Guest edited by Tami Ramsay
Artist and textile designer Susan Hable spent her formative years in a microcosm of creative support. Encouraged from an early age by her parents, Hable studied art in various mediums and methods with two talented and local female artists in her small hometown of Corsicana, Texas. Greatly inspired and largely influenced by these experiences, her eye for color and form were coaxed into life and, in many ways, set the tone for what was to come. Formally trained as a graphic designer with a minor in art history, her focus has always included a blend of fine art and design, specifically painting and sculpture. With stints in Florence, Italy to study jewelry design with Betony Vernon and mixed media work with the Fuji Studio, as well as studies at Parsons in New York City in fashion accessory design, Hable’s particular brew of art has strong and deep roots in the power of form and seduction of hue but her path to painting simply for the sake of art has been a winding one. The journey initially started in the fashion accessories industry which ultimately led to textile design and the founding of Hable Construction in 1999 in Brooklyn with her sister and business partner, Katharine Hable Sweeney, a company aptly named after their great grandfather’s twentieth century road construction business. “We used textiles to get my art into the commercial world,” she said. This shift into the world of interior design, screen printed fabric and home accessories production provided a different platform for Hable’s designs and marked the beginning of a successful career as a textile artist.
Her unique spin on design has landed Hable Construction multiple collaborations including creating products for Garnet Hill, Barneys New York and Neiman Marcus, as well as exclusive fabric lines with S. Harris, LoomSource and Hickory Chair. Additionally, because of her expertise in the nuances of color and hue, Hable serves as a committee member on the Color Association of the United States, whose members split hairs to create a concise color palette that is agreed to be representative of the major influences, trends, and directions for upcoming seasons. Her whimsical designs can be also found in their newly launched project Gosluck, where you can find playful, fanciful and practical products, like the bullseye watercolor dartboard above.
But life will have its way, and Hable found herself beckoned at an interesting crossroads. Tagged by Didi Dunphy, curator for The Gallery at Hotel Indigo, to contribute a few of her textile designs as art for an exhibit, and encouraged by Hickory Chair creative director Ron Fiore to include some of her paintings in the decoration of their showroom at High Point Market, Hable's art was front and center. In both cases, her work created a buzz and several of her paintings sold on the spot with requests for commissions to follow. “It really ignited something in me,” she said, “and I realized I hadn’t tapped into this part of myself and it was time.”
Hable hit the sweet spot though when she and her husband Peter moved two 1918 tin mill village houses, snatched up at $400 a pop since they were slated to be burned down, from Eatonton, Georgia, into the backyard of their home in Athens. Reconfigured and refurbished as her art studio, “I told myself that I would repay the cost of it one painting at a time,” she said. Having moved from New York City to Athens four years ago, her studio now is a sun flooded creative respite. “It has been such a huge part of my painting. Just having the space for the large paper, plus the beautiful northern light, the quiet and no distractions,” she said. “It is one of the most important things that Athens has given me for my art.” Plus, the history of the tin mill houses is the stuff of legend. “People would come from the train tracks behind the mill houses and say that their great-grandmother died in the front room or that their family lived there for 50 years,” she explained. Although the closets were absent any skeletons, the walls were full of relics from the past. "We found, among some other odds things, a huge skeleton key, a baby shoe, a child’s toy top, an old spoon, and a magnet,” she said, all of which are now at home in the new studio.
Hable now finds herself an artist, in her own right, creating original works of art that are bold, fluid and honest. Her draughtsmanship is part abstraction, part minimalism but unmistakably Susan Hable. Her distinctive quality of line and unassuming technique of hand is everywhere evident, equally in her art as it is in her textile designs. Whether working solely with india ink or with bleeding pools of Hydrus liquid watercolors, her work is a graphic study of free floating flora and fauna, an interpretive color story of her keen observations and inspirations. “In my world, whimsical forms are combined with a unique color palette inspired by nature and beauty, rather than trends,” she said. “My design process begins with the most mundane of moments.” Humble beginnings though they may be, the resultant work is nothing short of a beautiful confluence of graphic shapes, unabashed color and negative space.