I have a fondness for quilting.

My own experiments in crazy-quilting and then sashiko quilting had me going blind doing fancy-stitching with wild and crazy colors and patterns as well as tactile combinations of bumps and lumps that were a heck of a lot of fun for me and for the heart-friends to whom I gifted these bits of silliness.

“One Day Quilt” by Rachel via Flickr [CC BY-NC 2.0]
That may be why this YouTube video, “Constellation Quilt,” (published in 2013 by Public Record) showing work by designer Emily Fischer and her design studio Haptic Lab caught my eye.

The idea, expressed in the video, of wrapping yourself up in stars and time caught at the strings of my imagination.

Then I saw another YouTube video, “Flying Martha Ornithopter.”  This one was published in 2017 by Made Me Look.  It, too, was about an object designed by Emily Fischer and Haptic Lab.


Like Fischer, I understand that kites, winged things and even flapping flags can help us humans explore the movements and flow of the invisible forces of wind.  They can help us tap into the tactile joys of flight.


It seems to me that I have found another person for whom tactile and sensory design – how a thing feels in your hand and on your skin – is as important as what the thing looks like.

Even more importantly (for me anyway), here is a person for whom objects are repositories for the stories we tell ourselves about our lives.

Among the objects Haptic Lab produces are extraordinarily detailed street maps that they call SoftMaps that can be customized and personalized for individual customers to show where their stories have taken place.

Haptic Lab San Francisco map blanket by Eric Fischer via Flickr [CC BY-2.0]
It seems to me that designers like that are a rarity.


Emily Fischer grew up in rural Wisconsin where she learned how to make such things as quilts and kites as a youngster.  Even as an architect-wannabe, her crafty beginnings continued to find expression.

As an undergraduate student at Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning at the University of Michigan in 2002, one of her projects was her first quilted map that she designed as a way-finding tool for the visually impaired.

The inspiration for the project was her mother Peggy who had begun to lose her eyesight through complications from glaucoma.

For these quilts, Emily combined her skill with computer-aided design and manufacture (CAD/CAM) rapid prototyping tools, and open-source mapping software as well as her grounding in the old-school, painstaking craft traditions of quilting and needlework with her explorations of haptics (the way humans perceive objects and sensations through touch).

For years, she continued to make these quilts as side-projects while pursuing her career as an architect in New York City.

In 2009, during the extreme depths of the recession, Fischer was laid off from her job at a commercial architectural firm.

One of the first things she did was build a simple website with images of her experimental personal work that included objects exploring her interests in cartography and early flight.

About that time she says: “Almost immediately, design blogs like Cool Hunting started publishing images of my handmade quilts and kites. I was commissioned to construct a kite for an Opening Ceremony video directed by Matt Wolf. I got a message from ID Magazine (RIP). Then the Los Angeles Times. Then the New York Times. Suddenly everyone wanted to buy the quilted maps I was making. So within three weeks of losing my job, I accidentally started my own company.

And so it began.

Fischer operates her accidental company, Haptics Lab, out of a Brooklyn studio with a small, close-knit team.  The company is grounded in values that emphasize fair trade and sustainability.


This YouTube “How the Founder of Haptic Lab Uses Design to Drive Positive Change” was created by Skiftx contents studio in 2017.

Here’s a poem:


Another crossroads….


Do I go straight ahead?

Do I turn left?

Do I turn right?

Do I go back?


Standing flatfooted in the middle


Keep standing there and

You’re likely to get run over

By some unheeding vehicle

That keeps on trundling along.


The roads in front spread outward

Leading to who-knows-where.

They stretch on to infinity, you know.

And “back” just means more same-old.


And here I am,

With my raw and bleeding heart

Pulling me towards

The one road that is so bright and shiny

That it takes my breath away.


The caution signs posted

Along that road are intimidating.

They threaten.

They shout.

They jump up and down, even.


Loss and devastation, they declaim.

Doom-and-gloom, they promise.

Desperation and despair.

Ah, me….

Watch out!





Aw, the heck with it, babe!


We go!

by Netta Kanoho

Header Photo credit:  “Touching the World” by Joe Szilagyi via Flickr [CC BY-SA 2.0]


(Click on each of the post titles below and see where it takes you…)


Thanks for your visit.  I’d appreciate it if you would drop a note or comment below and tell me your thoughts.

22 thoughts on “EMILY FISCHER: Work By Touch

  1. Chrissie Spurgeon says:

    What a fascinating post about EMILY FISCHER and the way in which she works. She is a great example of how one can create a successful and ethical business, and I enjoyed the video.

    I enjoyed your poem too.

    Do you know if her products are available in the UK, and if so, where?

    Many thanks for your post.

    Chrissie 🙂

    1. Chrissie, thanks for your visit and for sharing your thoughts.  I am sure that Haptics Lab sells products online internationally. You may want to contact them for more information.

      Please do come again….

  2. Working by touch is a good way of really connect with what your doing and is a great outlook on life. 

    Emily Fischer shows how you Can get extra expression in your work. 

