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Fabric Artist Alumna to Have Quilt Displayed for 2000 ‘Art on Campus’ Program

(EDITOR’S NOTE: The following news release was issued to Williamsport media due to the artist’s local ties. A general release about “Art on Campus” and this year’s selections is forthcoming.)

Thirty years ago after graduating from Williamsport High School, Susan Ball Faeder embarked on a Williamsport Rotary-sponsored journey to Japan as an exchange student − the first in a series of serendipitous “accidents” that shaped her destiny and, indirectly, helped her settle on a vocation.

Later this year, residents of her hometown − and her former classmates at the high school and Pennsylvania College of Technology predecessor Williamsport Area Community College − will be able to see an example of the work Faeder fashions as a fabric artist based in New York City’s Greenwich Village.

“February: Undergrowth,” the latest art quilt crafted by Faeder, has been purchased by the College for its “Art on Campus” initiative, now in its second year. The quilt will be displayed later this year, though not in time for Faeder’s 30th high school reunion festivities in mid-July. When Faeder was a student at W.A.H.S., the school was housed in the building now occupied by the College”s George S. Klump Academic Center.

Faeder, who speaks Japanese fluently and has immersed herself in Japanese culture for two decades, has also led 10 tours to Japan for her Quilters’ Express to Japan enterprise. It all began with Faeder’s sojourn to the Land of the Rising Sun as an admittedly naive 18-year-old. In an isolated farming village north of Tokyo, where few people spoke English, she had no choice but to learn the language of her hosts and to undergo a crash course in Japanese culture. Before long, though, she was teaching English to her Japanese teachers and their students.

“I feel it was fate that I ended up there,” she said. “I learned to love the people, the culture and the countryside…. Something really connected for me with Japan. I knew that, somehow, I had to go back.”

In 1976 − after attending W.A.C.C. for a short period and then graduating with honors from Bucknell University with a degree in Japanese Studies − Faeder did just that, courtesy of a Rotary International graduate fellowship to Nanzan University in Nagoya, Japan.

Returning to America, Faeder first worked for a Japanese department store satellite in New York City and later for a U.S.-owned store that sold Japanese screens and antiques. Faeder had sewn and knitted since she was a child, often making her own clothes, but in 1983, she took a quilting class and sensed she had found her calling.

She worked for a New York City quilting shop for a few years, and it was there that another twist of fate shaped Faeder’s destiny: She discovered a book on Japanese quilting.

“I couldn’t believe it,” she said of the find, which united her passion for quilting and Japanese culture. “It was just fabulous, and I was so excited about it.”

Faeder learned of an exhibition in Japan that would unify that nation’s schools of quilting and approached her boss about attending. When he balked, she struck out on her own, making arrangements with a quilting teacher in Japan to deliver paid lectures focusing on quilting in the United States. This exchange of cultural information sparked her idea to escort American quilt enthusiasts to Japan to teach them about Japan through the vehicle of quilting. Thus, a new business was born.

With her various business enterprises, including her shop in Greenwich Village, Faeder sometimes wishes she had more time simply to create new quilts, which often reflect her life experiences.

“The inspiration is from everything around you,” she explains. “I love doing the work. I love to see how the piece develops. I love the process − the whole thing.”

Faeder often works on several pieces at a time. She may leave a quilt for months before resuming and completing the design. Since her life may have changed in the interim, so may the design, Faeder notes of the largely intuitive process.

She praised Penn College for taking the initiative “to bring art to the attention of students and to the residents of Williamsport” and for “asking the public to take note of how important art is in our daily lives.” “I can’t tell you how much I applaud that,” she added.

Faeder completed “Undergrowth” in February. The hand-quilted piece is the second in a series focusing on the changing elements (earth, fire, wind, air and water) across a year’s time. “It shows the activity going on just under the ground’s surface in very early spring prior to breaking through to the sun and the air,” she explains.

To learn more about Faeder’s quilts and/or her guided trips to Japan, access her Web site or call (212) 505-0480.

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