I’m so happy that I finally got to interview someone in person again! This is an interview with artist Amy Fung-yi Lee. We chat about her work, her process, and creativity in general. It was very cool to conduct the interview in Amy’s home/studio and to see everything she’s been working on recently.
My name is Andrew Ve Hansen, and welcome to my blog. I live in the Clinton Hill neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York, with my husband. I’m originally from Ohio, and I moved to Brooklyn when I was 22 years old to pursue a career in musical theater. While I no longer perform professionally, I still have a desire — a need — to express myself creatively which is where quilting comes in.
I made my first quilt in March of 2017. I can’t really pinpoint a singular moment or person that drew me to quilting. Family members, including my Great-grandma Bessie and my mom, are pretty crafty, so I definitely grew up with an appreciation of handmade gifts. In the lobby of the fine arts building of Otterbein University, where I went to college, there was a monthly rotating art exhibit. I clearly remember an exhibit by a fiber artist who had created many art quilts that I found stunning and powerful. I didn’t know the definition of a quilt could be so flexible. It is the only art exhibit during my time at Otterbein that I can actually remember, so it clearly made an impact on me. And anytime I’ve seen a handmade quilt in person, I’ve been captivated by it. So I guess this idea of making a quilt has just always been simmering in the back of my head.
A few years ago I thought it would be really cool to make a quilt for our bed, but I refused to try it while we still had a cat. I know, I know, there are tons of amazing quilters out there who have pets, and I love seeing all of those Instagram pics of how “helpful” those pets are during your making process. I, however, am not so patient. In March of 2017, our cat passed away. At the same time, my husband was in the process of opening a bar with some colleagues, which meant he was never home. All of that motivated me to find something to do with my time other than sit and watch Netflix or play video games every night.
By the way, in addition to being a quilter and a former musical theater performer, I’m also kind of a big geek. Hence the title of this particular blog post. I’m happy to discuss at length the Marvel Cinematic Universe, comic books, PS4 games — particularly Diablo III — board games, and the Pathfinder RPG. So feel free to reach out if you need a break from the quilting conversation.
Back to my quilting journey. I looked around online for some quilting resources and discovered Craftsy.com, which is now Bluprint. Because I already knew how to use my sewing machine, I didn’t need a super beginner course. I decided to take Amy Gibson’s Learn to Quilt: Cozy Throw Quilt class. It was a great way to learn the basics of quilting, and Amy Gibson was an incredible teacher. When it came time to actually sew all of the layers of the quilt together, I decided to use my walking foot for some straight-line quilting on my domestic machine, a Janome DC2012. But because I chose to do a lot of pivoting instead of unbroken straight lines from edge to edge, it involved so much physical effort turning the quilt around over and over again. I actually thought several times, “How do those retired grandmas do this all the time?? This is really exhausting!!” This was before I learned about free-motion quilting or sending a quilt out to a longarm professional.
I finally finished quilting my quilt, and while I was very pleased with the result I honestly thought, “Well, that was too much work, so no more quilts for me.” But I couldn’t get quilting out of my brain. It was only a couple weeks later when I started thinking about making a new quilt. I decided to take another Craftsy class by Amy Gibson, which was her 2012 Block of the Month class. It was a sampler quilt, which meant I would learn tons of basic techniques all in one quilt. I also decided I would take advantage of this “learning” session to take Leah Day’s Free Motion Quilting a Sampler Craftsy class, which used Amy Gibson’s sampler quilt to learn how to free-motion quilt (FMQ). And since the blocks were all about 12 inches square, I decided it would be easier to learn how to FMQ block by block rather than on the whole quilt. So I decided to learn the quilt-as-you-go technique as well. AND, what the heck, I decided to use mitered borders for each block. Here’s what I learned from this second quilt.
- I LOVE making quilts!
- I REALLY, REALLY LOVE FMQ!!
- I HATE mitered borders!!!
So that was how I got hooked. I continue making discoveries as I move along on this quilting journey. I definitely enjoy making a quilt completely my own from beginning to end more than using someone else’s pattern. I really enjoy improv piecing and I want to keep experimenting with that. Surprisingly, I actually enjoy every portion of the quilt-making process, even some of the more tedious aspects such as pressing all of the fabric before cutting or squaring up a bunch of half-square triangles or even pin basting. Most of all, I really love learning new techniques and trying to become a better craftsperson.
What’s your quilting origin story? What discoveries have you made along the way in your own quilting journey? Share your comments below and let’s continue this conversation together. Happy Quilting!!!