Julie Fei-Fan Balzer switches among a variety of mediums to avoid what she calls "artist's block."
Julie Fei-Fan Balzer switches among a variety of mediums to avoid what she calls "artist's block."Julie Fei-Fan Balzer (custom credit)/Julie Fei-Fan Balzer

For three decades, Julie Fei-Fan Balzer (@balzerdesigns) pursued one passion: theater. Then she dipped into art as a hobby, moved out of New York City to Boston, and started on a new career. Now, to more than 28,000 Instagram followers, the self-taught artist and entrepreneur presents her work — hand-painted cards, collages, and even a quilt or two. Interspersed between pictures of herself and her newborn baby are videos of her carving stamps and illustrating faces. The Globe chatted with Balzer about her TV show, her life working from home, and more.

Q. What was your original life plan? And when did that change?


A. My 5th grade paper said I wanted to run a theater company. And in fact, that’s what I majored in in college. I went to New York City. I was a theatrical director, and I founded a small off-off-Broadway theater company. Then at some point, I had this art hobby and it started to take over my life. It seemed like the universe was saying maybe it’s time to switch things around. So I took the leap and decided to become a full-time artist.

Q. You said you started making more money from your hobby then.

A. Yes, selling my work independently. Also from teaching gigs that were coming up. I actually host a crafty TV show on PBS called “Make It Artsy.” It’s a whole bunch of random jobs, art-related jobs, that were coming in and seemed to come in without trying very hard. It had always been a struggle in the theater for me to get jobs. And then the art thing — it just seemed to come so easy, which seems hilarious.

Q. You also run a blog and a podcast.

A. As an artist, you have to have multiple income streams. Just like when you have a stock portfolio, the key is to diversify, diversify, diversify. I do some licensing where people turn my work into stamps and stencils and some surface design things. I obviously do teaching, the podcast, the blogging. Also all these things allow me to connect with other people. I came from the theater which is incredibly social — every moment you’re surrounded by people. Now I work alone in my house. I can go without seeing a human being for days.


A work by Julie Fei-Fan Balzer.
A work by Julie Fei-Fan Balzer. Julie Fei-Fan Balzer (custom credit)/Julie Fei-Fan Balzer

Q. You work in a lot of different mediums. Which one is your favorite?

A. If I had to limit myself to only one art form, I think I would choose painting. But if you ask me this question in an hour or tomorrow, I would have a completely different answer. And that’s probably why I dabble in so many things. I always tell people I’m like a puddle. I’m very wide and not that deep. There’s always another thing that can pique my interest. What I find I do is that if it’s not working for me today, like when I’m painting, then let’s do some collage. If the collage is not happening, let’s figure out if we can do some sewing. If the sewing isn’t working, let’s head toward paper crafting. I think of making art as problem-solving, so I’m constantly looking for a new problem.

Q. In a lot of different mediums, you make faces.

A. We are programmed to see faces — like faces. Everybody looks at a fire hydrant or the moon or a faucet or whatever and says, I see a face. I have a newborn baby now who’s 9 weeks old, so the first thing he’s looking at, of course, is faces. I want to see how much you can push a face until people say that doesn’t look like a person to me.


Q. Do you base the faces off people you know in real life? Your imagination?

A. The answer is yes. Meaning yes to all of that. Sometimes I use reference images. Sometimes it comes out of my mind. Sometimes it starts as a reference image and then it morphs. I think so often writers say, I didn’t write this story. Instead, I came up with these characters and they wrote the story. And I think that for me, it goes that way, too.

Balzer hosts a PBS TV show and runs a blog and podcast about art.
Balzer hosts a PBS TV show and runs a blog and podcast about art.Julie Fei-Fan Balzer (custom credit)/Julie Fei-Fan Balzer

Diti Kohli can be reached at diti.kohli@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter at @ditikohli_.