Spotlight: Lynn Krawczyk, Textile Artist
Try to keep up now, y’all! Lynn Krawczyk’s artistic energy will make your head spin! With a fearless approach to a blank canvas, she is a fiber artist who works on several projects simultaneously, starting with a bit of a plan, then trusting her creative instincts.
How did you get started as an artist? Where were you headed prior to that?
I feel as if I came to art pretty late in life, actually. Because I didn’t start making until I was in my mid-twenties. I dabbled with crafts when I was a kid and teenager but nothing held my interest. I guess I just hadn’t found my art home yet.
In my early twenties I injured my back and had to have surgery. It was a long recovery for me and lots of resting time. That’s when I discovered crazy quilts and it was like falling down a rabbit hole. I’m now completely obsessed with anything fiber art related – I want to do them all!
What inspires you to create? Are there recurring themes in your work? Do you do series work? How does that affect your approach?
I love making abstract art. It’s something I’ve been drawn to my whole life. Lee Krasner and Francoise Gilot are two of my favorite painters. I remember the first time I saw their work I felt like I was reading their emotions. That’s what abstract art means to me – a way to speak quietly.
I am finding as I do more paper collage that I’m embracing realism a bit more. But I still like to keep it a little weird.
I have done some series work. My textile collages – Remnant Collage – was one of them. I often have torn feelings about series work. Sometimes I enjoy the comfort of them and other times I feel like they are a rut. So I guess it just depends on my mood at the time.
But I’m quite comfortable making one off pieces. In the end, I feel as if all my work looks as if it was made by me so in my mind it doesn’t matter if it’s a part of a series of one hundred pieces or one. They all come from the same place.
Facing a blank canvas strikes terror in the hearts of many. You seem to take it on with an “Oh, yeah? Take that!” attitude. Did you have to learn that? Is it teachable?
Hahahaha! Yeah I guess I do! I’ve always felt that I learn just as much from my mistakes as I do from my successes so that means that nothing is a waste of time or material. So much of making art is experience so it all contributes.
I adopted the attitude because aiming for perfection in my artwork sucks all the joy out of it. It’s something I do to find my center so applying pressure to it takes away the benefits of it. That’s not to say I abandon craftsmanship and strive to make sloppy work. It just means that I don’t stress about my work being archival for a thousand years or if the back of my embroidery pieces aren’t as pretty as the front.
It is something that I want to teach because in the classes I have taught in the past I always find a student agonizing over every choice instead of trusting her gut. I’m developing a class right now called Ten Minute Textile Collages that I hope will break that barrier. I’m hoping to start teaching it in 2019.
How would you say your work has evolved over the years? What triggered the evolution to new mediums?
I’d say that my work has become braver. By that I mean that I don’t worry anymore if people will like it or if it could be published. I just have at it and sometimes it’s great and sometimes it’s so horrible I want to bury it in the backyard. But that kind of acceptance of the process is so comfortable and lovely.
A friend always tells me that it seems like my brain always needs to be busy. And it’s true. So new mediums help fill that need. Some of them I just play in but I need that creative space to just work without expectation. Plus it’s FUN. And who doesn’t like having FUN??
Tell us about taking your small collages and exploding them into large format prints on fabric via Spoonflower. What’s next for those designs?
Oh those are so fun! I really loved making those paper/drawn collages. They are so much fun and I wanted to expand them a bit. So I was thrilled when my experiment to make them really huge and have them printed at Spoonflower worked. (The originals are only 4” wide x 6” high.)
They will be made into art quilts. I want to heavily stitch them and possibly do some surface design on them. I’ve been sketching some designs to make into silk screens. For right now they are just hanging out in my studio and I pet them every time I walk by them.
What is the most important takeaway you want readers to gain from your book(s), especially your new title, Hand Sewing Magic?
My goal with all of my books, especially Hand Sewing Magic, is to drive home the point that perfection in art is a myth and that I hope the reader embraces the joy that making gives them.
Hand Sewing Magic is heavy on stitch instruction and fewer projects. It was fun to curate the stitches that went into it – there are SO many out there! It pretty much became a game of my favorites.
Hand stitching is special to me because it has such a long tradition and history. It’s something that spans generations and it’s an art form that is very accessible to everyone. I really hope that my books make that point.
