Fiber artist Sarah Hemm

Sarah Hemm is an artist and curator from the Janesville, WI area. She has exhibited her work for over ten years. Sarah previously curated The Eclipse Gallery which she recently closed to focus on her artwork. Currently, Sarah is concentrating on embroidery as a medium. Her love of fiber art developed in college at the University of Wisconsin – Green Bay. She studied Fiber and Textile Art, along with her major – Gallery/Museum Practices. Sarah is looking forward to opening a studio in the countryside just south of Madison. Her work is available at Hatch Art House in Madison and online at  Sarah took our survey in December 2011.

How do you identify yourself as an artist (poet, fiction writer, painter, photographer, etc.)?

I am primarily a fiber artist. For the past two years I have been concentrating on embroidery. I create contemporary pieces, using both traditional and improvised methods.

What is/has been your relationship to libraries?

I have been a voracious reader since a very young age. Libraries have always been my second home. I feel comfortable there. Of course, libraries have always been the best way to access those huge, splendid art books! But I am curious about a wide variety of subjects and love to wander around, exploring the stacks. It’s a treasure hunt.

A display of Sarah Hemm's embroidery, including "Succulent"

Have libraries informed or inspired your work, and if so, how?

As an artist, my work is continually informed by what I’m reading. I think that what I read floats around in my subconscious, develops an image, and comes out in my process of freehand stitching. I go into my work without a pattern or plan. I pick a color and start stitching. This works because embroidery takes a lot of time, so what happens is the imagery develops slowly as I’m working – stitch by stitch.

Why did you decide to include libraries in your creative process?

It wasn’t really a conscious decision, since I have spent so much time in libraries my whole life. It’s just the typical way I work – research based. Always curious, reading, looking, exploring.

What can libraries do to serve artists?

Having a wide variety of art-related materials available – both older and current. There is nothing better than finding a recently published art or craft book on the shelf. I love the idea (as Trent Miller mentioned in his survey) of an art checkout program. Also, I think libraries can do a lot for artists by providing an exhibition space.

detail of "Succulent"

As an artist, what would your ideal library look like?

My ideal library would have a dedicated gallery space that featured rotating, local artists and even guest curators. It would also have an expansive art section including all the current art periodicals. An easily accessible special collections. Lots of private, comfortable spaces to read.

What specific libraries have played a role in your work? Are there things (spaces/staff/collections/programs) that stand out to you about these libraries?

The Cofrin Library at the UW-Green Bay was the biggest influence in regard to my artwork. They have a lot of interesting books and periodicals, both old and new. I once found some old negatives in a book, which I then used in a mail art project. I love finding what others left behind in library books, even if it’s only a note. When I was in college there, they opened a Zine section, which happens to be something I am very interested in (during this period of time I was self-publishing my own zine, The Wandering Uterus). The exposure to current, unique ideas was the most influential thing.

What resources do you use in your library(s)?

"I Wasn't Cool"

Right now I borrow mainly books and DVDs. I also take my three children with me. We go to some programs and events. When my Internet connection goes down at home I rush over to use the library’s WiFi. I like to view art shows at various libraries as well.

How do you find out about events or resources at your library(s)?

I check out the flyers when I’m at the library, visit their website, or I get updates via their Facebook page.

What does the phrase “library as incubator” mean to you?

I can relate to the term library as an incubator. I majored in Gallery/Museum Practices at the UW-Green Bay. Dr. Stephen Perkins is the professor heading the program, and he introduced me to the concept of gallery as a laboratory. I feel that the library as an incubator is similar — using the library/exhibition space as a place for artists and the public to interact, create, learn, experiment.


All work on this page is copyright of the featured artist.

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