who works as a part-time lifeguard, managed to get ahold of what Hokanson described as “a discarded lifeguard tube” for her to use, chuckling as she considered the idea of adding the “big red thing with a black strap” to the banner.
“Some of my friends feel challenged to bring me the wackiest,” Hokanson added, noting that one contributor with whom she connected with on Facebook delivered “two baseballs from the Sand Gnats that were signed.” Other additions thus far include oversized pinecones, antique beads and lace, and a head wrap that a fellow cancer survivor used while going through chemotherapy.
Hokanson relishes the opportunity to figure out how to make each object work together.
“What’s fun about the way I’m weaving now is I can take all of these colors and textures and…play with them and make them sing,” she said, “And make them come together in unique ways. It’s constantly ‘what if?’” What if I did this or what if I did that?”
“It’s fun to be challenged by what people are bringing me.”
For those who would like to contribute to Suzy Hokanson’s “Weaving the Fabric of our Community” project, either by dropping off a keepsake for her to add herself or to have Suzy instruct them on how to do it themselves, she’ll be in the space at Sulfur Studios at 2301 Bull Street every Tuesday and Friday from noon to 5pm through First Friday in April. Hokanson is also available at other times by appointment and can be reached at email@example.com.
Listen to my entire conversation with Suzy Hokanson embedded here, which includes an in-depth discussion of her “Weaving Hope” project at Memorial Health’s Curtis and Elizabeth Anderson Cancer Institute. The audio also features a Field Note with Josť Ray and Carmen Aguirre discussing Ray’s current exhibition “Pollen – A Celebration of Spring in Mixed Media” at Grand Bohemian Gallery Savannah.
Tune in to “Art on the Air” every Wednesday from 3-4 p.m. on WRUU 107.5 FM in Savannah, and streaming worldwide at www.wruu.org. Next week we’ll have Jennifer Moss of Sulfur Studios on the show talking all about “Marked: Rusted Wovens,” her current exhibition at the Cultural Arts Center Gallery.
Art off the Air is a digital-only column that is posted every week on dosavannah.com as a companion piece to the WRUU 107.5 FM show “Art on the Air.”
Rob Hessler is an artist, host of the radio show Art on the Air on WRUU 107.5 FM Savannah, and Executive Director of Bigger Pie, a Savannah-based arts advocacy organization.