Textile artist Liese Sadler weaves an adventurous life

Published 12:00 am Friday, September 28, 2012

Alot of people believe they approach life as an adventure, but Liese Sadler is one of those fearless souls among us who make life decisions that most of us will only fantasize about.
The newest artist at Rail Walk Galleries, Liese openly cops to being an enthusiastic person.
“My default position is gung ho,”she says.She also describes herself as going through life “falling from one thing into another.”
Back in 1999, she fell into sailing.
She decided that she and her husband, Bob, should chuck their regular lives and live on a sailboat. She was 40 at the time; Bob was 46.
Bob, she says, “took some convincing.”
They’d been living south of Philadelphia, and Bob had lost his job. Liese owned an optometric practice but was ready for something different and felt the time was right. Their families weren’t completely on board, pardon the pun, but they went ahead with their plans.
They’d had some preparation – they’d taken a sailing class in Florida and had sailed on the Chesapeake for a summer.
Soon, they were living on a gaff-rig sailboat – an old style wooden boat with rectangular sails – sailing from Nova Scotia to the Bahamas.
They’d head south in the winter and north in the summer, taking jobs when they needed to (one fall, they found construction work in Beaufort).
Liese fell in love with sailing, she says.Bob would navigate, and Liese would be at the helm.
“You feel so alive,” she says. “The beauty of the light on the water…lying in your berth and listening to the ice break up on the river, or listen to the dolphins breathing as they’re going by looking for fish.”
Sailing at night was a beautiful experience, she says. “It’s just you and water and stars and moon.
“I’m so glad we did it.”
She admits that they took a hit financially, but it was worth it, she feels.
“You meet great people. And people really help each other out, and share information. People showed us such kindness.”
After four years, however, the life began to wear on Bob.
Bob got tired of the constant vigilance required, Liese says, and finally declared that he needed to go back to work. A chemist, he found work at a pharmaceutical company in Fort Lauderdale.
But, as Liese points out, “there’s a lot of concrete in Ft. Lauderdale,” and that got old, so Bob found a job at a nanotechnology company in Danville, Va. and they bought a farm in Pelham, NC not far across the state line.
And that’s where Liese learned how to weave, which has become her passion. She also acquired some sheep, giving her a copious supply of wool to work with. She missed sailing, but life on dry land had its own unique pleasures. Late in 2009, however, Liese began feeling bad. She was diagnosed with acute lymphocytic leukemia.
The situation was made more difficult by the fact that at that time, Bob had been laid off from his Danville job and had a brutal commute to a job in Kannapolis (a two-hour drive each way). He was living during the week in a room in Salisbury he’d found on Craigslist and would drive back home on the weekends to be with Liese. For the first six months of 2012, he’d drive Liese to Duke University Medical Center for treatment on Thursday and then pick her up on Sunday, and then it was off to work.
Although she was in treatment, Liese really didn’t know how serious her disease was until she went to a small cancer center in Raleigh, where she was told she had a less than 50-50 shot at survival.
Shell-shocked, she drove back home and then made a decision: “If I’m going to die I don’t want to live this way.”
It became crystal clear to her that the most important thing was to be with her husband, which meant they would have to give up the farm, since Bob needed to keep his job in Kannapolis for the insurance.
A friend soon helped her find a home for her family of Nigerian dwarf hair goats, and she found another home for her sheep with a fellow weaver from Chapel Hill.
With that taken care of, they moved to Salisbury.
Liese’s health is pretty good these days, although there have been some unwelcome side effects from the strong chemotherapy regimen she took. She’s continued her work as a textile artist and joined the group of artists at Rail Walk Gallery.
Her husband of 33 years, she says, continues to be supportive of whatever she wants to do.
“I’ve been really fortunate that I have a partner that if I said I wanted to go to the moon he’d support me.”
A large Scandanavian-style wooden loom dominates her studio space; smaller projects are done on a smaller loom next to it. She doesn’t work as much in wool as you might suspect.
“Most people don’t want to wear wool,” she says. “They think it’s scratchy, although it doesn’t have to be if it’s processed right.”
She now works in materials people will wear, she says, including cotton, bamboo, soy silk and rayon chenille. She dyes by hand with cellulosic dyes. Many of her pieces are vibrantly colored; all are beautifully crafted.
“It’s such a compliment when someone sees something and falls in love and wants to wear it or put it on their walls,” she says.
Liese has a show coming up at Rail Walk, with an opening reception Friday, Oct. 5, from 6-9 p.m.Liese’s work in the show encompasses many forms of non-representational explorations of structure and color in mixed-media, as well as art to wear.
There’s art to hang on your wall, then, and art to hang on your body.
The show will also feature photographs taken by her father, Marvin Stasak,who was a photojournalist and a commercial photographer when Liese was a young girl.
“I’ve never seen him go anywhere without his camera equipment. My dad sees life through a camera,” she says.The exhibit will continue at Rail Walk though the month of October.
The Rail Walk Gallery is open Thursday through Saturday from 11 a.m.-4 p.m.
Liese works in her studio most days during the week and enjoys people visiting to see the work in progress. She’s planning to do demonstrations during OctoberTour weekend, when the gallery will have extended hours.