Meet the Author
Hey there, can you introduce yourself?
Hello everyone at Cut Out and Keep! My name is Amy L. Frazer and I’m an illustrator and embroiderer living and working in beautiful Portland, Oregon. I’m originally from Cincinnati, Ohio and moved to Portland in 2004 from NYC. I was trained as an illustrator at the Columbus College of Art and Design (CCAD) but didn’t really start embroidering until much later when I moved to Portland. For many years I worked for different companies like Nike, Old Navy and Galerie Au Chocolat designing products and graphics, candy and gift packaging and accessories. I always worked on my own artwork and ideas in the evenings and on weekends, continuing to take workshops and classes to learn Photoshop, embroidery, screen-printing and more skills. At the end of 2015 I started my own company freelancing and licensing my artwork. As I got more into embroidery, I started teaching workshops in Portland and selling embroidery kits based on my illustrations. I absolutely love hiking and being in nature (forest bathing!) and am happiest when I’m at the beach, or the coast in Oregon! It feels calming to me and somehow comforting to know something bigger than myself is out there and Mother Nature is a definite source of endless inspiration.
Tell us a bit about the book?
Art Makers: Empowered Embroidery, published by Walter Foster, tells women’s stories through stitch and is a way to honor their work and keep their messages of activism, leadership, community building and persistence alive. This book is more than just about drawing and stitching portraits. It encourages you to find those women that inspire you from all walks of life, all races, religions, gender and sexual orientations. Connecting with people, learning their everyday stories, their tragedies and triumphs, and translating them into pictures is what inspires me to keep learning more and doing my work.
My goal with the book, was to not just give people instruction on how to embroider the portraits that I made, but to take their own ideas and sketches and bring those into the projects as well. There is a whole chapter dedicated to drawing ideas. But it’s not a tutorial on HOW to draw. It’s more about how to build ideas into stories for your embroideries. How to take what you’ve researched, your personal knowledge and experiences and layer that into your work.
So for example, Michelle Obama has an embroidered quote that says, “When they go low, we go high.” I want people to use a different quote of hers if they want to, maybe something that speaks to them or has inspired them. Or if they don’t want to embroider lettering, do some sketching and change the design completely.
I want the projects to be meditations on how we as women can help affect change in our communities through many small steps connected to each other, like making a finished piece of work stich by stitch. I believe that embroidery and art are meant to bring people together and love that stitching can be both a solitary and a communal practice.
What was the inspiration behind it?
Originally, in 2018 I met an editor from Quarto at the Blueprint licensing trade show in San Francisco. At the time I was looking for companies to work with who license artwork for products such as ceramics, apparel and stationery. I’ve always wanted to illustrate a book, so when she approached me and was interested in some of my work, I was excited about the possibilities. A few months went by after the show, and nothing was happening, so I sent a proposal to her for an embroidery book about taking your embroidery work on the go, as part of a series of books they were publishing at the time. That series was ending, so I revamped the proposal into another idea focused on creating projects around objects or accessories that might accompany women. For example, Frida Kahlo’s project was an embroidered pillow because she spent a lot of time in her bed painting and recovering from a horrific accident. Julia Child’s project was embroidering a tea towel or an apron. RBG’s chapter involved making a collar and so on. That proposal evolved into what Empowered Embroidery is today, more focused on techniques, concepts and portraits of inspiring women. My editor and I brainstormed ideas for the book and put together a proposal for her publisher that was accepted months later. There were so, so many women we wanted to include! Publishing a book is a sometimes long and windy road. And I’m working on those earlier projects I mentioned to add to my line of embroidery kits. So no work goes wasted!
I was inspired when making my proposals by the work women do. Not only the more traditional work of embroidery, mending, and making but more so the work of activism, teaching and leading the way for climate change, social justice and racial freedom and equality.
Which is your favourite project?
Hands down my favorite project in the book was the Maya Angelou embroidery. I loved researching more about her life and listening to her book on Audible.com, “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings”. I actually didn’t realize she was a singer! My favorite part of that embroidery was all the flowers around her name. Born in April, her birth flowers are the daisy and sweet pea, The flowers were a storytelling element I wanted to put into the piece. I also really enjoyed the complexity of the Ruth Bader Ginsburg piece too and researching the different collars or jabot’s she wore.
What is your craft space like?