As an artist, are you a planner or an improviser? Much of your work relies on layers. When you start a piece, do you know where it’s going? Or does each layer speak to the next?
I’m a 10% planner and a 90% improviser. I usually start working with a general idea of what part of the project will be but for the most part I wing it.
I don’t mind backing myself into a corner or getting stuck. It forces me to find a creative solution and I think it makes the pieces stronger in a way. The energy of the maker goes into every piece so if I can strut around the studio in a triumphant march that I solved a problem, I think it shows.
You’ll hear almost every artist say that they wait for the art to tell them what to do next. There’s a lot of that in the way I work. I love the surprises.
What do you learn about who you are through your creative endeavors?
I think this question is so much easier for me to answer after my experiences during 2018. In the spring I was diagnosed with stage 3 non- Hodgkin’s lymphoma. The diagnosis was completely unexpected and I immediately went into “How do we kill this stuff off?” mode. After completing the first round of chemo, I found myself reaching for my art.
I wasn’t in any condition to stand in my studio printing fabric or designing new pieces. So I switched gears and hauled various art supplies down to the sofa so I could rest while I worked. I began making tons of paper collages from magazines. I also hand stitched and started crocheting again. More than anything I wanted the peace that came from creating.
The entire experience of having cancer (and beating it!) has thrown into sharp focus how important art is in my life. It’s my rock, my foundation. It’s always there when I need it. And it helped to reflect the strength that I didn’t know I had.
Do you create sequentially, or do you work actively on more than one project at a time? How many pieces are Works In Progress at the moment?
I’m definitely a multiple-projects-going-at-once girl. No matter what the medium. (Don’t ask me how many crochet projects I have going right now.)
It’s not unusual for me to have between five to ten projects going at one time. It’s taken me a while to accept but Art Brain is happiest when she can jump from one thing to another.
What does your studio look like? Where does the magic happen?
My studio is a constant work in progress. I’m getting ready to do yet another rearrange of the layout and I’m hoping my fickle self will be happy with it and leave it alone for a while.
I’m fortunate to have a spare bedroom dedicated to creating. I have work tables from IKEA and loads of bins overflowing with STUFF. (I love my stuff.) Recently, I took the doors off the closet in the room and made it an open organization space for my fabric and surface design supplies. I’m one of those people that if I don’t see what I have, I forget it exists.
What is your favorite tip for organizing your stash of creative supplies? How does your studio organization contribute to your work process?
I used to really beat myself up for having a stash and for things always getting messy. And then I realized that it’s sort of part of my process – the mess making and then the cleaning, sorting and rearranging. I seem to need that cycle to reboot for the next project.
My best tip is to embrace what you love and don’t apologize for it. It seems there’s always someone who wants to comment on the quantity of stash you have and the fact is that everyone works differently. Feeling guilt over it does not serve the creative process.
What plays in the background while you work? Silence? Music, audiobooks, movies? What kind?
I like to listen to instrumental music. I tend to listen to a lot of movie soundtracks. Thomas Newman is one of my favorite composers, his music is very soulful and light. So it kind of creates a meditative state, love it!
Do you lecture or teach workshops? How can students/organizers get in touch with you to schedule an event?
My teaching has been random, meaning I teach in person classes sometimes and other years I just teach through writing magazine articles and books. But I really enjoy interacting with other artists so I’m working on some local events in 2019. I’m also exploring online teaching as I know it’s not easy for everyone to travel. Just keep an eye on my website for more information, it’ll be coming in the first few months of 2019.
What can we expect to see from you next?
Oh gosh, so many ideas! One of my new projects is called The Lotus Project – Art Heals. It’s a new blog series with the aim of providing a moment of respite for people who are ill and their caregivers. You can read all the details about it here: https://smudgeddesignstudio.com/introducing- the-lotus-project-a-giveaway/
I’d also like to design another fabric collection (I had one out in 2014) and I’m always exploring new writing projects.
I really want to spend 2019 interacting with the textile arts community more. I missed that so much during my illness this year so my focus has shifted back to blogging and projects that anyone can participate in.
I’m simply so grateful to be part of such an exciting tribe – the fiber arts field is incredible!