Do the creative work. Every day. That’s what keeps surface design artist and printmaker Lisa Chin producing new work and growing as an artist. With multiple projects in the works at any one time – all in various stages of completion – there is always something for Lisa to work on that gives her the growth she thrives on.
What inspires you to create?
Honestly, I create because I need to. It’s something I have always had a drive to do from childhood. I wanted to learn every new craft I came across. I love process, and I love learning.
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Why art quilting? How does that medium that best express what you want to communicate through your art?
I learned to quilt at church when I was a teenager. I loved being able to tie baby quilts and give them to people. They were whole cloth quilts and wonky. As I grew up, I learned about piecing and appliqué from books and a class I took in college. There wasn’t any YouTube then. I had friends who encouraged me to learn more by hiring me to make things for them. I didn’t have a clue what I was doing but they had confidence in me so I did my best to learn and create. These projects took me forever, but I enjoyed learning.
Years later a friend invited me to join a local quilt guild with her. They had weekly meetings during the day where we could stitch and chat with like minded quilters. The women in this group opened my mind to the possibilities available in fabric and art. They introduced me to art quilting, fabric dyeing and improv piecing like no magazine or book could have. Seeing their work in person inspired me to create art in fabric.
Even though I still enjoy piecing, I’ve come back to “whole cloth quilts” in a whole new way. There are two ways I am creating my art quilts now: dyeing and printing fabrics, or drawing designs and having them digitally printed. These two methods are then followed up by a lot of hand quilting with perle cotton. Some of these quilts help me to express my emotions, and some of them are “just art.”
Did you have a “gateway craft” as a kid? Which creative projects led you to the work you do today?
Somehow I’ve always had a thing for stitching and painting. Maybe because they were the most accessible to me. Arts and Crafts were my favorite part of Girl Scouting and the summer camps I attended. I learned to crochet as a 12 year old and taught my Mom, who became very good. Needlework was something I felt I could do well as a youth, and I enjoyed picking up new kits and spending hours stitching. There was always a long learning curve in each new process, except for embroidery. I felt like I was able to pick this up quickly. It brought me joy to make something and gift it to a family member.
What do you do to develop your skills? How do you get better at what you do?
I feel like my best quality in developing my skills is in showing up and trying again and again and again. It helps that I enjoy learning. The hardest part is moving past the imposter syndrome and my clinical depression. Whenever I feel I am not succeeding, I know it’s time to move on to something else and come back to the project later. Usually a good night’s rest or a week away gives me a new perspective.
What different creative media do you use in your work?
I love to dye fabric, and often use Shibori techniques to create texture in the design. Carving stamps from rubber and printing them on the fabric is another passion I have developed over the past 5 years. Sometimes I use my stamps to create an all over print and sometimes to create a focal point. I am also working at taking my hand drawn images and manipulating them digitally to create designs which I then print on fabric and hand stitch.
When it comes to creating, are you more of a planner or an improviser?
Both – I plan and improvise. I know it sounds like a contradiction but they actually work well together. I will plot out an idea but when it comes to actually executing it there is a lot of improvisation. Things never work out as I planned them so I’ve come to accept this and do my best to make things up as I go.
Do you focus on one piece exclusively from start to finish or work actively on more than one project at a time?
I always have multiple projects going at a time. There is usually one main project, but I have other things in various stages of doneness. On the days I’m able to work, I typically spend the morning at the computer, the afternoon is machine sewing, dyeing or painting, followed by making dinner and spending some time with my husband. While we watch TV in the evening, I hand quilt, and once he goes to bed I retire to my studio to draw or paint until midnight. Then I read in bed for a few hours before falling asleep.
Do you have a dedicated space for creating? If so, what does it look like?
Now that the kids have all moved out I have taken over two of the bedrooms in our home. Currently they are a big mess as I am reorganizing and condensing. One of the disadvantages of my love of learning is that I have collected many various materials over the years. I hope to narrow these all down to just the materials I currently work with. The funny thing is, this is still a lot of stuff: fabric, threads, paints, rubber, carving tools, paintbrushes, sketchbooks, pens, markers, stamp pads, paper, etc etc.
One of the bedrooms is dedicated to sewing. I have a Juki TL2010q, a Juki serger, and a Designer edition Babylock, which actually hasn’t been used much in years. There is a large cutting table, which is usually covered with projects and needs to be cleared to cut fabrics, and then clear plastic boxes on shelves filled with organized fabrics and notions. I feel the need to see everything. If I don’t see it I forget about it.
My other studio is my dye and paint studio. My Mac desktop is in there, along with everything I need for dyeing, painting and drawing. I have two table tops set up. One is for drawing and painting and the other for dyeing and printing. Somehow despite the space I still end up working within a 20” square.
What are the indispensable tools and materials in your studio? How do they improve your work?
Recently I have pulled apart my sewing studio in an attempt to cull, sort and organize the mess. I have found I have a lot more “indispensable” tools than I thought I had. Besides my Juki TL2010Q, which is a powerhouse I absolutely love, my indispensable “tools” are mostly PFD fabric (prepared for dyeing fabric), Procion dyes, Eko Carve rubber, Speedball linoleum cutter, printmaking inks, hand needles, perle cotton thread, sketchbooks, pencils and paints. I have many other items I use occasionally but these are the items I can’t do without. Oh and I MUST have my computer! Whether it’s my desktop or my iPad, I need the connection to my peoples.
Do you use a sketchbook or journal? How does that help your work develop?
I love having multiple sketchbooks to work in. The drawings and paintings sometimes show up in my art quilts, but then again they might not. I often use them to participate in a 100 day project. Dedicating 100 days to drawing or painting one item in particular helps me to hone my skills for future projects. I often scan my drawings and then manipulate them digitally to create new designs.
What plays in the background while you work? Silence? Music, audiobooks, podcasts, movies? If so, what kind?
The background is either silent or filled with the sound of a streaming TV series. I prefer TV series because they last a lot longer than movies and once I understand who the main characters are I don’t need to look at the screen very often. My favorite series are sci-fi shows such as Star Trek and all of its spin-offs, or mysteries. Occasionally I will throw in a comedy, but usually I like the “puzzle” of solving a murder mystery.
Do you think that creativity comes naturally to people, or do you think creativity is a skill that people can learn?
I believe anyone can be creative in their life. They just need to dedicate the time. It’s hard work sometimes but creativity isn’t something that is just a part of the arts. Creativity should be in every part of our lives. Think differently and come up with creative ways to solve every issue.
How do you get unstuck creatively?
I show up everyday and do something. Anything. It can be the ugliest thing on earth but I showed up and eventually an idea comes to me.
Tell us about your website. What do you hope people will gain by visiting?
My website is mostly a landing page of items I’ve had published, as well as a blog of what i am currently doing.
Check out Lisa’s website.
Interview posted February 2022