It’s so weird, ever since I started crafting with my granny when I was a kid, my studio has always been in the basement, except when I lived in NYC in a 325 square foot apartment! Even today, my studio is in our basement! It’s 600 square feet, but it’s an odd space with a big heater right in the middle and support poles weirdly positioned around the space. I’m so thankful for it though! I’ve got a space for my computer work, a small table where I can sew and sketch, another standing table for painting and collage work and an area we use as a shipping station for orders. Of course I love being able to work from anywhere really, especially when we are able to safely travel again. I love taking my embroidery anywhere I go, it’s so portable and a great conversation starter.
Have you always been creative?
I’ve definitely always been creatively curious. Again, when my granny lived with us when I was younger we were always making things. For birthdays and Christmas presents always included things like charcoal sets or painting sets. I lived next to two older girls growing up and they also took me under their wings, teaching me to count to 10 in French and be creative. I remember once I found a painting one of them had done of a rose and I was just fascinated by that. It was painted on black and was probably tempera or acrylic. I’m not sure, but I found it outside sitting in the garbage and I took it!
In high school I was obsessed with art and sports and got a partial scholarship to CCAD. And even after I graduated I continued, to this day, to take workshops and classes to learn new crafts and skills. And now with the past year being on lockdown with COVID-19 safety precautions, I’ve taken lots of Zoom workshops to stay connected to learning and people. I miss people!
When did you first start crafting?
My youngest memory of making was with my granny, I was probably 4 or 5 years old. We were making Christmas ornaments- a snowman bear made of Styrofoam balls and a mini diorama of Mrs. Claus sitting in a rocking chair by a tree. My mom still has them and puts them up every year. I also remember learning how to crochet slippers and making a leprechaun’s clothes of felt in an empty frosting container. Because he had escaped and all that was left was his clothing. Haha! I don’t know how I thought of making that, but my granny always said we could figure things out. And that is kind of my mantra now, I can always figure it out.
Who are your crafty heroes?
Wow, so many artists and makes I love, so here are a few of my favorites.
Louise Bourgeois (I love her fiber pieces!)
Georgia O’Keefe always.
Tessa Perlow https://www.instagram.com/tessa_perlow/
Zoe of Junebug and Darlin’ (https://www.instagram.com/junebuganddarlin/)
Jennifer Orkin Lewis (https://www.instagram.com/augustwren/ ),
Stewart Easton, https://www.instagram.com/stewarteaston/
Lindsay Stripling (https://www.instagram.com/lindsayvictorialee/)
Jeanetta Gonzales (https://www.instagram.com/nettdesigns/) ,
Loveis Wise (https://www.instagram.com/loveiswiseillu/)
Bisa Butler (https://www.instagram.com/bisabutler/)
Takashi Iwasaki (http://takashiiwasaki.info/index.html )
Where do you find inspiration?
When I was young my family went on camping trips or hiking in the Great Smoky Mountains, the Carolina shores or locally at parks and campgrounds. I was always surrounded by art and nature. Observing, smelling, touching, tasting it. Fueled by my nature inspired past, I love to travel and always have my bag packed for another adventure to the mountains, the sea or a fun city to explore and gather inspiration (when it’s safe of course!). Always with a portable art studio in tow, I try to find moments of quiet to draw or embroider whenever I can. So yeah, I ‘d say nature and travel. And of course museums, galleries, vintage book stores and tag sales, Pinterest for mood board building. And sometimes just getting up really early with some coffee, a notebook and pencil is inspiring. I’ll do a total brain dump of everything that’s rattling around up there. That to me is inspiring!
What's next for you?
Right now I’m working on some video tutorials and embroidery kits to supplement my book. A lot of the projects are fairly complicated, so I don’t want that to be a stumbling block for people to get started. I’m working to launch my new product based business, Keller Design Co., this summer. I’ll be selling the embroidery kits, stationery and bandanas to begin with. My goal is to use a percentage of my profits to help support unhoused people here in Portland. Thinking of my next book idea. I have a new hobby which is learning how to naturally dye fabrics. I’ve got a few camping trips this summer planned for my boyfriend and I and a few workshops. My dad died in March from COVID-19, so I'm trying to encourage people to get their vaccines, continue to practice social distancing and wearing masks. Mostly I’m looking forward to being able to hug people in the near future. I miss that.