Susanne M. Jones – Fly Me to the Moon

SCHMETZ Inspired to SEW is always seeking insight into that moment of inspiration . . . when a woman (or a man) is compelled to create using needle and thread. Everybody takes a different path — and sewing means different things to different people. No two stories are the same. This month, we introduce you to Susanne M. Jones. After teaching elementary school in Maryland and Virginia for 25 years, she launched into a new career as a curator of museum quality quilt exhibits — and nobody could be more surprised than Susanne herself. We’ll let her tell her story . . . .

While I was looking forward to retirement and being free of the demands of full-time work, I knew I would miss my colleagues. My friend, Lisa Ellis, suggested that I consider quilting and join a guild where I would find like-minded, kind people. Since I always had some sort of needle and thread in my hands, it seemed a natural fit. So I started taking classes about a year before retirement. I totally intended to make very traditional baby quilts and lap quilts.

In 2012 I joined the Sacred Threads Committee and helped plan the 2013 show. Sacred Threads conveys the spirituality, healing, and inspirational message that transcends all people. All of the committee members were art quilters except me. I never considered myself an artist, although looking back I can see that color, texture, and composition have always been important to me and have given me pleasure, even during my teaching career. I loved doing bulletin boards and making educational games for the kids.

Seeing Our Stories Clearly with 20/20 Hindsight.

Seeing Our Stories Clearly with 20/20 Hindsight.

I joined Quilters Unlimited in Northern Virginia and became very involved in the Reston Chapter. I served as Program Chair, Vice President, and President. I became involved in the Quilt Alliance (again at Lisa’s suggestion) and made a piece for their TWENTY contest in 2013. It was my first art quilt, Seeing Our Stories Clearly with 20/20 Hindsight. I really had fun making it, and I was floored when it won a Judge’s Choice from Marianne Fons!

That’s Life

That’s Life

As we neared the start of the 2013 Sacred Threads Exhibition, the committee members were asked to make a small piece to hang in the gathering area outside of the exhibit. I made That’s Life, my second art quilt in a game format and it focused on the life transitions that I had gone through in the past 18 months: Retirement, the death of my mom and father-in-law, becoming empty nesters, moving to a condo, and two joint replacement surgeries. It was created using a jigsaw appliqué technique that I learned from Cheryl Almgren Taylor.

During Sacred Threads, I met Donna DeSoto, author, and curator of Inspired by the Beatles. She had a Beatles song that needed an artist, so I took on the challenge. My quilt was Rain, and it was published in Donna’s book and was part of the special exhibit at the 2014 Houston International Quilt Festival.

I was hooked.

Susanne M. Jones and husband Todd.

Susanne M. Jones and husband Todd.

In July of 2014, my husband Todd and I were watching a story about the 45th anniversary of the Apollo 11 landing and moonwalk. I commented that the 50th anniversary of that landing would make a cool collection of quilts. My ever-encouraging husband said that I should put out a call for such a collection. Not knowing what to expect, I put out the call. The call was shared via social media and went global. The Fly Me to the Moon (FMTTM) collection juried by Lisa Ellis and Cyndi Souder has 179 quilts by artists from eight countries. It premiered at the Houston International Quilt Festival in 2016, and the book is available on Amazon.

https://smile.amazon.com/Fly-Me-Moon-Quilt-Journey/dp/0764354000/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1521666175&sr=8-1&keywords=fly+me+to+the+moon+and+art+quilt+journey

Fly Me to the Moon has blessed me with experiences I could never have imagined. NASA hung eight of the FMTTM quilts for the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 1 tragedy. Space Center Houston had a special exhibit entitled Space for Art. Four of the artists from FMTTM were invited to exhibit their work in that show. I attended the gala opening and renewed my acquaintance with astronaut Nicole Stott who wrote the foreword for Fly Me to the Moon: An Art Quilt Journey. I also met Karen Nyberg, the first astronaut to quilt in space. In between those events I was able to visit Webster Presbyterian Church, the Astronaut Church, where Buzz Aldrin attended at the time of Apollo 11. He took communion on the moon in radio silence, making it the first food or drink consumed there. I got to hold that chalice in my hand. Who could have imagined? From July 10 – September 25, 2017, 61 of the FMTTM quilts were hanging in the sanctuary of Webster Presbyterian Church.

