Artist and writer Sue Kreitzman has one of the most joyful and colourful social media accounts we have ever seen. For a long time we have enjoyed following her on Instagram, getting some serious style inspiration and looking forward to seeing her latest art pieces. Sue actually reached out to us to help her source some beaded Maasai collars to make her infamous neck shrines. Since then, we have been totally in awe of Sue and her wonderfully vibrant mind! Originally from New York, Sue lived in Atlanta, Georgia for 18 years before moving to London with her husband and son. After years of teaching, working as a chef, writing food articles as well as 27 cookery books, Sue was in her 50s when she discovered her true passion was to be an artist. Since then, she has been creating Outsider Art as well as curating some wonderful exhibitions - there isn't much this one-woman-wonder hasn't achieved! We were so excited when she agreed to sit down and chat with us about all things art, ageing and her international inspirations...
How would you describe yourself in 5 words?
You always look so fabulous! How do you decide what you're going to wear each day? Has dressing up always been a conscious act for you?
Deciding on what I will wear each day is an act of art, and a pure, visceral pleasure. I always begin with a long black dress. Then a wildly colourful and patterned art kimono, a neckshrine, an armful of bangles, and a pair of vivid, embellished crocs. It only takes moments, but the effect is dazzling. I'm a walking collage, a perambulating art gallery, a vision of joy and hope.
You’ve had many different, interesting careers in your life from a teacher to a chef to a food writer before landing into art in your late 50s. Were you concerned about finding "the right career" by a certain age?
I trained as a school teacher and worked at that job for about 15 years. Then other careers just found me. The food biz for a very long time, and then, in my late 50s, I burst into art, very like bursting into flames. It was very sudden, dramatic, and unsuspected. One of the most exciting things that has ever happen to me. A gift from the Universe. I'm in my 80s now. The gift continues.
We know you wear a lot of second-hand and handmade fashion, is shopping sustainably something that's important to you?
It's very important. The only conventional shopping I do is online for my long black dresses and crocs. Once obtained, I wear them for decades. No need to keep replacing them.
I source my kimono fabrics from flea markets, charity shops, and female African traders. I design them, and a local tailor stitches them up for me. Sometimes beloved artist friends make a kimono or two or three for me.
I take very good care of all of them. They last forever. When I am gone, they will be passed on to others.
What is the inspiration behind your art? Is there a specific message you hope to convey?
My paintings, drawings, and Memory Jugs concern themselves almost entirely with the female landscape. They are all about womanhood with all its joys and sorrows. Mostly the colourful joy and unfettered femaleness of it all, although often there's quite a bit of blood.
I borrow Goddesses and other female characters from all religions and mythologies and remake them for my own private mythology. This is unabashed syncretism . An age old practice.
We absolutely love the beautiful neck shrines you create, can you tell us a little more about them and your process in creating them?
I am obsessed with making neckshrines. I invented the term, and I invented the thing itself. Literally a shrine to wear around your neck. You have to be a brave person (with a strong neck) to wear one.
Neckshrines are shrines to diversity, humanity, the diaspora, and the joy of collecting detritus, junk, and found objects. And very much shrines to colour and sustainability.
I often build them on African beadwork collars, or cowrie shell collars, or perspex bases.
I buy the African neckshrine bases from African traders, or those who support cottage industries in Africa. The perspex bases are made for me by an artist friend.
Forget well behaved strings of pearls, or a staid diamond on a gold chain.
Good taste is overrated. Wear a shrine around your neck.
It appears that you take inspiration from a lot of different cultures, can you tell us a little more about that?
Cultural mashups are my speciality. Humanity is essentially one big family. We are all related to each other. We are all colours, all ethnicities, all races, all ages, all sexualities. A mosaic of great beauty.
I try very hard to glorify that in my work. It gives me great pleasure. Appreciation and deep affection. Never appropriation.
Colour seems to play such a huge role in your life - when do you think your love affair with colour began?
I was born with a rainbow in my head. Although I grew up in a fairly bland household , I've craved bright bold colour for as long as I remember.
In your face, and in my face too.
Every facet of my life reflects this passion. I tone myself down for no-one.
What has been your proudest moment in your career/life so far?
In my long life, and several careers, I've had many proud moments, too many to list here.
But something wonderful just happened.
AVAM, (The American Visionary Art Museum), considered one of the finest Outsider Art Museums in the world, has just acquired 50 of my neckshrines. They will appear in the museum's next big exhibition, and will then move into its permanent collection.
My crazy obsession has been validated!
I can't begin to convey what this means to me.
What 1 piece of advice would you offer to young creatives looking to make their way in the world?
Follow your own vision, don't let anyone put you in a box of their making. And be aware that at any moment, a window might open, just out of sight. That magical waft of breeze and glimmer of light might lead to an entire new life dimension. Don't ignore it.
A huge thank you to Sue for taking the time to chat with us today! If you'd like to learn more about Sue, you can visit her website 'The World of Sue Kreitzman' here