I am a designer and textile artist, specialising in sashiko, kogin, boro inspired textiles, and quilts inspired by Japanese design and traditions.
My love of Japanese design began during my student days, at Cleveland College of Art, and at the University College of Wales, Aberystywyth, where I graduated with Joint Hons. in Visual Art and Drama in 1987. After running a very small scale artisan clothing business in mid Wales, I worked in Yuza-machi, Yamagata Prefecture, Japan, as an Assistant English Teacher (AET) on the JET (Japan Exchange Teaching) Program(me) in 1991. I spent all my spare time in Japan learning as much as I could about Japanese design, especially textiles, and I learned how to tailor kimono in my neighbour's shop, Obiya. When I returned to the UK to live in north east Wales, I began making quilts, mainly on influenced by Japanese designs and traditional British patchwork frame quilts.
It was in Yuza-machi where I first heard about sashiko. Returning to Japan for New Year 2000, I was introduced to local sashiko teacher Chie Ikeda and had my first proper sashiko lessons. I was quickly hooked! My former next door neighbour, Reiko Domon, was also passionate about sashiko, especially the local Yuza Sashiko hitomezashi patterns (part of the Shonai Sashiko tradition). We have had numerous collaborations since then, including Yuza Sashiko Guild (formally founded in 2008) visiting the UK many times to teach sashiko at various quilt and textile shows around the country, starting with the first NEC Festival of Quilts in 2003. There are several articles online on the Popular Patchwork website from these early days -
Interview from 2002
I return to Japan as often as possible to learn more, keep my (not very fluent!) Japanese language skills alive, stay aware of the latest trends in Japanese quilting via regular visits to the Tokyo International Great Quilt Festival, visit friends, and track down interesting textile items for my customers.
I am the author of quite a few books and I teach textile and sashiko workshops. I also sell sashiko and kogin materials, plus modern and vintage Japanese fabrics. If you have any questions about my work, books or workshops, please get in touch by email, using my contact form.
Follow my blog at http://susanbriscoe.blogspot.co.uk/ The blog is one of the best places to look for information about me and what I do. I've been writing it for over 13 years now, so all the major events of the last decade are there. My quilts have been shown at textile shows around the UK and internationally.
I have a Facebook artist page too and run several Facebook groups based around my books. Links to all these are at the top of this page.
I live in a pre-1850s cottage in a small Scottish village in Perthshire with my husband Glyn, who has become my travel partner and helps me at quilt shows. Luckily he is also a creative person and understands the need for a fabric stash!
hover over the slide show above to read the photo captions
In April 2021, I was diagnosed with a rare progressive auto immune disease called Relapsing Polychondritis (RP), and Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) in my spine, which causes the immune system to attack the cartilage and cartalidginous structures in the body. You can read more about it here. It is even rarer in the UK than worldwide, with an incidence thought to be around 0.71 in a million. It is progressive and there is no cure. Hopefully it can be held at bay for many years with medication, but it also means that my immune system will be permanently compromised, so I will always have to be careful around others. I am writing about it here because, over time, it will start to affect the work I can do away from home, mainly shows, workshops and talks.
My diagnosis has left me with a feeling of relief - all the eye problems, joint and tendon aches and pains, breathing problems (costochondritis, not asthma after all), ear 'infection' etc. are all linked, and I'm not a hypchondriac - but also worry due to not knowing how fast the disease will progress in future. It is probably the reason why I loose my voice after a show, and haven't had a lot of energy or stamina for things like show set up and break down for years. My first really noticeable eye flare was in 2015 and my diagnosis in 2021 finally came via an ear 'infection' that mysteriously wouldn't respond to any antibiotics, after another series of episcleritis flares in my eyes (usually one eye at a time). Most of the effects of RP are not visible to others, and there are no specific blood markers that show up in tests, so diagnosis is difficult, and most GPs have never heard of it.
I have had various tests and I am now under the care of rhematology at Ninewells Hospital, Dundee. I started taking Methotrexate in August 2021, and have recently started taking Infliximab (a 'biologic'). We are hoping I will be able to wean off taking steroids gradually. All these medications work by suppressing the immune system in one way or another, so I have to be very, very careful about infections of any kind - viral, bacterial, or fungal. So you may see me wearing a mask more often than most people do now.
I don't have the stamina at the moment for longer three and four day shows - long term steroid use causes muscle weakness too - but I am hoping to return to doing some shows next year. For now, I've been concentrating on one day events, like the World Textile Days, which aren't as demanding physically. My RP symptoms, like the costochondritis flare up I had earlier this summer and the post herpetic neuralgia (PHN) I had earlier in 2022 after shingles in late 2021, occasionally get in the way of cutting and packing fabric for mail orders, because lifting the heavier fabric bolts and rolls is painful, so mail orders can be a little bit delayed when things are busy! My husband Glyn has been an absolute star and helps me as much as he can.
RP is likely to affect what I can do in future, so I am not planning to do much teaching away from home, due to the unpredicability of an RP flare up which can be very incapacitating. I'm not going to be putting myself hundreds of miles away from home and depending on being able to drive myself back. I will be doing short talks as part of the World Textile Days, and am planning to do a few workshops close to home next year. Please understand, and watch out for updates in my newsletters.