Spotlight: Amanda Murphy, Contemporary Quilt and Fabric Designer
Try to keep up! Amanda Murphy designs fabric for Benartex, creates quilt patterns, writes books on quilting, creates her own line of quilting rulers and teaches workshops at BERNINA dealerships. Read on to learn what makes this creative young “artrepreneur” tick.
How did you make the transition from a career in graphic arts to professional quilter?
I always sewed as a hobby and enjoyed exploring textile design. Although I was educated as a graphic designer, I designed number of collections that I then pitched to a couple of fabric companies. And that is how I got started in this industry.
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Do you think that creativity comes naturally to people – or do you think creativity is a skill that people can learn?
Well, first I’d have to say that creativity comes in many forms, only one of which is visual. Visual creativity gets a lot of attention because it is easy to recognize, but there are so many different ways to be creative. Although I think some people have a natural inclination toward one type of creativity, I do think it can be learned to some extent. After all, we teach basic math to all, although only a few will go on to be mathematicians.
How has your creativity has evolved over the years? What triggered the evolution to new ways of working?
I think that I have learned to discard things that aren’t working and be open to “happy accidents”. Many of my favorites are happy because I’m willing to discard my initial plans and branch off in a new direction. Serendipity is a wonderful thing.
When you have time to create for yourself, what kinds of projects do you make?
It has been years since I’ve sewn for myself, but if I did it would likely to be slightly more scrappier than usual, since I wouldn’t be confining myself to one line of fabric.
What is the most important takeaway you want readers to gain from your books, especially your new title, Organic Free Motion Quilting Idea Book?
That quilting is less about line and more about texture and you can create truly custom work regardless of skill level. I see this book as a tool to keep in your quilting area for inspiration.
What do you do differently? What is your signature that makes your work stand out as yours?
Gosh, I’m not sure on this one. Maybe that I like to combine modern and traditional elements and that I tend to gravitate toward a graphic look? Honestly, I try not to look much at what is out there so I’m not too influenced. I do keep track of broad trends, but otherwise I tend to work in a tunnel so that my work is original.
How do you keep your skills fresh?
I force myself to design outside my comfort zone. For instance, I work with colors I am sometimes uncomfortable with in a deliberate manner. At the outset of my career I worked in graphic design and multimedia, so the skills I developed there really help, and I strive to keep up with new software features as they are added.
How does your studio organization contribute to your work process?
I mostly work out of my living room so there is nothing very impressive there, but I am very organized when it comes to projects and very structured in how I use my time.
What is your favorite storage tip for your fabric and creative supplies?
I like tables with adjustable heights for cutting and computer work so I’m not sitting all the time.
Are there indispensable tools and materials in your studio? How do they improve your work?
Let’s see…. some of the things I use all the time are: My many BERNINA machines, including my 790 Plus and a Q24 BERNINA longarm. My line of Good Measure Quilting Rulers from Brewer Sewing. My fabrics of course! They influence my quilt designs and vice versa. MacBook Pro and graphics tablet and Adobe Creative Suite, Aurifil thread in 50 wt., 40 wt., and 28 wt., OESD Stabilizers, Oversewn cotton/bamboo batting, SoftFuse, and Cricut Maker for appliqué.
What is your favorite lesser-known tool for your trade? Have you taken something designed for another use and repurposed it for your studio?
Not really, but I do repurpose a lot of shapes from fabric and use them to create appliqué designs.
When you travel, do you create on planes and in waiting areas? What is in your creative travel kit?
When I’m traveling I usually do computer-based work, like pattern writing or doing interviews like this!
Do you use a sketchbook or journal? How does that help your work develop?
I tend to do very loose sketches – so loose they are basically just notes to myself. Then I pretty quickly move to my computer and graphics tablet.
Tell us about a challenging piece. What were the obstacles and how did you get past them?
I was honored to design the fabric line and quilt celebrating BERNINA’s 125th Anniversary. I love how it turned out! With a simple gold color palette, the focus was really on texture. Like the BERNINA brand, it had to be sophisticated and modern, with a nod to tradition as well. So the design work really focused on all of those things. I included features of BERNINA machines to showcase, so there was a huge educational component as well.
If you could interview a creative person (past or present), who would that person be? What is it about that person that intrigues you? What would you ask?
Leonardo Da Vinci! I’m always fascinated by people who combine right- and left-brained skill sets.
Tell us about your blog and website. What do you hope people will gain by visiting?
My website is blog.amandamurphydesign.com, and I also have a Facebook Group called Quilting with Amanda Murphy.
Interview with Amanda Murphy published June, 2019.
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