Artist Profile: Sue Noble, Lopez Island

Amanda Leidig interviews Sue Noble, a weaver.

“I’ve always loved color,” Sue Noble explained of her vibrant weaving.

Before moving to the San Juan Islands, Sue spent time living in the California desert, and the colors she saw in everyday life there inspired her enough that she often incorporates them into her work today. Using rayon and rayon blends, Sue weaves the sometimes subtle, sometimes dramatic colors of nature into her work. Especially those she sees in sunsets. “I loved the sunsets,” she remembers of her desert living, “and the sunsets we experience here on Lopez Island are every bit as powerful.”

In fact, she loves sunsets so much, that they have become part of her business, FishBay Sunsets. Sue now weaves her distinct table runners, place mats, table rugs, evening wraps, scarves, wall hangings and swags in a cozy, well-decorated studio in Lopez Village. Vibrant, filled with color and charm, her studio is packed with spools and spools of fiber. Her loom, a Swedish Glimakra Counterbalance, is a major piece within the room. Its size is impressive and the warm richness of its wood adds a homey element to the space.

Sue has been told by visitors that her studio emulates a popular practice in Europe, where finished works are displayed in the same space as ongoing works. “It’s an added element of the exhibit,” said Sue, adding that sometimes people come in just to watch her weave.

When one wanders through Sue’s studio, her work is bound to capture their eye. She has created traditional patterns, those of old world and casual elegance as well as contemporary pieces. Those visiting her studio would probably guess that Sue has been weaving her entire life — but really she hasn’t.

“I came to weaving in just the past few years,” said Sue. “It was really a curious thing.” While visiting Grace Church, Sue noticed that there seemed to be quite a few knitters in the congregation. “As soon as the sermon started, the knitting needles came out,” she remembered. Afterwards, she asked some of the ladies if there was a knitting group on the island. She soon learned that, no, there wasn’t a knitting group — but, there was a weaver’s group.

With Maria Armstrong and Patty Savage (among many others) as her mentors, Sue soon began soaking up all of the knowledge she possibly could about weaving. “If it hadn’t been for those ladies and all the various experiences I had with them, I wouldn’t be where I am today,” said Sue, as she looked around her studio. “It’s the most amazing thing. It’s pinch me stuff!”

After learning from her mentors and practicing her craft, Sue decided to try selling some of her work at the Lopez Preschool Bazaar. “I sold out completely in two hours,” she said. Not only that, she also picked up some commission work as well. Her experience at the Bazaar prompted her to purchase a space at the Farmer’s Market, where she had great success for several summers.

However, carrying her work into and out of the Farmer’s Market was difficult for Sue, who had suffered a back injury some years back. It was time to find a space where she could work and display to the public. This past Labor Day Weekend, Sue opened the doors to her current studio, which is located in The Bay Building, right next to Gallery 10.

Before taking the leap into making weaving her career, Sue had for many years worked as a legal secretary and then as an EMS dispatcher. But in retirement she began to explore her artistic side.

“I come from a family of undiscovered artists,” said Sue, who first delved into watercolor. It was soon after that she discovered weaving.

“One of my mentors said I needed to explore texture and color,” she said. And after that, there was no looking back. Sue knows she wouldn’t be where she is today without some very important people. “My husband has been my main supporter,” she said of Jim Tyrrell. “He is tireless.”

Sue feels as if she had found her calling. “I let the fiber speak. This is my world, this is what I live and breathe,” she said. “It feels like I’m wearing a comfortable pair of shoes.”

Sue’s work can be viewed in her Lopez Village studio in the bay building, by appointment (360-468-4803) or online at