Born in the Bronx, arist Amy Supton (formerly Amy Vietze) learned to work in fiber arts before she learned to read. Her preschool teacher taught her how to make crepe paper into yarn and her first-grade teacher taught her to embroider and appliqué. These techniques became the foundation of Supton's rich body of work spanning weaving, ceramics, watercolor, and pastels.
Supton spent her early 20s in Detroit, Michigan (1965-1969), Berkeley, California (1969-1970), and then moved to Nashville, Tennessee (1970-1984). Her identity as a craftsperson emerged and a career in the arts unfolded. While in Detroit she picked up sewing and made quilts, daishikis, and elaborately embroidered clothing. She took loom weaving and rug-making classes from store-front shops in Berkeley where German immigrant Kaethe Kliot taught the tapestry and rug-making techniques she continues to use.
Upon moving to Nashville, Supton was introduced to other weavers and became a fixture in the Nashville crafts community. She was active in the Nashville Handweavers Guild and the Tennessee Artist Craftsman Association and participated in many solo and group shows. Her work was shown at Cheekwood Botanical Gardens, Sarratt Gallery at Vanderbilt University, and Spring Street Gallery, Tennessee State Museum as well as other festivals and fairs. Work was collected by the Tennessee State Museum, the Chicago Standard Oil Building, and the Opry Hotel.
Supton began using natural dyes and chemical dyes and was drawn to the intense colors that brought back the enthrallment of her early love of embroidery thread, felt, and crepe paper. She also had access to a clay studio at George Peabody College for Teachers. With her intense interest in fiber and access to ceramics, she began to create work that combined both media. The beginning of Supton's work in clay coincided with the early women's movement. She felt driven to use clay to put forth a women-centric aesthetic.
As Supton began combining ceramics with fiber, each firing technique would influence her work's color palette. Salt firing lead to brown, blue, and green colors. Raku firing gave off alternately shiny, bright colors alongside smoky gray colors. Pit firing creates the natural whites and terra cotta of clay with grays and blacks, with occasional spots of iridescence.
In 1984, Supton moved to New York City and taught creative arts to children with special needs in the New York Public School system for 25 years. She put as much passion into planning projects for her students as she had in her career as a craftsperson. During a yearlong sabbatical, Supton took up painting, pastel, and sculpture, and obtained access to another ceramic studio which spurred another new body of work. She is now a full-time artist based in Queens, New York.
This exhibition 'Wild Flowers: an Exhibit of Clay & Fiber' showcases a combination of Amy Supton's recent pieces and earlier works that are shaped like shells or flowers. Long-time fiber artist Amy Supton's works evolved with ceramic and other media evoking lushness, fertility, youth, sensuality and sexuality.
In her mixed media pieces, the ceramic object is created first, and the colors and textures of the accompanying weaving are conceived to complement the clay piece. Ceramic pieces are primarily unglazed white ceramics with only a tiny bit of colored glaze. As a result, the pieces are nearly all made in shades of white, and the textures and fibers of the weaving are the colors. The contrast and harmony between two very different media beautifully proclaim female identity.
" I find my muse in my materials and from nature;
the meditative feel of walking outdoors, the calm, the fragrance, the actual plant life.
My earliest work moved from fiber art as woman’s work, to fiber art as female imagery.
I have played the mandolin for nearly 25 years and it inspired me to name most of my recent works as female figures in bluegrass songs. Previously all were named for goddesses.
In the past few years, much of my work has been in pastel painting and watercolor, where I continue my female imagery, mostly close-ups of flowers, very textured, in brilliant colors. This has led to looking at wilted, drying, faded flowers, representing a wilted, dry, faded aging old woman.
Two of the recent fiber pieces were designed as if they would hang with smokey gray ceramic petals.
As they developed, they derived color choices as if they were faded gray irises. A great variety of textures and materials and a limited palette were chosen to express meaning.
The most recent piece, 'Cailleach, a winter goddess', is woven entirely in shades of white. I intended to use up a lifetime collection of materials in that color range. The piece is almost unbearably tactile and to me, sensual and meditative as well. It is woven using tapestry and rug techniques, made of fleece, roving, handspun, unspun, dyed, natural, bleached, wool, goat hair, cotton, synthetic yarns, and cloth. It is woven with rya knots, loops, soumak, chaining, and knotless netting.
'Wild Flowers: An Exhibit of Clay & Fiber' was conceived in 2019 to be shown in the spring of 2020. The COVID 19 virus prevented this from happening. My cloistered year of the pandemic enabled me to produce a remarkbly different body of work fabulously bouyant, coloful and joyful, despite my inner drear."
- Amy Supton, 2021