Tuesday, 21 September 2010

show & tell - amy gunson

This week's Show & Teller, Amy Gunson from Badskirt, is a local gal, she lives here in Sydney where she makes and sews the most inspiring things. She's one of those amazing people that must have a few secret hours more than we mere mortals because she seems most amazingly productive, her blog is always full of the most amazing quilting bee blocks and crochet squares she's whipped up, the hexagon quilt she recently handsewed or new members of her popular softie designs she produces for her regular market stalls.

Amy also runs an online fabric and pattern business and she's off again soon on another fabric buying trip to Japan (green with envy here). On top of that she recently hosted some very popular Oliver and S pattern sewalongs, the latest through popular sewing blog, SewMamaSew. Amy is most generous with her skills and knowledge and has a number of great tutorials on her blog.

One of the things I love about blogging is being able to share the journey the artist, designer, crafter, writer is on. I've watched fledgeling businesses take off and thrive. I've read along as crafters find different inspiration, new materials, change direction, become noticed, collaborate with other artists. Often its about seizing opportunities as they come along, and finding exactly where you want to be. Amy's answers tell of her journey, and I think you will be as surprised as me to hear how recently she started her Badskirt blog and got back into sewing. And I love the story of how her blog got its name! Thanks for sharing Amy, please make her welcome everyone, as you always do. And read on to the end of the interview to see Amy's special discount for Show & Tell readers!

Amy Gunson
Sydney, Australia

1. Why blog? How did you start?
In February 2008, I first learned of blogging when my friend Cindy in California was participating in Thing-A-Day, a creative initiative where participants make one new thing each day in the month. Through Cindy I was inspired to dip my hands into something creative. After a failed stint at beading, I bought a sewing machine. A few days later, Badskirt was born.

Initially Badskirt developed as a place to show my adventures in craft. I viewed it as a place to talk about my failures, as well as my successes. In time, as my skills grew, it became important to me that my blog was a resource for others wanting to explore their own creativity. So along with my daily chatter; I try to sprinkle tips, resources and techniques in my blog posts. When all else fails, I fall back on laughter.

Badskirt is now a full-time business where I sell handcrafted goods, textiles and patterns.

The clothes rack.

2. Family taught/Self-taught/Trained?
For the most part, I am self-taught. I’ve found the internet an invaluable resource for learning creative skills. Whether it’s how to crochet or the best way to clean your sewing machine, there are so many handy resources available online to learn.

I am fortunate that my mother taught me the basics of sewing and the women in my life often sewed, knit, crocheted and cross-stitched. Though I was exposed to things quite young, I found myself rejecting the home arts as I grew older. In high school, I even opted for shop class over home-economics. After turning my nose up for quite some time, I rediscovered crafting at age 34. Three years later, and it’s become my full-time job. Each day I learn something new through tutorials and blogs I find on the internet.

209 Marigold
3. Workspace - studio or kitchen table?
I have a sewing studio. I am lucky that my husband offered the sunroom to me so I could run my business. Don’t let the tidy photos fool you though.

4. Blog/Shop name, where does it come from?
When I first purchased my sewing machine in 2008, my goal was to sew clothing for myself. Inspired by fashion labels like Dogstar of Brisbane, I had hopes of making funky, fresh clothes. My first effort was a wraparound skirt made without a pattern and it turned out quite well. My second effort was a bit more ambitious with gathers and folds. It was a shocking failure. I had been telling my friend Cindy about it on Facebook, and she suggested I start a blog to show both the good and the bad. That’s where Badskirt came from.

5. Favourite medium to work in?
Cotton and linen are my favourite raw materials. For both fabric and yarn, everything I work with seems to be cotton, linen or a combination of both. I think they have a good texture to work with and don’t have the issues of stretch and give associated with other materials. They hold dyes well, so the resulting colours on fabric and yard are rich and saturated. I’m partial to the fabrics and yarns coming out from Japan as they tend to have a unique colour palette which is slightly skewed from the bold primaries found elsewhere.

6. Ambitions/future directions/future projects/medium you'd like to try?
The pipe dream has a small craft shop tucked away on the coast so that I can sew, and he can surf. I’d love to organize creative classes in a small studio where I could talk about colour theory and the creative process, as well as demonstrating specific techniques. It’s been a quiet ambition of mine to pursue teaching. Out back, there’d be a shiny Airstream camper that we call home. But that’s all a bit of a pipedream due to the working capital required to launch a proper craft business.

In the meantime, I’m trying to focus my creativity on non-commercial efforts. Because I create and sell for markets, it’s easy to get caught up in making the same types of products as everyone else. A quick peek around the stalls and you’ll usually see 6 or 7 variations on the same theme. It’s easy to get bogged down in details like worrying about what sells and the commercial viability of products. The art and joy of the creative process gets lost.

I’ve been trying to dedicate a few hours a week to pursue projects more for art’s sake like crocheted shadow boxes and non-traditional applique.

