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Kate Garman: Translating Pattern

Kate Garman is a carpet designer, a MFA graduate from Tyler School of Art’s Fiber & Material Studies Program, and rug tufting expert. For more information, visit kategarman.com.

Kate at her MFA thesis exhibition, wearing one of her designs. 

When did you first become interested in the process of tufting?

I used to be a designer with a rug company in Grand Rapids, Michigan. After I got into grad school I really wanted to learn more about the processes we were using within the company. Because of proprietary conflicts I wasn’t able to learn rug tufting there, but it was something I was eager to learn during my two years at Tyler School of Art.

How did working for a commercial rug design company inform your art practice?

When designing rugs, I created patterns within the grid structure of monk’s cloth [a loosely woven cotton used as a backing in rugs]. It made me interested in ways I could mess with the grid in my art practice. I was obsessed with repeating patterns, especially in black and white, and created a lot of them my first year of grad school. Moving from Michigan to Pennsylvania, I was away from my friends and family for the first time. The move brought up a lot of homesickness which I translated into my drawings. Because I was missing the rug company I decided to create a rug, but this time it was a drawing of a rug. In this process I recreated textile techniques in the form of hand-drawn marks, that for me, were part of a similar meditative process. Working as a rug designer allowed me the opportunity to learn about a niche market, understand the rug-making process, and make lifelong friends.

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Untitled (rug 1). 4' x 5'. 

What brought you to tuftinggun.com?

I came to tuftinggun because my amazing mentor, Tim, became just as excited about tufting and rug making as I was. In his studio I was finally able to tuft on my own, which has been both overwhelming and challenging. And now I’m the resident rug tufting expert!

Kate's Studio.
As of now, how would you describe your art practice?

I’d consider my practice a material-based one. As of now, that material is the creation of fabric into clothing. Since graduating with my MFA from Tyler, my practice has shifted into translating my hand-drawn designs into garments.

Where do you see the intersection between your “artist” self and your “design” self? Is there a difference?

I think my design self determines whether or not something is visually working, and my artist self determines that “yes it’s art”. I mean they’re one in the same, because really it’s all me.

The Green One. 2.5' x 3.5'.

Untitled (diagonal). 5' x 5'.

What are you most excited and inspired by?

Right now I’m most excited about making my own clothes. Having just started making clothes within the last six months, I’m still surprised and shocked that I can make something that fits my body and that I want to wear everyday. I’m constantly inspired by the city. Since it’s gotten nicer out, I really enjoy taking walks and I’m always taking pictures of patterns within everyday life that excite me.