Spotlight: Andie Solar, Fiber and Punch Needle Artist
When the right thing happens, go for it! That’s what Andie Solar did when she lost her day job, took up punch needle rug hooking as a hobby, then discovered there was a demand for kits with modern designs. So, goodbye, 9 to 5, and hello to living creatively!
Why textiles? Why punch needle rug hooking? How did you get started?
I never aspired to be a fiber artist – I sort of fell into it. I was laid off at the end of 2016 and while job hunting I wanted to do something for myself. I’ve always been creative ever since I can remember. I started trying new things and one day I stumbled upon a punch needle video on Instagram and it was like everything around me stopped and I knew I had to try it. Less than 3 months later I somehow had a business. I like to think it was all meant to be.
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What inspires you to create?
This is always a very hard question for me because I can never answer any specifics. I would say everything around me. I love colors and shapes of all kinds. Sometimes I get inspired by music, sometimes by a scent. I would say when it comes to fiber and interior design, I have always loved mid-century designs, especially the colorful and funky ones.
What do you do differently? What is your signature that makes your work stand out as yours?
I’m still trying to find myself as an artist, but I think I’m getting closer every day. I love color and I love texture. I have fun with the designs and through the process I learned that my gut is my most prized “possession.” So I do what the gut tells me to do, not what I think I should be creating because “there’s a demand”. It’s a tougher way to function as a business, but the whole reason I’m doing this is because I love it, so pushing myself into something I don’t want to make would defeat the purpose.
Can you tell us about the inspiration and process of one of your works? How does a new work come about?
The designs usually pop in my brain out of nowhere and most often at night right before I fall asleep. It’s really odd, but that’s how my business name came to be as well. Now, I just roll with it and try to have an ipad by my bed to sketch whatever comes to mind.
Do you plan all of your projects out ahead? Or do you let the needle and thread guide your journey?
I do a bit of both – I usually have a general concept in my mind when I start. My brain needs some sort of guidelines. I will never be the artist who just starts making something and it comes out great. I have a general idea, but then I let the design, colors and texture guide me. That’s what’s great about punch needle – you can pull the yarn out and re-punch whenever you like and it doesn’t affect the overall design. It’s a very simple craft to do!
What advice would you have for beginners?
Just start and go with the process. I can explain the process to you, but you should feel the needle, the yarn and the fabric and figure out how they work together. Learning through experience is the best.
What is your favorite technique for transferring your punch needle designs to fabric?
Ipad behind the fabric or the window transfer.
What is the most important takeaway you want readers to gain from your new book, Pretty Punch Needle?
To be confident they can create projects using a variety of yarns, fabrics, frames and also finishing techniques. When writing the book it was really important to me to offer a range of everything I just mentioned so that the reader can be the artist and mix and match media and finish however s/he wants to.
Do you have a dedicated space for creating? If so, what does it look like?
I do! I’m very lucky. I have a very small room so even the smallest mess makes it look like a bomb exploded haha. But I love it because it’s mine. Most of the time it does look like a bomb exploded here, but to me that just means that I’m creating so I’m ok with that.
What is your favorite storage tip for your fabric and creative supplies?
For yarn – for whole or almost whole skeins I like stacking on shelves. For smaller yarn balls I have baskets. I think wire ones are the best because I can see exactly what’s in it.
Fabric is also best folded on shelves or hung on rods if you have that possibility.
The most important thing for me is to have only supplies I really use around me. I re-do my studio regularly to reflect that. I always find things that just take up space, but I don’t need around me so I put them away to a closet or donate them if I haven’t used them in a while. The beauty of having a small studio is learning to only have the necessary. It really helps avoid clutter because you just don’t have space for it!
What are your must-have supplies for your punch needle projects?
Adjustable punch needle, monk’s cloth, stretcher bars to make a frame and yarn. It doesn’t take much to start.
What plays in the background while you work? Silence? Music, audiobooks, podcasts, movies? If so, what kind?
I have a record player, but I have to say sitcoms probably play the most. I’m a sucker for them! Anything from 70s-90s. My most favorite show is probably Columbo (I own all DVDs ).
I also love movies from 50s-70s, especially ones with Audrey Hepburn and Cary Grant.
When it comes to music, I own a lot of Henry Mancini records (he did a lot of movie soundtracks, especially in my most favorite period), and then stars like Queen, Bee Gees, Elton John, Prince…I really don’t know any young musicians that well. Kelly Clarkson is probably one of the young ones that I love.
How many projects do you have going at once? Or do you focus on one creative project at a time?
Goodness, I wish I knew! I try to focus on one at a time, but I have a bad habit of abandoning a project when it’s almost finished. Luckily, owning a business means I do have to finish it so in the past 3 years of doing this I’ve learned to keep my focus better.
Are you often asked to design custom pieces? What are some of the joys and challenges of doing commission work?
Not as often as I’d like, but that’s mostly because I haven’t really made myself available. I’m trying to change that now!
Challenges depend on each project. From the past I’ve had really good experiences. I had one where I learned that sometimes I’m just not the right artist for some customers, and that’s ok. Both sides should be agreeable so if it doesn’t work it’s ok to say so.
When you started with punch needle rug hooking, were you making just for fun or did you always envision it becoming a business?
As I mentioned, my business just kind of happened and happened VERY quickly. When I started there were no kits on the market. And I was one of the very first ones with modern designs. I had fun and I wanted others to have fun and that’s why I created them. I love teaching and helping others learn the art of punch needle – every time someone messages me saying they’re having fun my heart skips a beat and I do a little dance. So as I was posting my progress on social media people were curious what made me decide to make kits. There was a lot of trial and error and I had to learn a lot about running a business and I had to learn it very quickly. It was hard, but I’m very grateful it happened.
Was there a turning point when the business side of your art really took off, or was the process more gradual?
Since I was the only one with kits at the time, it took off insanely quickly. Then, as more people started making kits it all kind of settled down and the progress was more organic.
Tell us about your website. What do you hope people will gain by visiting?
Gosh, my website – the bane of my existence! I really want it to have all the resources and I always fear it doesn’t. I want people to see that I’m an artist and a teacher. If you want to learn I offer resources. If you want to have a custom piece made I’m available.
What was the biggest challenge that you encountered on your creative journey? What did you learn from it?
The biggest challenge is to not compare myself to others and to not equate being busy with success. It is especially hard during the slower times, which every business has. But despite knowing that, I still struggle. Yet, I don’t want to give up because the benefits of doing what I love are simply too great, especially the emotional ones.
If someone asked me to tell them about positives and negatives I’d probably say: Positive – no 9-5 schedule. Negative – no 9-5 schedule. Positive – I get to decide what to work on. Negative – I get to decide what to work on. I can go on and on like this. It’s a hustle and it’s hard and sometimes you feel like you can’t keep going, but, gosh, the benefits (when one is able to really see them) are so, so good.
Interview with Andie Solar posted October 2020.
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