The Queue: Andy Li

The Queue: Andy Li

Get to know the people featured in the pages of our magazine as they share what's inspiring them right now.

Published on Monday, March 8, 2021.
Cover graphic for The Queue featuring Andy Li

Introducing the Nourish series of The Queue

A biweekly roundup for and by the craft community, The Queue introduces you to the artists, curators, organizers, and more featured in the current issue of American Craft. We invite these inspiring individuals to share personally about their lives and work as well as what's inspiring them right now.

Making a Mark on the World and Sharing It Back

Andy Li is a multi–media artist based in Boston whose work ranges from textiles to photography and illustration—all with a focus "on the power of now." His nylon banners bearing positive messages are featured in the Noted section of the Spring 2021 issue of American Craft@radandyli

Portrait of Andy Li

Portrait courtesy of the artist.

How do you describe your work or practice?
A lot of my work revolves around finding common emotional boundaries. I like to use text as a springboard. Like, here is my reaction or observation of a moment, and it’s up to the viewer to take those words and digest them to see what experiences they bring out of their memory banks. Together we build a connection through a common response but not necessarily by a common path to get there. I like to think of it as giving someone the keys to my car, and they decide where they want to drive—or even if they want to drive at all!

Orange triangular banner with white lettering

See more of Andy's work in "Shining Some Light," featured in the Spring issue of American Craft. Photo courtesy of the artist.

During this time of COVID-19 isolation and social unrest/calls for change, how are you finding beauty and staying grounded?
I could say that since I’m a practicing studio artist being isolated comes with the territory, but there are so many more layers to it than that. Honestly, this was, is, and has been a hard time. The constant flow of uncertainty and the expected-but-still-shocked lack of leadership was enough for me to NOPE out for a bit. I had to be proactive in shedding those work expectations I had set for myself and accept that maybe now is not my time to be creating. So I decided to take a step back, reflect, and enjoy the moment to the best of my ability. That definitely helped me feel more in control.

Can you reflect on the current issue of American Craft's theme of "nourish" as it relates to your work and practice?
You have to embrace that you can only give as much as you are willing to receive. So you must open yourself up and learn to do what you can, with what you got, wherever you are. You take the energy from the world and send it back out there translated with your own energy. My work is heavily influenced by the idea that good brings good, bad brings bad, but it’s never that cut and dry. There is loss in that exchange as much as there are gains. When I make a piece, I have to accept that there are many paths, outcomes, and reactions. Like how a circle is made up of tangents, nourishment is in the exchange.

Andy Li working on a sewing machine in a studio with colorful lettered banners on the walls

Photo courtesy of the artist.

What has been the biggest barrier you have had to break through to get to the place you’re at with your career?
Changing perspectives and being honest with myself in finding stride and confidence in my workflow. Back when I was working full time retail, I would get to the studio maybe once or twice every few weeks. At one point, it felt like I was just renting a studio to keep my stuff in there, and maybe I’d finish a few pieces a year. Eventually, your mind goes, “is this it?” and you have to answer it yes or no. That’s not easy to do because you basically have to either admit that no, you want to achieve more in life or say yes, everything is seemingly fine. I decided that I wanted to go all in and started taking steps on shifting my perspectives. I began to treat my studio practice like it was my main gig and the retail job was just there to support it. I took no days off and worked on taking advantage of any and all the free time I had. That was the toughest but most necessary step on my path to be where I am now!

What’s one of your go-to tools in your toolkit?
My buddy Brandon (brandonkirk.world) gave me one of those erasable pens a few years ago, and they have quickly become one of my standard tools. Turns out that they use the heat from the friction to evaporate the ink, so when you draw on fabric you can iron the lines away easy-peasy. I bulk–order them now like crazy!

Installation of green and yellow lettered banners on red posts over an outdoor walkway
Installation of green and yellow lettered banners on red posts over an outdoor walkway
Installation of green and yellow lettered banners on red posts over an outdoor walkway

Andy's banners are on display on Boston's Rose Kennedy Greenway in an exhibition titled The Herd, which celebrates the Year of The Ox as part of The Curation of The Chinese Zodiac. Photos by Sheila Novak (@sheila.studios), public art project manager for The Rose Kennedy Greenway Conservancy.

What’s an exhibition or art project you think the world should know about?
I am going to go ahead and say that the world should know about The Curation of The Chinese Zodiac on the @rosekennedygreenway, because I am the artist creating the installation for the Year of The Ox! It's my first public piece, and as I am writing this, I am in the final two weeks before it goes up. I have never worked with such a scale and not to be confined by walls—it's refreshing but also intimidating. It's been the project I've been working on for the past few months, and I am so excited to share it with the world!

What podcast should we be listening to right now?
I just started the Broken Record podcast with Rick Rubin, Malcolm Gladwell, and Bruce Headlam (@thebrokenrecordpod). As someone who loves listening to music all day, I enjoy getting more background info and stories from people behind the scenes.

Illustrated podcast logo inspired by a vinyl record and broadcast symbol
Blue lamp shade made from rope

Ugly Rugly's Hanging Lamp is made on an industrial sewing machine by using a rope coiling technique to create the shade. The cord is covered with a hand-knotted macrame cotton rope in a 15.5 ft. length and in-line switch. The light bulb is included. Photo courtesy of Ugly Rugly.

If you could purchase any artist's work for your home or studio, whose would it be and why?
I am a sucker for good lighting and I am especially fond of wired hanging lamps. There’s this awesome couple in New York with a brand called Ugly Rugly (@uglyrugly), and they make these stitched rope hanging lamps that I’ve been eyeing for a while now. Lighting can have a huge influence on your energy and mindset simply by the way it fills the space, so why wouldn’t you try to use that to the best of your abilities?

You take the energy from the world and send it back out there translated with your own energy.

Are you binge–watching anything right now?
This show just came out called How To With John Wilson (@howtojohnwilson) and I loved every minute of it. It made me laugh and cry in a span of 20 minutes, which I haven’t experienced in a long time. There’s a lot of honesty he reveals through his lens, and I really appreciate the depths he’s willing to go to document the surprising undercurrents of our world.

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