Today we’d like to introduce you to Susan Kapuscinski Gaylord.
Susan Kapuscinski, we’d love to hear your story and how you got to where you are today both personally and as an artist.
I grew up in a house full of creative activity with a mother who knitted, sewed, cooked, and engaged in craft making of all kinds—melting wax for floating candles in bowls with flowers in summer and gathering milkweed pods for the wings of angel ornaments in winter. In my high school years, I was a serious student and a determined athlete. In college, I studied in English Literature and exercised my creative impulses by embroidering every wearable surface I could find—bell bottom jeans, work shirts, knapsacks, and army jackets.
When I discovered calligraphy in my late 20s, I found a new and more creative way to express my love of words. It opened up the world of visual art: the principles of design, the exploration of positive of negative space, the rhythm and movement of gesture, and the experimentation with a variety of tools and materials. After ten years of serious work in calligraphy as both a commercial and exhibiting artist, I began to write my own quite personal texts and turned to the book as a more intimate home for the words. The books with text slowly transitioned into wordless ones with natural materials.
I have been lucky to focus on two forms of art that integrate well into daily life. Although my art focus shifted from calligraphy to books, I kept my hand engaged as I made cards, wrote out recipes, and addressed envelopes. I have found that the years of making letters for personal communication rather than exhibition gave me the freedom I was seeking when calligraphy was my sole focus. I frequently celebrate occasions—birthdays, memorials, weddings, and journeys—with little handmade books as gifts.
I taught simple bookmaking in schools with a focus on curriculum applications and recycled materials for over twenty years and then bookmaking for adults in libraries and retreats centers. I now give talks on a variety of topics—A Celebration of Books and their History, Letter Love: Exploring Calligraphy, What It Means to Be an Artist, The Gardens of Paris, Naming the Garden: The Why and Wherefore of Latin Plant Names—as well as my own work.
We’d love to hear more about your art. What do you do you do and why and what do you hope others will take away from your work?
My work is inspired by the spirit of nature and the beauty and power of words. Since 1992 I have been making what I call Spirit Books—handmade books of textured papers with twigs, beads, golden stitched spirals, and pinpricked designs that rest in cradles of branches and roots. They bring together my love of the book and my response to the natural world that we see and to the invisible one that lies behind it. I feel a deep connection to older powers as I gather twigs, branches, vines, and roots. Using them to cradle books, I link them to the longstanding tradition of books as testaments of faith and belief. Each page is a meditation that echoes nature with both repetition and variety. “Reading” the book is meant to be a contemplative experience that takes the reader out of the everyday world and into a state of gratitude and reverence.
My most recent calligraphy project is Words for Our Time, artworks based on eight words: strength, hope, truth, peace, justice, love, courage, and compassion. They remind us what is important in our personal and civic lives and provide encouragement and support in these difficult times. For each piece, one large piece of paper was torn into sections, the sections were inscribed with the word and accompanying quotes, and then the sections were stitched back together to form a mended whole.
Do current events, local or global, affect your work and what you are focused on?
I believe in the power of art. It serves as a tangible reminder of the deeper meaning of our existence. While I create the work for myself, I believe that sharing it is important. I don’t see myself in the front line of engagement but as the comforter and encourager from behind. I hope that I can offer the viewer the peace I feel during the creative process.
Do you have any events or exhibitions coming up? Where would one go to see more of your work? How can people support you and your artwork?
The best place to see my work is on my website. I am also on Facebook and Instagram. I have an etsy shop @susangaylord where I sell catalogs of my work and bookmaking instructions. An exhibition of the Spirit Books was at the Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University from May 4–July 22. There will be an exhibition of The Power of Words and The Spirit Books at the Monastery Gallery in West Hartford in September and October.
- Website: http://www.susangaylord.com
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/susankapuscinskigaylord/
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/skgaylord
Personal photo: Kevin Harkins
Hanging Banners: Tom Robinson-Cox
Justice/Hope: Kevin Harkins