The Unbound Collection by Hyatt and SkiftX present The Freedom to be Extraordinary content series, which explores how breaking free from convention can lead to extraordinary success. These conversations will reveal how leading innovators and entrepreneurs approach creativity and how they’re embracing the freedom to be extraordinary.
It’s not easy for Emily Fischer to come up with a quick phrase or title to describe what she does. The textile designer, kite designer, soon-to-be clothing designer, and new mom knows that she likes making things, and doesn’t want herself to fit into a box. It’s this motivation that led her to leave the world of commercial architecture to start her own Brooklyn-based interdisciplinary design studio, Haptic Lab.
She was turned on to the world of arts, crafts, and design at an early age. “I grew up in a very quaint community in Wisconsin where women were always crafting as a side hustle. I spent a lot of time at craft sales in church basements, along with a really creative mother. This culture introduced me to how things get made on a small scale,” says Fischer.
Destined for design, she worked as an architect in Manhattan for five years, but soon realized it wasn’t the right fit. “Architecture can come with a lot of work and not a lot of reward,” she says. She grew frustrated with the fact that projects she worked on often didn’t come to fruition, and that designs got lost in translation compared to what was actually built.
Being laid off during the economic recession finally gave her the motivation she needed to break out on her own and try to make a living through Haptic Lab and her own creations. She put together a website of her “weird, experimental post-graduate projects,” which involved handmade quilts, kites, and a few other works. She soon found a loyal audience. “That bit of encouragement made all the difference,” Fischer says.
The studio’s team has expanded to include a small group of craft artisans, designers and tinkerers. Specializing in tactile and sensory design that combine new technologies with traditional craft techniques, Haptic Lab’s handmade projects are designed to playfully explore the sense of touch and feel and are created through a hands-on, research-driven approach.
“When you’re making something by hand, you’re scaling it for human beings. That tactile characteristic is important for me to relate to. … In addition to being handmade, my projects all have a relation to the topics I’m constantly reading and learning about,” she says. She also describes herself as “an obsessive walker,” doing her best thinking on the move. “Engaging with the physical reality of the world around me is a huge part of my inspiration.”
Beyond overseeing Haptic Lab, Fischer is also a new mom. When asked how this has changed her creative process, she says, “I think the biggest change was that having a child can often make you feel like you need to make the world a better place. It was even stronger after the election this year. When I look at my daughter I ask, ‘What would make you most proud of me?’”
One way she’s resolving this decision to make a positive impact is by putting Haptic Lab on track to become a Certified B Corporation this year, which means it will meet rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency. “That means being carbon neutral and sourcing materials that are better for the earth. Even if it ends up costing more, there’s a lot of value in that,” she says.