Challenging herself to bring floral designs to the world of modern quilting, quilt designer Amy Friend faced a challenge: how to render the curves of nature with the straight lines of foundation paper piecing, her preferred technique. Even though she constructs her quilts with nary a curved seam, Amy creates the illusion of rounded petals growing from stems bending in the breeze.
How did you find yourself on a creative path? Always there? Lightbulb moment? Dragged kicking and screaming? Evolving?
I have always been a maker and dreamed of being an artist when I was a child. Art history completely drew me in when I was in college though, so I went on to become a museum collections curator. This didn’t stop me from making, and when I stopped working to be home with my kids, I discovered modern quilting. It quickly turned into my second career.
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What inspires you to create? Does your environment influence your creativity?
I need to create to manage stress and to feel complete and content. I would say that nature inspires me the most. As an avid gardener, I love observing color combinations in the garden and noticing the beauty and asymmetry of shapes in plant life.
Why quilting? How does that medium best express what you want to communicate through your art?
When my kids were young, I was most interested in printmaking but it wasn’t manageable. My son would wake up from his nap and I would be up to my elbows in wet ink. At that time, modern quilting blogs were popping up on the internet and they inspired me. So I changed course and started designing quilts during my creative time. One thing led to another and now it’s been ten years of designing modern quilts, and I have built a business around it. I am not sure if quilting will be my forever creative home, but it is for now.
When it comes to creating, are you more of a planner or an improviser?
My second book kind of says it all. The title is Improv Paper Piecing: A Modern Approach to Quilt Design. I love to improvisationally design blocks and then repeat them through paper piecing. I enjoy turning those improv paper pieced blocks into eye catching modern quilt layouts. So, I am half and half! I generally arrive at my ideas through an improv process, but then plan the execution.
Are there recurring themes in your work? What is it about a subject that inspires you to continue exploring it?
Recently, I have been exploring the idea of feminine modern quilts, so I am turning things like flowers into modern quilt designs. We see mostly geometric, abstract quilt designs but I thought that I could turn my love of things like flowers into modern quilt designs. You’ll see this in my book, Petal + Stem, and also in my quilt called Lacework, once called Charley (based on bows) and Handkerchief Garden (flowers and handkerchiefs.)
Do you have a go-to technique for your quilt designs? Why does that method appeal to you?
I foundation paper piece everything! With this method I can design anything that I want as long as I can do it with straight lines, and I love that. I am also much faster at paper piecing than I am when I traditionally piece.
What do you do to develop your skills? How do you get better at what you do?
I design and sew daily and by doing that work, I improve over time.
What is the most important takeaway you want readers to gain from your books, especially your new title, Petal + Stem: 40 Modern Floral Quilt Blocks to Mix-and-Match?
This book was meant to bring joy and spark creativity as well as showcase flowers in a modern way. I hope that readers see that modern quilts do not need to be only abstract and geometrical. I also hope that my mix and match combinations inspire them to use my blocks in creative ways and to have fun with them.
Do you have a dedicated space for creating? If so, what does it look like?
I sew in a dedicated space. It’s the sunroom of our 1830s home, attached to our dining room with double doors. The central location allows me to work on and off throughout the day and night, which is pretty much what someone does who works out of their home! It’s smaller than I would like, but I am grateful. The natural light from the windows on three sides is really its best feature. Honestly, I like looking out the windows while I work too!
What are the indispensable tools and materials in your studio? How do they improve your work?
I love my lightbox. I use a Daylight Company Wafer 1 lightbox and it helps improve my paper piecing accuracy and, more importantly, speed.
What plays in the background while you work? Silence? Music, audiobooks, podcasts, movies? If so, what kind?
I need silence when I am writing patterns and when I am designing. When it comes time to make quilts or do the quilting, I tend to have Netflix on while I sew.
If you could interview a creative person (past or present), who would that person be? What is it about that person that intrigues you?
Georgia O’Keefe. I have been fascinated by her since I was a teenager and first saw her work at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. The flowers initially drew me in, but then I enjoyed learning about her life.
Do you think that creativity comes naturally to people, or do you think creativity is a skill that people can learn?
I don’t know. But I think I can safely say that creativity needs to be nurtured. You need to be told or shown that creativity matters and believe that it’s worthy of your time.
How do you get unstuck creatively?
I start on basic to-dos and just start working. Sometimes I just endure a frustrating pause. At other times, I look back with fresh eyes at quilt designs that I haven’t made yet. Like all things, creativity comes in cycles. My life is busy enough that I generally can turn my attention elsewhere until my creative inspiration strikes.
Was there a turning point when the business side of your art really took off, or was the process more gradual?
I think that the turning point occurred when I decided to treat it as a business.
Tell us about your website. What do you hope people will gain by visiting?
My website is www.duringquiettime.com. I hope visitors will be inspired to learn foundation paper piecing, to explore modern quilt design and will enjoy my photography because I love taking pictures of my work.
Do you lecture or teach workshops? How can students/organizers get in touch with you to schedule an event?
I do! My Teaching and Workshop page can be found here: https://duringquiettime.com/teaching-and-lectures. I also have some online workshops and a brand new Block of the Month program starting called Apple Cider BOM.
Interview posted December 2021
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