By Ashley Lodato
I attended the opening reception for the “Connecting Threads” exhibit at Confluence Gallery on Saturday evening, and was surprised and delighted to learn that a family friend from my childhood has five pieces — two dolls and three dioramas — in the exhibit. Even better, she was present at the opening, so we got a chance to catch up and for me to ask her about her passion for fiber arts.
Suzanne Sorom is a part-time Winthrop resident who has been visiting the Methow since the 1970s. She began sewing in childhood, and learned to knit from her mother. Suzanne remembers spending hours with an older woman who took care of Suzanne and her siblings, from whom she learned to make doll clothes. Suzanne loved sewing in Home Economics as a teen, although she did not follow through on her teacher’s suggestion that she become a Home Ec teacher herself.
Suzanne did, however, work with textiles in different capacities, all while raising her four sons in Wenatchee. First, she was a representative for a fabric manufacturer, selling cloth to the home sewer. “During that time I was sewing constantly,” says Suzanne. “I was my own best customer.”
After earning a master’s degree in clothing and textiles from Central Washington University, Suzanne spent a year as a professor on the campus, filling in for one of the textile professors who was on sabbatical. “It was one of my favorite times of my life,” she says. “During the day it was all about my passion, independent of my family. Then at night I could be with my boys and my husband.”
Suzanne worked for a while for a lace import company based in Switzerland, but the travel was daunting and the job was not particularly lucrative. It was then that Suzanne’s long passion for dolls really blossomed.
“The doll piece has always been with me,” says Suzanne, “I’ve attended three conferences with the National Institute of American Doll Artists, and I’m going to another one this year.” Artists need to have made at minimum 30 dolls to even attend the conference, so it’s a very prestigious demographic. At each conference, Suzanne took classes with doll artists from all over the world, and these classes helped shape her direction as a doll artist.
The two wool dolls Suzanne exhibits at Confluence are male, as are all of her dolls. In her artistic process, Suzanne first has to find the face. “The face tells me who that person is,” she says, “and the rest follows.” The young boy doll’s face, says Suzanne, just happened through experimentation, but the old man’s face was a vision she had. “It’s an unexplainable process,” she says. “These people just emerge from your mind. You know certain things about them.”
You can see Suzanne’s and other fiber artists’ work at Confluence Gallery through April 14.