Fiber Artist Extraordinaire: Sue Cavanaugh


I met Sue Cavanaugh a year or so ago when Marty Johnson took me to her studio at 400 West Rich.   I was thoroughly enthralled by what she does with fabric, thinking so outside the box.  Then just recently she had a solo show at 400 and I was amazed at the wonderfully large pieces she had created so asked her if she would be up for an interview and she said yes!

sue 1

Sue grew up on a farm south of Tiffin Ohio and about 1.5 hours north of Columbus. Both of her parents were creative souls making something new where there was nothing. She grew up learning how to sew and eventually made more and more complex clothing. Over the years, she did a little  needlepoint, a little rug hooking and a little bit of quilting that led her to art quilts. This led her to learn to dye and pattern cloth and want to work on more artistic portions of her creations.

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She made her way to Columbus to attend OSU and was initially a clothing major but switched to home economics education when she realized she didn’t want to work in retail. Her first job post graduation was working for Ohio State as a home economics county extension agent in Clark County (Springfield). Eventually, she returned to campus for a master’s in guidance and counseling while working as a University College as an academic adviser. Following that position, she worked as a counselor in the undergraduate office, School of Home Economics; director of alumni and placement, School of Home Economics and for the next 14 years she worked as a Major Gifts Fundraiser in University Development!  Wow!  Some career!!! Then at the age of 51, she had had 30 years with OSU and chose to take early retirement.

sue 2

Over the years, she has kept cloth as her primary medium although she also sometimes adds wire, fencing and wood.  She even did one major piece with newsprint.  She states: I don’t think I knew I could become an artist. I just kept doing the work and pushing …and eventually others accepted me as an artist. She considers herself to be an artist creating 2D, 3D and installation works.

sue 4

Much of her inspiration comes from rivers, both the physicality and the idea of the actual river. Other inspiration comes from pattern and combining patterns; texture and creating denser textures; current events and history and spaces and how she might transform or inhabit a space with her work.

Her patterning has grown out of the ancient tradition of stitch resist known as shibori.  16 years ago she learned basic stitches for basic patterns and continues to play with these in her work developing her own take on them and new stitches that grew out of those traditional stitches.

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Occasionally she teaches stitch resist shibori and will teach a 5 day class for Quilt Surface Design Symposium in June 2016…(June 6-10 on the campus of CCAD; more info and registration are available at

She doesn’t have a brick and mortar shop or an shop but is represented  by Muse Gallery in Columbus and Graficas Gallery on Nantucket.  She also had a solo show just recently at 400 West Rich that was beyond amazing! In addition to all of that, she had  a piece in Pushing the Surface at the Johnson-Humrickhouse Museum, Coshocton, Ohio through September 7; had a piece in Materialities: Contemporary Textile Art, Surface Design
Association 1st International Juried Exhibition, Sandra J. Blain Galleries, Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts, August 28 – October 31, 2015. Currently she has a piece in an invitational exhibit Fiber Currents/Current Fibers,
Perella Gallery, Johnstown, New York, October 23-December 18, 2015. But that isn’t all!!! In 2016
she’ll have two solo shows: at the Cultural Arts Center, March 25-April 26,2016, and Zanesville Museum of Art, the end of May through early September,2016! Whew!  Way to go Sue!!!!

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Besides the shows she has been and will continue to be in, she had a GCAC artist residency in Dresden Germany in 2012. As Dresden is a sister city to Columbus, each year GCAC selects 2 artists to go there and the Free State of Saxony selects 2 artists to come to Columbus.  To apply, Columbus artists must first have been selected for an Individual Artist Fellowship or be a finalist in the year they apply. Cavanaugh was provided transportation, a place to live, a studio to work in and a stipend.  She did her first installations during her 80-day residency and had a two-person exhibit with Dutch painter Marielle Buitendijk….WOW!! Then in 2014, she was awarded the Creative Arts of Women Award at the Ohio State Fair Fine Arts Exhibit.

This lady is on fire!!!  Can’t wait to see what is next for her and her dynamic art!!

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Contact for readers: For purchase contact Muse Gallery at <>

For classes, <>

For her:>



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