We got the chance to sit down and have a chat with the wonderful and brilliant Emily Fischer of Haptic Lab recently. Fischer makes beautifully tactile quilts that take the shape of city maps—these quilts are both breathtaking and stunning when you see them in person. Read on to learn about her inspirations and more.

Where are you from originally and how did the local culture shape you as a designer/maker?
I’m from River Falls, Wisconsin. It’s a smallish farming community with strong Scandinavian and German heritage, so I was surrounded by handmade craft items from a very early age and quilting was a big part of that experience.

What initially inspired to make your product?
The City Quilts projects began in 2002 as an academic experiment in tactile way-finding. My mom had recently begun losing her eyesight from complications of glaucoma, and the quilts were meant to explore new ways of seeing though touch. “Haptic” is derived from the Greek work for touch, and everything I make is inspired by that sense.

What is your favorite step in the creation of your product?
Drawing each map by hand. All the quilt templates are scaled precisely to the map of a given locale and I spend hours hand-tracing GIS information for each map before the quilters start sewing. I love discovering the idiosyncratic patterns of each city. Like the Kevin Lynch book The Image of the City.

What hobbies inspire your designs/products?
I used to work as an architect professionally, but now architecture has become my hobby. So architectural thinking inspires a lot of what I do: plans, sections, elevations, three-dimensional models—but also the structural logic, spatial logic, and materiality of things. The kite project I’m currently working on was derived almost completely from my architectural training.

What is your favorite shape and why?
Right now, the shape of a bear’s butt. My team and I watch the live bearcams at Katmai National Park via We’ve watched nothing else for months, and I’m still delighted every time I see a bear enter the frame.

There’s a specific word that describes this feeling, “nervio”. To experience nervio is to find something so adorable that you have to restrain yourself from wanting to hurt it. I have to restrain myself from flying to Alaska to become a Timothy Treadwell type and live with the bears...because of course, bears are vicious, dangerous animals that don’t understand webcams and/or human empathy.

What is your favorite texture this season?

What did you see of interest today?
This tile pattern:

What is your motto?
These bootstraps aren’t going to pull themselves.

September 22, 2013 by Aldea Home

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