The Angry Chicken Answers Our Questions!
An Interview with Amy Karol
by Amy Anderson
One of the ways I like to relax is by embroidering stuff. I don't do it terribly well, but I like the feeling I get when I'm focusing on tiny stitches for a little while. I'm inspired by some of the crafty mama bloggers out there, including Amy Karol of the blog Angry Chicken. Fortunately for me, Amy was willing to take a few minutes from her busy life to answer my questions about how she manages to create so much cool stuff in the middle of a busy life as a mother.
mamazine.com: You've written a book (Bend-the-Rules Sewing: The Essential Guide to a Whole New Way to Sew ), you maintain at least three active blogs detailing your own and others' creative activities, and oh, yeah, you've got three young daughters. I'm sure you hear some version of this question fairly often, but really: how do you manage to get so much done?
Amy Karol: Ha! This is probably the most asked question I receive. I think I answer it best in the interview over at Craftcast (there is a link in my blog sidebar) but in a nutshell; I pretty much work fast, think about projects all day, try to schedule help with the kids, and... I have never really mentioned this before actually, but we pretty much never watch TV. We watch movies about once a month after the girls go to bed, but besides that, it's never on. We have done this for about 4 years now, so I don't even notice it anymore and forget to mention it, but I think it really gives me extra creative time in my life (and in my head) for crafting, reading, cooking, all that.
I don't try to do everything—I pay to have our house cleaned, so I have extra time available because I am not cleaning my shower, you know? I have no guilt about this at all, if there is any regret, I wish I had done it sooner. We don't eat out much, and that easily can add up to more than it takes to pay someone to clean my kitchen floor. Best money I ever spent! And not paying for cable TV helps this fund, too. At first I felt so sheepish about it, but now I can't imagine taking a Sunday to clean our house. I am a much more mellow and happy mom/wife/person because of it.
mamazine.com: How has your approach to creating evolved since you became a parent? Do you use different materials now, or make better use of time available? I'd love to hear something here about the very pragmatic and tiny details of your daily life, as well as maybe your thoughts on craft vs. art distinctions and your opinion of that idea...
Amy Karol: Again, I talk a little about this on the craftcast interview as well. My materials have changed, and my ability to work on long projects is almost nil, be it either art or craft related. I really like completing projects—WIPs are not my scene, so I try to pick projects I can finish, ideally, in a day or two. Which really is only about 3 hours at best with the girls. I think that's why I have had so much fun cooking lately, I have to feed us all anyway and I can do it while everyone is around yelling.Tiny details of my daily life? Gosh, it's sort of embarrassing to even think about. The girls are home all day, 24/7, and they are 5, 3, and 6 months, so we have a very kid-driven world around here. There are songs, coloring, all that, and then when I get a chance to work, I try to reclaim some of my adult self. It's silly. I talk on the phone in the other room and swear a lot. I listen to un-kid music, Nick Cave and stuff I wouldn't play for the girls... I feel like there is a whole world out there, like on a Friday night after 9PM, that I know nothing about anymore. I miss it, but more accurately, I am curious about it—so I try to get out more. The situation with the kids and how much they need me is temporary, it will change. I am pretty tethered right now, but not for long, so I just try to stay mellow about it all.
And craft and art? Yikes! that's a huge subject. I do get into it over on this interview I keep referencing (sorry, I just don't want to be repetitive) and to be totally honest, I don't think about it a ton right now. I just sort of just make stuff. Sometimes it feels arty, but mostly it's crafty-at least for now it is. Again, that will change as my life changes. I miss working on conceptual projects, but I also feel like they are always brewing in the back of my head. A few years back I got really bunched up about all this. I was coming from an art place and my new focus on crafting took a a while for me to get used to. Starting the blog really helped. When I made art, I would have a show in a gallery or coffeehouse, but where was I supposed to show my craft? That's why the blog is a perfect fit. It provides a place for all my work to live and be seen, which I am so grateful for.
mamazine.com: Can you tell us a little about your work space?
Amy Karol: It's a room in the finished basement, with a door. This is important because there is wet paint in there and projects left out all the time. I do have a stash of kids stuff in there too I can whip out if I have to. I have a serger, sewing machine, music, and a computer/printer/scanner set up. I don't really blog in there, however, I do that upstairs on the laptop. The lighting is horrible, I need to fix that. It's not for displays or decorated in any way. It's really a working room. I don't use it to show things for inspiration. I mean, I will put up images if I need them, but really, it's not pretty or styled in that way. I work better when I don't have a lot of stuff to look at. So I have a little shelf with special things, away from my work table, and then it's pretty bare, mostly just storage. I love it in there, but when people see it, I think they are disappointed. Usually someone will say, "I thought you'd have more fabric!" Ha! I don't have much at all, actually. Plus, it's all in bags so you can't even see it.
mamazine.com: Who and/or what is inspiring you this week?
Amy Karol: Always my friends first, I'd say. Sarah Neuburger and Hillary Lang always inspire me a ton. I think it's what they do, but even more— who they are. I love knowing people who get excited about stuff. Anything. I think passion is contagious. I just love the energy that comes from being excited by something new. Especially when it's some weird folk art thing that many people wouldn't give a hoot about. This also happens with Mariko, especially in the food department.
Historical books and mags are a great source for me too... I do read design blogs and look at new mags sometimes, but I have noticed lately I get almost sick from so many images, you know? I just can't see too many images at once without it all washing over me, and then nothing really makes a really strong impression because it's too much. So, I try to limit how much I look at design stuff online. It's almost like eating too much sugar, I need to have a balance.
mamazine.com: What's next on the horizon for you?
Amy Karol: 6 months out—I tend to not really know. I mean, of course I know what I'd like to do, and what I hope to do, but It's hard for me to say at any given moment. I have ideas, certainly book number 2 and a fabric line would be cool, another mailorder, maybe another Kingpod pattern? I actually just got a flip after using a normal DV camera for years and the ease of this little contraption has me thinking about doing some movies for the blog, maybe tutorials, but most likely just dumb stuff. I think it could be really funny. I am saying no to a lot right now, which bums me out, but is for the best. Anything that involves deadlines I have no control over is not the best situation for me, so I limit this type of work. I am trying to go slow (my family will laugh at that statement) and just really do what I want to do, not what I feel like I should do.
yellow lamp on blue book
beach blanket mamas