Looking Boxes

7. Are you neat and organised or, ahem, creatively messy?
Creatively messy. The studio picture is a bit of an illusion as it was taken on the day I rearranged the studio. My sewing room is so untidy that I’ve only allowed one guest inside in the last two years. I work best in clutter. Often, it spills over to the living room. Fortunately, I have an understanding husband.

8. Favourite handmade, handcrafted item you own?
I take part in many online swaps and bees, primarily found on via flickr with many talented artists from around the world. In these swaps, you spend a few weeks silently getting to know your partner and their tastes by reading their blog, watching their flickr stream and a bit of secret squirrel spy work with their friends. Once you have an idea of what they might like, you create something for them. The main reason I do these swaps is because it brings me joy to create for others.

Pincushion Swap - Sending!

Each and every item that I’ve received in return has been magnificent because they’ve been made specifically for me. One of my absolute favourites came to me from from Jo of Sparkly Green Knickers. After reading that I liked Asteroids on my blog in an article that must have been over a year old, she decided to use classic video games as her inspiration and came up with this gem of a cross-stitch (below).

I used to collect console games and travelled frequently to arcade shows, so it’s absolutely brilliant. Even more special because it’s been made just for me.

Another item I hold dear is my copy of Charlie’s Widow which was handcrafted by Leav Lang. The book is stunning, and the imagery of her creative process makes it even more special.

Urban Home Swap - Received

9. Favourite colour?
This changes daily, but sour green is always a winner.

10. Star sign?

11. Favourite place, landscape (not necessarily Australian)?
I’m fortunate to travel to Japan 3-4 times a year to meet with fabric distributors. Tokyo is my favourite city to visit. And though we live in Sydney, Australia; I call San Francisco home. If it all turns pear-shaped and we need to leave this beautiful country, I’d be back walking San Francisco’s hills in a heartbeat.

12. Any tricks for juggling life/work/family with creative pursuits?
I’m fortunate that juggling life, work and family comes quite easily to me at the moment. I’m a rare stay-at-home-non-mom who has turned a hobby into a full-time position. The absence of children and pets means I have more time and space to create, but also means the home/workplace can feel a little lonely at time.

Before working in the arts, I had a full-time position working as a 3D artist and production manager in film and games. The decision to stay home and try something new was not taken lightly. I have a very supportive husband who actively encourages me to create and explore. When he comes home, often the dishes are neglected and the floor needs swept. He’s been understanding and appreciates that my time creating is my time working. I’m lucky he’s afforded me the opportunity to pursue Badskirt.

13. Favourite artists?
I’m a bit all over the board when it comes to favourites. I’m inspired by Josef Albefs and Mark Rothko for their deep understanding of colour. From their work, I’ve understood colours do not work in isolation and each combination can cause unique evocative response.

For quirky design; Helen Dardik, Heather Ross and the Cosmo Cricket team are a great source of inspiration. Lara Cameron of Ink&Spindle is winner in any medium. Liesl Gibson of Oliver+S is the queen of children’s garment design. Suzuko Koseki has a brilliant understanding of typography and quilting. I’m also a big fan of the art deco movement.

tell them where to...

14. Favourite blog post/thing you've made/photo?
My hand-pieced hexagon quilt is my favourite project. I couldn’t count how many hours went into hand-sewing each hexagon together. It was the first major quilt project that I undertook and I’m so pleased with the results. Along the way, I’ve been able to demonstrate my technique and write tutorials to help others. I like that I’ve not only created a gorgeous quilt, I’ve helped others get started with theirs.

At the other end of the spectrum, my favourite blog posts are the ones that make people smile. A recent pincushion for my husband was well-received.

15. Three words to describe you?
Spunky, Playful, Quirky

16. What do you like to do besides creating?
Because creating has become my full-time career, I put most of my time into it. Anyone who runs their own business will tell you work three times harder for yourself than you ever did working for someone else. In the time that I’m not making things; I like travelling, collecting fabric, snowboarding and grabbing a pint at the pub with friends.

* I'd like to offer Flowerpress readers 10% off all items at Badskirt including items already on sale through September 28th with code FLOWERPRESS at checkout time.

Farmdale - Part 1 of 8


  1. Lovely interview - I was wondering where the name badskirt came from.

  2. What a great interview! It's always nice to know a bit more about the girl behind the Badskirt brand!

  3. I learnt something new today. I want the the quilt in the photo. Thank you Charmaine

  4. She is a creative champion! I love Amy's blog and her quirky style. Such a great interview.

  5. Great interview!! Amy has great energy and I always look forward to seeing her new projects!

  6. I don't think you've ever featured someone who I don't LOVE to death! You are so right, Amy is one of the most approachable, friendly and helpful people in the blogosphere. Just the other day she coached me through the hem of my second ice cream social dress via a live google chat! I'm certain she had better things to do!

  7. Great interview! and I'd have to agree with Mel. Amy is always so, so willing and so quick off the mark to help out when needed with fab advice and ideas. Very creative gal indeed!

  8. What a brilliant Interview. Yay for Badskirt and for Flowerpress!

  9. Thanks for a fab interview! Since discovering Amy's blog/website, she's become my favourite blogger! I love her posts!


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