If idle hands are the devil’s workshop, then Kathryn Hunter just might be a saint. Always on the move, her multimedia installations incorporate fabric art, paper-cutting and shaped metal to explore humanity’s connection to and impact on the natural world and its animal denizens, while in her own printing business, Blackbird Letterpress, she infuses those same sensibilities. With overt playfulness, she creates a series of charming and nostalgic stationary, hand-made notebooks and related novelties. No matter the project, Hunter is always building something. SRQ sat down with the Louisiana-based artist and entrepreneur to talk process and balance.

SRQ: How did you choose your medium, or media? Hunter: I did a lot of sewing growing up, even through undergraduate school, and I was trained as a printmaker. I became a printmaker because I could print on fabric so well. I don’t print on fabric as much anymore, but that’s just a real natural form for me to go to. One, I can get the color that I really want without having too hard of a time finding it and, two, I really like the layers and the textures that it can bring.

It’s not conventional. Exhibiting-wise, it’s an interesting thing. People are really scared of paper on the wall. People don’t want to buy a paper-cut that’s not framed. Metal gives it the same silhouette factor but it’s a little more substantial. I also like that it’s another texture. It’s layers and texture—the combination and how they work together. The soft fabrics next to something shiny is more interesting than if it’s just fabric. Color has always been really important and what I’m drawn to. Even though there are some black silhouettes and some metal, there’s always going to be bright red and yellow and orange. Sometimes I think about things in orange and yellow and red. When I’m thinking about what to make, those are the colors that come up and I force myself to bring in other colors.

Why red, yellow and orange? I have no idea. There’s something about the warmth of it. Red and yellow and orange are also very active colors, so I think it’s engaging.

Is warmth something you want to convey in your art? Do you have a specific message in mind?   Not really. I can’t say that I focus on it when I’m making something. I like to leave the story up to the viewer rather than giving them the whole story. Any time I try to be preachy it seems too contrived to me. And so I like letting the viewer make that choice.

Do the animal figures repeated through your work have specific meaning?  There are a lot of bears and I’ve worked a lot with canines—wolves and coyotes and foxes. It’s just those big animals that I’m drawn to in a sense, maybe totemic but not in a very direct way. I’m not saying, “This means this.” But at the same time, it can. They are metaphors, whether it’s the human condition or the call of the wild.

What keeps you coming back to the canvas? I don’t know. I just make stuff. The business that I run is a printing business, so we print and draw and design all the time—it’s just part of what I do. I’ve always done something. As a kid I would sit in front of the TV and sew something. It gives me the outlet I’m seeking for my hands.

How do you balance the business and the art? Deadlines. I make sure that I have a deadline for a show somewhere ahead of me. It makes me keep doing it. I’ve always done that, because it’d be easy to get satisfied printing. And we assemble a lot of stuff, so a lot of that can be satisfied but I still want to push and see where this work goes. Every time I get done with a show, I’m not quite sure where it’s going. And then you keep plugging along.

What’s in your toolbox? Pencil, eraser and needle and thread.