Friday, 18 October 2013

Interview with Fibre Artist {Sarah Louisa Burns}

Tell us a bit about yourself and the kind of art that you do?

My name is Sarah Louisa Burns. I live, work, and play in NYC. My work studio is nestled in the heart of Harlem. From my little perch uptown, I crochet body parts for my shop An Optimistic Cynic, and write a web comedy called True Story. You can find them at, and (also on YouTube)

 How long have you been creating art?

My parents tell stories of a wee little Sarah, who would hoard materials of all kids because “I can make something with that”, and preform variety shows on the stage that was our living room. Creating is like breathing; involuntary, necessary, constant. 

Where do you create? 

When I first opened an Etsy shop, I greatly underestimated the amount of time/effort/energy and space it would require, in a very short amount of time, my crafting materials overtook my living space. It was a hectic, disorganized way of living, and needless to say, not terribly productive. My awesome fiancĂ©e, Josh Hibbard (of the make up special effects company, Bloodpump Productions) helped me remake what was a large closet into a usable studio workspace. We installed shelving units to hold supplies, a desk area, a ‘shipping station’ with all my packing materials, boxes for orders-in-progress and completed pieces-there’s even a place for scripts and storyboards for when I need to switch gears from An Optimistic Cynic mode to True Story mode.

What are the most important lessons you have learned through creating art?

I’ve learned to cut myself some slack, and not shy away from trial and error. Not everything you make will turn out exactly like the image in your head – and that’s a good thing! How boring life would be if we knew for certain the exact outcome of each piece before it’s even finished. Embrace mistakes, learn from them, revel in the process, not just the endgame. 

How do you deal with criticism?

Hater’s gonna hate. I don’t try to change minds, or argue, or get upset. There are always going to be people out there that, for whatever the reason, want nothing more than to just tear you down. People can only get to you if you let them. 
Constructive criticism, on the other hand, I love, even if I don’t agree with it. It gives me a starting point to change something, or look at things a different way, which I find incredibly helpful. It’s important to get out of one’s own head from time to time. It helps us grow in directions we might not have even realized were a possibility on our own.

What are you trying to communicate through your art/does your art hold any hidden meaning?

I think my pieces are unifying on a very basic level. We all have organs. I've found that even when a person has no idea that the piece they’re holding is, say, a pancreas, they instinctively realize that it’s a body part, and subconsciously hold it up to themselves, as if trying to work out where that piece could fit.

My writing and performance in True Story reflects this ‘every man’ kind of universality.  These are three women who find themselves in awkward social situations that at some point we all find ourselves having to deal with. It’s essentially an extension of this “figuring out where the pieces fit” idea encompassed by the body parts.

Where do you get your inspiration from?

The body parts specifically were inspired by a childhood toy, The Invisible Man. It was essentially a display piece, but you had to assemble each piece, and what you’d end up with was a skeleton, complete with organs, with its pieces all neatly snapped into place. I must have taken that thing apart and put it back together at least fifty times.

Upon opening an Etsy shop, I realized I needed a niche to help my work stand out. There are many lovely hats, scarves, and gloves out there, but I wanted to do something different, educational, and amusing. Crocheting body parts just made sense  as it fulfilled my lifelong interest in anatomy while simultaneously providing my shop with a little something extra.

When the shop started taking off a few years ago, and I started getting orders more regularly, I was able to play around with some funds with co-producer, Rebecca Panfile, and we started writing True Story. The shop helped to define the show in a similar, irreverent  tongue-in-cheek way. I've started adding comical, crafty “How-tos” to supplement the series, and the results have been well received, reflected by the new YouTube and Facebook followers we've managed to gain. With the popularity of these new videos, I've been very inspired to keep making more, and I'm continuously thinking of new tie-ins to marry my crochet life to my video life.

Do you work in a sketchbook/art journal?

I do. I like to sketch out designs before I pick up a hook, and I often use the same notebooks for storyboard purposes, so I can figure out ahead of time what I need to shoot. The pages are almost completely illegible to anyone but me, as they’re full  of sketchy images of abstract shapes that will eventually form whatever body part I'm trying to stitch, with the next few pages filled with little boxes each containing stick figure representations of True Story characters. And of course, doodles. I don’t do it often enough, but I love to draw, I even sell a few prints in the shop.

 Are you working on anything at the moment?

I've had a super detailed crocheted spine propped up against my work desk for a while now, until one glorious day I can just sit down and finish it! It’s going to be part of a larger piece, a skeleton, that I plan to then fill with organs, creating a life sized crochet version of the Invisible Man toy I loved as a kid. 

Is there anything else that would like to share about yourself and/or your art?

I'm very hard on myself, I think most creative people are. I have so many amazing people in my life that support what I do, that it’s easy for me to forget that, for the most part, I'm a one woman show. I do all my own marketing, create all my online content myself, do all the promotion, script writing, film scheduling, shop inventory, answer shop inquiries, fill orders – and I still work a day job part time and audition, because that’s what actors do.

There are days where I feel like I have a thousand things to do, and get nothing done, and I'm working on being more okay with that, because, sometimes, we just need to cut ourselves some slack.

I can be found on Facebook as An Optimistic Cynic, as well as True Story-The Web Series. Also, be sure to follow me on Twitter at SarahAndBecky@TrueStory_TWS, and Instagram at AnOptimisticCynic! I promise I’ll make ya laugh, or at least midly offend ;-)


Well those certainly make a change from the humble old Granny Square! I can completely identify with what Sarah was saying about not giving herself enough credit for all the work she does all by herself. I think it's easy for a creative person (or anyone who is running a small business at that) to get caught up and worried about not performing well enough, not getting enough done, feeling guilty for having a duvet day every now and then. In reality we have to look at the bigger picture, we are running an entire business all by ourselves!! It's important to remember that, especially now as we come into our busiest season.

I hope you enjoyed this interview. If you are interested in being featured on this spot email me at

Have a great weekend!!



  1. I was one of Sarah's art teachers, and fondly recall the top hat made from discarded filmstrips and a spiffy vest crafted from AOL CDs. Always an artist, she has never ceased to entertain.
    Kath Schifano

    1. Wow! Both of those creations sound amazing!! She certainly is a very inspiring lady :) Ci x


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