Elemental Layers: Suzanne Williams

In conversation with… Suzanne Williams


Just as promised… the interviews with the artists of Trevelyan’s Visual Arts’ Society’s Exhibition: Elemental Layers! First up is artist Suzanne Williams, a mixed media visual artist who lives and works in Teesdale, County Durham. Her work ranges from the figurative to the abstract and incorporates everyday fabrics and traditional art materials. She runs art workshops for a variety of client groups, has completed commissions, been part of a number of Art projects and exhibited at venues across the North East of England, including the Bowes Museum.

“Art works shown in the Elemental Layers exhibition at Trevelyan are mixed media compositions. Some of the layers applied are made up of photographs taken along the way at bluebell and wild garlic flowering time. I aim to give each piece a sculptural feel, making impressionistic marks of acrylic paint, acrylic medium and chalk paint applied to each different ground with palette knives. A rich, vibrant often translucent colour palette is used. I hope this helps to give an impression of beauty and coveys the joy I had in making the work.” 

I found Suzanne’s work to be immediately captivating, full of colour and vibrancy. Her experimentation with both colour and medium creates vivid depictions of wonderful, natural scenes. I was eager to find out about the work she created, her life as an artist, and also her advice for budding artists.


The Bubble (B): Could you tell me a little about the work that you’re displaying here today?

Suzanne (S): My work here is mainly collage and mixed media. The bulk of the work here on show today is a series on Bluebell woods. I live near Barnard Castle, and my house backs onto Flatts Woods, so I can pop over my fence and go into the woods. I took lots of photographs of the woods – especially during bluebell time and wild garlic season. I would then prepare a ground, a canvas or paper, and use bits of collage (different paints and inks) to build up layers. It creates a sculptural feel to the picture. 

B: So interesting! How did this all come about then? How did you develop your technique? Did you train, was it a hobby?

S: I’ve always done art. I’ve bought materials, worked on pieces, been to classes etc. Back in the day I was an occupational therapist, but then I decided to go back to Uni and do a Fine Art degree at Sunderland University, which I did on a part-time basis, 6 years in total for the BA. From then, I joined lots of little groups, one being Interface Arts which is based here in Durham, and for a while I was with the Teesdale Artist Network as well. There, I had an open studio and different exhibitions with them, all the while ploughing on on my own as well, in my own studio in my garden. I’ve done workshops too, and until recently I was working as a sessional artist with people with mental health issues in Sunderland. 

B: Oh wonderful! So you’re sort of combining your two trades then, all of what you do?

S: Yes, I really like the creating process. Not only do I like showing people what I do, but I have to say the whole wellbeing aspect of doing art is of the utmost of importance regarding my work. I like to think that people will feel a joy in looking at my work, as I enjoy doing it. It’s the joy of making it that’s important to me as well. I always say to people, although it’s nice to have a finished product, it’s the actual doing which is the enjoyable and best bit of it, really. 

B: Have you always done this style?

S: No, I do a variety. The Bluebells is just a series I’ve done in collage. If you look at some of my unframed work, you can see I do a little bit of everything, really. Ink washes, acrylic, oil painting, watercolour painting. I’ve done sculpture in the past too – not with stone, but with more common materials. Everything! Sometimes it’s all mixed up like these are; I don’t really stick to one thing.  

B: What would you say as advice to budding artists?

S: Well, I think: always have a go! There’s always something people can do, it’s just about finding a way in. It’s to be said of any subject really, like Maths for example. You’ve got to find your root in and sometimes it’s just about finding someone to help you discover that. Lots of people say ‘Oh I can’t draw!’, and you might not be good at drawing, but you might be very good at printing, or photography, making movies, even sound work. It’s just all about finding your niche and going for it!

B: So would you encourage going to workshops and that kind of thing in Durham?

S: I would, yes! I know that we’re in collaboration with the Oriental Museum and I’ve actually got some work on there with an Interface Arts group that I’m with as well. We’ve done some work with them in relation to their collection and also in relation to the rest of the Modern Art collection the Durham University has. I know Trevelyan has a big art scene, but the whole of Durham has quite a lot too! We’ve been up to the Business School and seen the artwork they have on the walls there – and the work in the Oriental Museum is in response to that. 

B: Somewhere to go to be inspired!

S: Yes! In fact, we do workshops every other month at the Oriental Museum on a Saturday. I think the next one is a Fused Glass Workshop. Again, don’t consider art as just drawing, there’s all different types of things you can get involved with so students should look out for things like this too!


To see Suzanne’s work in person, get up to Trev’s College Bar, where it’ll be exhibited until Friday 6th December. 

To see more of her work in general, visit her website or check out her Instagram 

To contact her directly, email her at: suzanne.williams@live.co.uk.


If you have any questions about the exhibition in general, or want to get involved in any future events, please contact Trev’s Visual Art Rep Amie via her email address: amie.kirby@durham.ac.uk. 



All photography by Lara Grozdanic. 

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