Tell us a bit about yourself.
I’m Amanda. I love asparagus, my arms are too long for my body, and the tip of my nose wiggles when I talk. My husband and I live in a quirky A-frame house in Cary, North Carolina with our two dogs, Oliver and Mabel. I studied graphic design at the NC State College of Design and graduated in 2006. After working at a design firm for a few years, I felt like I was squandering my creative juices on clients with limited imaginations. Thanks to my husband’s prompting, I set up shop in our basement and have been happily creating ever since.
Apart from creating things, what do you do?
I fix up our fixer-upper of a house, dream up various DIY projects, doodle in my sketchbook, and dabble in photography. I do a fair amount of cooking and baking — not because I enjoy it, but because I’m fond of the eating part. I also blog about all these things at Wit & Whistle. My husband and I tend to be homebodies, so we try to force ourselves outside of our comfort zone and go on one big trip each year. Last year we went to Iceland, and it was magical.
What would be the title of your memoir? Why?
Pursuing Peculiar. I think I spent much of my youth trying to disguise my oddities. How sad. Weirdness is the essence of creativity! I will spend the rest of my days cultivating my peculiarities and letting them flourish (within reason).
Where does your inspiration come from?
My inspiration comes from the jumble of imagery my brain has archived over the past 27 years. I’ve recently become quite infatuated with interior design, so I’ve made an effort to bring some of the textile patterns I love to my paper products. I definitely go through phases of being drawn to specific shapes and patterns. Other times I’m not exactly sure where the inspiration comes from, I just grab my sketchbook and things start to happen.
What does handmade mean to you?
Handmade means unique and uncommon. It means that extra time and effort went into making an item, and that item is extra special because of it.
Who has been most influential in your craft?
My parents get most of the credit for turning me into an art/design nerd. I’m a ridiculous perfectionistic (if I wore a scarlet letter it would be a “P”), and they were full of encouragement, even when I was making terrible looking stuff. If my parents hadn’t been there to boost my morale when my skills didn’t match up to my expectations for my work, who knows if I would have kept at it.
In more recent years, my husband has been most influential to my craft. He urged me again and again to start my own business and do something I enjoy, and I’m so glad I took him up on it.
When did you know you were an artist/maker?
There wasn’t a specific moment when I knew I was an artist — creating is just what I’ve always been interested in. One of my earliest art-related memories is of making pinch pots in kindergarten. At the end of art class I frantically tried to pack a bunch of clay under my fingernails so I could scrape it out later and make a tiny sculpture. That would probably be a better anecdote if I grew up to be a sculptor, but I think I could have gone that route. As long as I’m making things I like, I’m content — whether it’s a pinch pot, a painting, or a set of notecards.
How would you describe your creative process?
My creative process involves a lot of trial and error. I sketch and re-sketch things over and over until I come up with something good. Usually it takes tons of experimenting and tweaking, but on occasion I can picture the whole design in my head before I even put pen to paper. The best feeling in the universe (almost) is when I realize a design is coming together just as I envisioned it. Then I usually take a break to jump around my studio, laughing maniacally and punching the air in a celebratory manner.
If you could peek inside the studio of any artist, designer or craftsman (dead or alive), who would it be?
I’ll bet Jesus had some pretty sweet carpentry skills. I’d love to see his work.
What handmade possession do you most cherish?
My mom has made me blankets and quilts since I was little, so I never got out of the habit of sleeping with one. A few years ago, the quilt I had been using daily for 10+ years had become so worn that it was little more than a rag. So I got out some graph paper, drew a quilt pattern, gave it to my mom, and requested a replacement. She took me to the store to pick out fabric and made my sketch into the real deal. My intricate design must have been a pain to sew, but I love my new quilt. Thanks Mom!
How do you get out of your creative ruts?
Creative ruts are so frustrating. I usually just quit and work on something else for a while — like re-painting a room or baking cookies. Later (when I’m full of cookies, covered in paint, and not feeling quite so defeated), I pore over design books and blogs until I’m so outrageously jealous of other people’s amazing work that I get a second wind. Then I thoroughly pound that rut into the ground (cue more air punching).
Where would you like to be in ten years?
Physically, I’d like to be in a studio with more natural light than my current basement workspace. There’s something about sunlight pouring through windows that fuels creativity. Work-wise, I want to be doing exactly what I’m doing now, but bigger and better. There’s always room for expanding my product line, acquiring more wholesale accounts, and improving my design/illustration/photography skills. Overall, I’m happy with the quality of my work, but hopefully in ten years I will have progressed so much that I’ll look back and think “Wow, ten years ago I really sucked!”