I've never had the pleasure of meeting Lynn Krawczyk in person, but I follow her on Facebook where she delights me to no end. She's not only a talented artist who freely shares her process and art making experiences, she's also a witty wordsmith. Since I know very little about fiber arts, I'm thrilled I got to interview Lynn about what it's like to stamp, stitch, dye and create art with fabric.
How do you define creativity? Great question! It’s such a personal thing, that definition. For me, creativity is about the willingness to constantly question what I do and be willing to reinvent when needed. Living a creative life takes a lot of guts because we constantly expose our inner thoughts on fabric, canvas, photos – whatever your chosen medium is. It’s the ultimate connection of spirit and mind so sharing it with others is a brave thing to do. To me, that’s at the crux of being creative.
You got interested in working with fibers and fabrics after a back injury. Can you tell us about that moment, and how it lead to finding your passion? It was one of those, “Wow, how did I not know about this??” moments. I’m the kind of person that has trouble sitting still, I’m always doing something. So when I had back surgery and was forced to really slow down, I was constantly searching for ways to fill my time and TV turned out to be one of them. One afternoon “Simply Quilts” with Alex Anderson was on.
It was the first time I’d really taken a moment to listen to anyone discussing quilt making. It was a thunderbolt moment, instant connection, instant love. I did a lot of reading about quilts, because I was still recovering from surgery, and became hooked on crazy quilts. I liked all the options it offered for creativity – embroidery, silk ribbon embroidery, beading, lace making, etc.
I moved on after a couple of years to art quilts and then to surface design, but there is still a strong influence of crazy quilts in my work. My collages are a celebration of pattern and print, and I can’t tear myself away from wanting to hand stitch everything. I'm fascinated by the layering and mixed media processes you employ in making your work. Can you describe your various art making processes for those who may not know about fiber art? Absolutely! As a surface design artist I draw a lot of inspiration from traditional printmaking techniques – for example screen printing and monoprinting. My work always starts with fabric I’ve printed with these techniques. I use these fabrics to create a collage, cutting pieces and fitting them together. It’s a work-as-you-go process. I don’t work to patterns. The last thing is to add stitching and additional printing over the top. I love artwork that you can just sit and study and always find teeny details. That’s what I work to create in my pieces.
Color and pattern play a big part of your work. Where do you find the inspiration? Absolutely everywhere! Since I’m an abstract artist, it’s so easy to find inspiration in the close up details of little things around me. But, I have to be honest, I get most of my ideas for work or projects when I just daydream. I know it sounds sort of cheesy, but I’ll put my headphones on and just zone out.
I think our day-to-day lives just cause too much static in our heads. Sitting still – which isn’t always easy to find time to do during the day, and which explains why my art brain goes into high gear right when I want to fall asleep! – just lets all that nonsense fall away. I’m not talking about any kind of formal meditation. Just put on your favorite music and close your eyes. It’s amazing what will shake loose when you just chill!
You have a new book coming out. Congrats! Please tell us more. Thanks! It’s my first book and I’m so excited about it! It’s called Intentional Printing and its focus is on learning to print fabric tailored to the project you are working on. That way you are sure to be satisfied with your surface design efforts. There are several surface design techniques and projects to get you started on your printing journey. It’s a really accessible book for anyone looking to start working with paint and fabric.
It’s also about having the confidence to use your artistic voice and trust yourself. I think that’s the first step – letting go of the idea that we have to be perfect. Instead just make stuff. Some will be good, some will be bad and each one will be worthwhile.
On your website you say that when you print fabric it's "the most honest part of your day." Tell us about that. What's honest about it? I guess I call it honest because there is never any other agenda when I’m printing fabric. There’s no goal to impress, no pressure to perform. Even when I’m working on a project that has a deadline and I really, really want it to come out well, the fabric printing is always stress free.
That’s because when I really embraced surface design, I promised myself that I would not assign the need for perfection to it. Because that whole business just strangles the joy of it. So when I put paint to fabric, I completely enjoy every part of it and it’s so great! Favorite artists? I honestly can’t say that I have favorites because there’s so much art to enjoy out there, I seem to bounce around with what is new and exciting to me. Of course, there’s Frida Kahlo, Lee Krasner, many of the Abstract Expressionists.
Daily habits? I have a full-time, non-art day job so I’m not able to say that I spend all day in the studio. But, I do make sure that I incorporate art into every day. Whether it’s working through the details of an idea in the notebook I keep with me, reading the blogs of artists I admire, writing a little bit, or stitching in the evenings, there is always something. One of the habits I have is to do prep work for projects on the weekends when I work in my studio. I split up the elements of a project into what needs to be done in my studio and what I can work on when I’m hanging out on the sofa in the evenings with Carter (my doggie) unwinding with a TV show. There are so many elements to the art we make, managing them so that they fit into our schedules is a great habit to develop.
Any advice for aspiring fiber artists? Don’t be afraid of making bad art. I’ve learned just as much from the stuff that doesn’t work as I have from the stuff that did.
You give failure too much power if you become afraid of it. It just means you try again.
And, be persistent. Everything takes time. I’m not so good at being patient when it’s something I really want, so I understand the desire to go quick and be successful immediately. But it rarely works that way. Instead just be yourself, do the work, and over time, things will fall into place.
Lastly, I couldn't let an opportunity pass for you to talk about your second passion - coffee! What makes the perfect cup? Oh yes! Love my coffee! I bet you could ask a hundred different people and get a hundred different answers. But, I will tell you how I like to make my favorite cup. I use an electric percolator. I have this weird belief that non-plastic coffee makers make the best tasting coffee. I like to mix unflavored coffee and flavored ones. My absolute favorite flavored is Northern Michigan Cherry from Paramount Coffee here in Michigan. I like sugar and sometimes creamer. But more often than not I drink it black. There’s just nothing better than a good cup of coffee!
Lynn Krawczyk is a surface design artist and writer living in Southeast Michigan. Her textile work consists of collage, hand stitching, and multiple paint printing methods. She believes art will heal the world. You can contact Lynn, see more of her work, or read her insightful blog at her website, Smudged Textiles Studio.