    The San Francisco quilted map is amazing ! The attention to detail must have taken a very long time to complete and I can really appreciate the talent and effort gone into it.

    1. Darren, thanks for your visit and for sharing your thoughts.  I do appreciate it.

      Please do come again….

  3. That is a very inspiring and motivating story about quilting. It interests me how people deal with hard obstacles and overcome them. At the beginning it seems impossible but over time it can be done and managed. Could you tell me more about  ‘sashiko quilting’?

    My grandmother did some quilting as far as I remember in my childhood years. I was always watching her how she works. On the 4th grade when I was 10-11 years old I also tried some quilting at school. At the beginning it looked hard but after a few lessons it became clear. I was surprised at what I can do and how fast I learned new things. Now it is long gone but it is always nice to remember good memories. 

    Thanks for an inspiring article and motivating story. 



    1. Tomas, thanks for the visit and for sharing your story about your grandma.  

      Sashiko is a form of Japanese straight-line quilting that is used to sew together many layers of material to make a stronger fabric.  I used it for adding levels of stuff between the top and bottom layers of a piece so that I could get a topo-map feel to them.  It was so fun!

      Glad you liked the post.  Please do come again….

  4. Hello Netta

    Emily Fischer is a beautiful inspiration for women everywhere. Through tough times she was able to use her lovely quilts as a means of making a difference in her life and basically starting over when she lost her job. I could feel the magic too as I watched the videos. I like how Emily uses the philosophy of design to make changes in her own life. Thank you sharing this wonderful information.

    By the way, I loved the poem.

    1. Mary Anne, thanks for your visit and for sharing your thoughts.  I do appreciate it.

      Please do come again….

  5. I love quilting work.  They are so beautiful, sophisticated but yet has a homey feelings to it. 

    However, I am really bad with all the needles work. I can only perform simple work such as sewing my buttons back to my shirt, lol. But, I do enjoy buying and using quilting work. 

    My grandmother is really good at it.  God bless her, she passed a while back but I get to keep some of her quiltings.  

    Emily Fischer is an amazing woman. Never have thought to use Auto Cad for quilting, this is great. Thanks for sharing about her 🙂

    1. Nuttanee, thanks for your visit and for sharing your story.  How lucky that you have some of your grandmother’s work!

      Please do come again.

  6. Wow… that San Francisco map looks amazing. I can’t imagine how many hours the artist spent creating this masterpiece. I must admit that I have absolutely no experience in this field, but after discovering your page I will dig deeper. Are any of her works available in the EU?

    The poem is amazing too. Sometimes I read poetry and I get easily bored with traditional poetry… your style is a new, fresh breeze.

    Keep doing the good work

    1. Alex, thanks for the visit and for sharing her thoughts.  

      You can get more information about Emily’s work from https://www.hapticlab.com/.

      Please do come again.

  7. Mugalu Mansoor says:

    Thank you very much for this great article plus the poem.

    I found it so motivating and inspiring.  Sometimes we face obstacles in life and we reach the extent of thinking that we can’t overcome them. Someone who reads this post will actually know that many are possible. 

    Creating a successful business has a lot of challenges but the main issue is the way we deal with them. Thanks.

    1. Welcome back, Mansoor.  Thanks for sharing your thoughts.  I do appreciate it.

      Please do come again.

  8. Hello Netta, nice to see you share this amazing story of Emily Fischer. Her story is one that encourages us to be focused in whatever we love doing, building well on it, learning more about it in a professional way and pursuing it earnestly even if we have a carrier we also love. 

    This is what helped her in building and running a company she started accidentally. This is preparation meeting opportunity.


    1. Thanks for the visit and for sharing your thoughts, Mr.B….  I do agree!

      Please do come again.

  9. What an inspiring post regarding about Emily Fisher and quilting. 

    Although I have no idea how to quilt, let along even sew a button, I can really appreciate the amazing work and beauty of these quilts. 

    I usually have a hard time focusing on a poem and understanding them, but yours was great and I loved it:)

    1. Cynthia, thank you for your visit and for sharing your thoughts.  I do appreciate it and I am glad that you found the post of interest.

      I’m so glad my poem spoke to you.  I always hope that they touch someone.

      Please do come again.

  10. LineCowley says:

    What an interesting post about Emily Fischer and her company Haptic Lab. It just shows that one can pivot when needs be, and make a success of it. The quilted maps are just fascinating, something that I have not seen before. 

    I love your poem, depicts life in so many ways, and specifically appealed to me who is at a big crossroad in my life. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Thanks for the visit and for sharing your thoughts, LineCowley.  I am pleased the post appealed to you.  

      Please do come again.

  11. Hey. I must admit that I have absolutely no experience in this field.  However reading through your website really makes me wanna learn more and more about it!

    Usually when I have tried to read poetry, i would often get bored. However some of the ones on here are really quite fantastic.

    Overall, keep up the good work and all the best. Thanks, Alex.

    1. Alex, I do appreciate your visit.  Thanks for sharing your thoughts and for your kind words.

      Please do come again.

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