Portrait of Tuft is a series highlighting the very cool people who make Tuft the World what it is, illustrated by our own comics artist Hannah Kaplan.
Meet Bailey, a joke-cracking member of the TTW fulfillment crew who shares the big responsibility of processing, picking, packing, and shipping your orders. With their background in theater and performance art, Bailey brings energy, style, and ever-changing hair color to our main workspace, and cites Tweety Bird as a personal hero: “The original transmasc icon.”
While Bailey grew up in Texas, they’ve lived in Philadelphia for nine years, long enough to call the city home. “I’ve really been allowed to grow into myself in Philly, in part because, living here, you don’t have to participate in ‘grind culture,’ by which I mean working 24/7 to survive. This is what allows such strong queer and DIY communities to form. It also means that people end up making art that doesn’t just cater to the taste of ‘the art world,’ a.k.a. rich people. And Philly is a place where I’ve been able to learn about community care, the importance of mutual aid, and how to be involved on a local level in the city that you live in.”
Bailey holds a degree in acting from Philadelphia’s University of the Arts, and has performed in everything from Shakespeare to DIY art pieces to miming (they were in a mime troupe for four years !). In 2020, though, when the pandemic brought in-person theater to a halt, they took time to reflect on the dynamics of the performance world, which led them to reassess their relationship to collaborative art-making in general. Ultimately the step back from performing freed up more space for other creative pursuits, like . . . tufting!
“I still love performing, but I've been finding a lot of value in having full control over my own creative practice. It's been really nice to work on my own schedule and without compromise. Right now my tufting is blending with my meditation and yoga practice. I’m making a lot of colorful blobs [laughs] based on intuitively associating things I’m thinking about with different color choices. And I’m more and more interested in tufting 3D sculptural objects, like abstract shapes that may or may not be functional, but that invite tactile interactions that feel nice.”
When asked if they have current ambitions in the studio, Bailey explains that at the moment their goal is to “give validity to silliness,” a concept a lot of artists might relate to, but especially those who began tufting during the strange and difficult period of quarantine. A recent text rug of Bailey’s reads No One Knows What’s Going On in bold black letters, surrounded by a lava-like multicolored field that makes the declaration vibrate.
“When I was younger, I spent a lot of time in art classes trying to access ‘deep feelings,’ or making work from ‘a place of trauma,’ etc. But I think there’s also a lot to be said for drawing inspiration from things that bring pleasure or make us laugh. I want to allow myself to continue exploring what feels good, utilizing humor, and centering joy and softness in my work. I don’t want to put a lot of limits on what it can or can’t be.”