None of this would have been possible without the FMTTM collection, and none of it would have ever happened without my dear husband, Todd. While I may be the CEO of Susanne Miller Jones, LLC, Todd is the CEE — Chief of Everything Else. A retired engineer, he has become a wonderful textile photographer and has taken all of the photos for Fly Me To The Moon. At any exhibit, he is just as excited as I am about the quilts and the artists.

Fly Me To The Moon started me on quite a journey. I now have three calls out there. FMTTM was followed by HERstory: A Celebration of Strong Women. There are 107 art quilts by artists from seven countries in that collection. Fifty-two of the HERstory quilts are premiering at the 2017 International Quilt Festival in Houston, Texas in November.

My most recent call for entries was OURstory: Human Rights Stories in Fabric, telling the stories of disenfranchised people and their fights for equal rights. All groups and issues were welcomed in this collection. Artists were invited to make a 25” x 40” quilt about any discrimination or violation of human rights.

http://www.susannemjones.com/ourstory-collection-announced/

When people ask how I decided to start my own business, I say I didn’t mean to do it. But as the calls kept coming and exhibitions needed to be shipped and written about, a business was needed to corral it all. Every step along this journey has been accompanied by huge learning curves. Building a business is no exception. Even though making money would be great, my mission statement has much more to do with the human components.

My goal is to highlight the work of the artists who have trusted me with their work. When I’m putting together an exhibition, I find myself wearing the hats of artist, cheerleader, curator, author, and marketer. Some weeks I only work to spread the call for entries. Facebook has been a wonderful tool for that. As each call goes out, I start a SECRET Facebook page for the artists. It is a place where the artists get to know each other, run ideas by each other and share progress on their pieces. I lurk in the background and watch the art happen. Other weeks, I’m editing books, looking for venues or promoting the exhibits. Whatever I do, only one thing is on my mind: Make the artists and their work shine!

Although I did not think it was possible, I am busier now than I was when I was working full-time. It often feels like there are not enough hours in the day. It is a wonderful thing to feel like the work you do is making a difference. My life verse is, “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:13) My church, Floris United Methodist Church, in Herndon, VA (which is where Sacred Threads holds its bi-annual exhibit) has a partnership with the Child Rescue Center in Sierra Leone. Several times a year we send a mission team to work with the children, who are in residence there. The children live in family units with an “auntie” in charge of each family home. Last year I was selected to go on the Drama, Music and Art team which we named CREATE. My assignment was to teach Bible stories to the younger children. I was introduced to the aunties as a quilter, and their eyes lit up.

Imagine my surprise when they asked me to fix their sewing machines. They were treadle machines! I emailed Todd, asking him to research the manuals for these Butterfly treadles. Eventually, we were able to get the machines in working order and I taught basic maintenance: How to change a needle, how to change the tension, how to wind and insert a bobbin, and how to thread the machine. The kids brought in stacks of mending. Recently they posted a photo of one of those kids getting a sewing award!

What is most inspiring about Susanne’s story is how open she was to a new chapter in her life. She brought her teaching experience, combined it with her love of sewing and crafting, then dove, head first, into the world of art quilt exhibitions. She met new people, experimented with new techniques, saw a need, then filled it. Her natural ability as a problem solver combined with her creative side to create something beyond her wildest retirement dreams.

Flower of Light

BFlowerofLight

Quilt Artist:  Janet Fogg
www.janetfoggquilts.com

Photographer:  Dale Leix

Custom Hand-Dye Fabrics:
Jeanette Viviano
www.jeanettesfabrictodyefor.com

Artist StatementThe symbol Fleur De Lis is the inspiration for this piece.  Combined with the lily, symbolic of purity and the Queen of Heaven, this quilt is machine pieced with the illusion of the subjects superimposed yet transparent over a grid of six pointed split stars.  The quilt, consisting of rocks and ferns suggests an ancient mosaic wall as the canvas for this vision.


A few years ago at International Quilt Market & Festival in Houston TX, Flower of Light captured my attention. Those beguiling eyes. The kind smile. The all-knowing confidence of this heavenly being grabbed my heart and spoke to my spirit. How could all these split pointed stars — geometric shapes create such a soft and alluring quilt? Hand-dyed fabrics, metallic painted fabrics, batiks and crystals accentuate the subtle brilliance. What can I say? I see thousands of quilts every year, but Flower of Light is still one of my all-time favorites. Janet Fogg mastered the artistry of fabric, thread and imagination. I am so pleased to share this inspirational masterpiece with you.

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