Artist Interview: An Li Liu February 03, 2012 10:38

Happy Friday, everyone!  Today I'd like to introduce you to An Li Liu, an artist from neighboring Massachusetts. Here at Craftland we sell some of her shirts for both the ladies and the gents. Read on to learn more about An Li and what inspires her.


Please introduce yourself and tell us about your handmade business.
Hi there! I am An Li Liu and I’m an artist and designer originally from Toronto, Canada now residing in Cambridge, MA. I have always been into cutting and pasting, mostly combining painting and collage, and this past year began to take my designs to t-shirts. My eponymous business, An Li, is super new so I’m always exploring better ways to make my stuff. I’m probably your typical novice, trying to figure out a balance of designing, making, marketing, and getting my work out there – which is tough for an introvert like myself.

In addition to my handmade business, I’m also a yoga teacher. This is a great compliment to working alone because it gets me out into groups of people and having to be more verbal as opposed to visual. On an energetic level, yoga is fantastic because my slow meditative practice can really help clear the mind and allow for creativity to arise. Physically, it’s invaluable because I spend a lot of time bending over a table or sitting at a computer, which leads to all sorts of tightness. 


Describe your studio for us.
I hand-print all my shirts here in my home studio on a lively corner in Inman Square above a sandwich shop and next to an ice cream store. I feel so lucky to have this space to work -- it’s spacious and filled with light. In the summer, when the windows are open you get a lot of street noise, but I’m used to it, and actually like the atmosphere. Our neighbors upstairs have a bubble machine and on weekends I usually see some floating by atop the kids on the sidewalk chowing down on their ice cream cones.


Explain how your affinity for collage and cut paper feature into your collection of t shirts?
I began to print on shirts using stencils as an extension of hand-cutting painted paper for my collages. I wanted to explore printing, but felt overwhelmed by the silkscreening process. Aside from a couple art classes in university, I’ve always been self-taught (both my mom and brother are artists, so the impetus is natural), and I figured out a nice and simple way to print by cutting stencils and applying them directly to silkscreens. I enjoy the cutting aspect, even though it’s slow and limiting in terms of the types of designs you can make. Very recently, I’ve been exploring more traditional methods of silkscreening because I’m realizing the long-term challenges of my methods, one of which is physical -- elbow tendonitis. Boo…

How has traveling through Asia inspired your work?
I’ve always traveled, and South Asia has been a most inspiring place for me. Places like India and Nepal are so culturally rich and visually vibrant. I spent time in cities, but my favorite time was spent up in the mountains. So you’d see the beauty of the natural landscape, the resident animals, then stumble upon a technicolor, ornate temple or shrine. It’s a circus of color everywhere – people’s clothing, trucks, hand-painted signs. There’s a palpable magic in the atmosphere that is rooted in the permeating spirituality.  Spontaneously wandering in such different environments than you’re used to can cause the mind and imagination to open up and manifest in all sorts of ways.


What advice do you have for artists hoping to take their work from hobby to business?
I’ve been transitioning myself into a business mindset, so if anyone has any advice, I’m all ears! From my limited experience so far, I would say that being optimistic is essential. It’s so easy to become discouraged and fearful that people won’t like your stuff and that things won’t work out. You just have to keep on truckin’ and believe in what you do.

What does handmade mean to you?
A handmade object has personality, and is an extension of the person who made it. I strive to make things the very best I can, but I’m not a machine – no two things will turn out the same. It’s not an excuse for sloppy work, but slight differences show the human touch. Not having the most professional equipment or a ton of money to spend on things can help to define one’s style, and over time styles will evolve and change. This I find really exciting. What ever will I be making in 5 year’s time?


How did you first become involved with Craftland?
I hear about Craftland through Elizabeth Brennick, who has sold work at the shop. We’re both part of Boston Handmade, a local artist, artisan, craft group here in town. I decided to apply for the holiday show, and most happily got in!

Guilty pleasure?
I’m strive to be a person of moderation, so feelings of guilt don’t really surface…but, if I could, I would eat at Oleana – a most divine neighborhood Mediterranean eatery – every day, or maybe every other day.