Chat with Susan Boe and you’re likely to walk away with her joyful smile and a sweet bit of conversation buzzing in your head, and perhaps a piece of reworked vintage in your hand. Considering herself a “rescuer,” Susan repurposes castoff fabrics into fabric bowls, unfinished needlepoints into pillows, memory-filled snippets of the past into quilts, and other estate sale items into objects to be loved anew (follow her on Instagram as @boebowls). For Susan, making is matrilineal—inherited from her foremothers and passed down to her own daughters as an essential part of everyday living.
Both of Susan’s daughters, Elaine Ruth and Vivian, are past Et Alia Press summer interns. Elaine Ruth now has a publishing position with HarperCollins and Vivian is a junior at Davidson College.
You’ve passed your desire to make down to your own girls. What did that look like in your home?
“When Elaine Ruth was very young, she made things to sell at Gallery 26. Vivian sewed over one hundred dresses for Little Dresses for Africa. My husband would spend entire weekends with the girls, painting huge discarded display boards, the patio floor, and even their bodies!
“I always felt, ‘the bigger the mess, the better.’ There were not rules. If they had an idea, we hopped in the car and went on a search for the supplies needed to implement their ideas. They had access and permission to create. I never cared how messy they got or the house got. At one point in life, our kitchen table was always so covered in craft supplies, paint, glue, and glitter that we could never eat on it. We were always working on something together: leaf rubbings in the fall, tissue paper ghosts, doily snowflakes . . . I could go on and on. Both girls took numerous classes at the Arkansas Arts Center, summer classes with the Holy Souls art teacher, classes with artist Laura Phillips, and, of course, sewing lessons with Barbara Steely. I was also their Girl Scout leader, so we did all sorts of cool projects, like sewing their own books. We have always been the happiest making stuff and making big messes.”
The curtains in the family sewing room are made from project remnants. “These curtains have slowly become my mood boards. They are covered in pinned-on needlework I’ve rescued, textile projects from my girls, patches, my mother’s master gardener name tag, and on and on.” Unlike her bowls, Susan can’t bring herself to sell her quilts—and certainly not her curtains—which are far too personal. “My quilts and curtains are my version of scrapbooking.”
Order a copy of Women Make Arkansas: Conversations with 50 Creatives today to read more from Susan and 49 other lady makers ready to inspire you, your mamma, and all the ladies in your life.