Trish Anderson on Process, Design, and the Tufting Community
Trish Anderson is a fiber and installation artist who has fully embraced machine rug tufting. Her work is vibrant, larger than life, bursting with texture and color. Her rug pieces - especially the stair runners - are perfectly practical but feel like installations, and her installations feel otherworldly. Andersen is a native of Dalton, Georgia, who earned her BFA in fibers at the Savannah College of Art and Design. She now lives and works in Savannah and Brooklyn.
As one of the early adopters of tufting in the U.S., Anderson is at the center of the burgeoning tufting community, giving advice and helping people troubleshoot their machines, set ups, and designs. To help streamline that process, she and I have teamed up to create a Q&A-style website that will hopefully provide answers to any questions tufters might encounter here!
Trish was kind enough to answer some questions for me in this -- my first in a series of profiles of contemporary tufters I admire!
How did you find your way into tufting?
I was searching for a new process to inspire my personal studio practice and my friend happened to send me a link of a viral video of people creating tufted rugs in India. It was so intriguing to me and I became obsessed with finding a gun and learning how to use it! This was pre-Tim (I feel like this should be an official term in the tufting community) so there was little info or resources out there. When I finally got myself set up, I literally burst into tears after the first line I was able to successfully tuft. I was HOOKED.
When you are working, do you plan or are you more improvisational? Does this change for your larger scale/installation work?
I go back and forth on this. I usually have some sort of idea of what I want the initial language of the piece to be. I use Procreate on Ipad to sketch ideas and have found it very helpful. My work is so color-focused I was finding that I wasn't sketching as much as I wanted to because it was such an ordeal to get out all the paints, etc. I keep a running bank of ideas on there so I can draw upon it when I start a piece. Once tufting, I either sketch onto the backing cloth or paint on it with watercolors. More often than not, I let myself respond to what is happening and add as I go. I like that freedom. I work on the first floor of my house so my frame is only around 7.5' x 7.5', so for my larger work I have to piece it together. For those large pieces, I use Illustrator/Photoshop to break up my sketch and then project it on the cloth. This insures that the lines all register when the parts are finished.
There's a lot of repetition in your work, in shape (referencing specifically the “drips” series) and in color. What does repetition mean to you?
I have always found repetitive processes meditative and healing. It is my "yoga" of sorts. I have been exploring lately how this repetitive "flow" state can be shown through line and form. Much of my career was doing large-scale installations for commercial events and interiors. Each project was different and new because no one wants the same thing. This could be exhilarating and inspiring at times, but I was never able to really expand on ideas. Now that I am more focused on my own studio practice, I want to take the time to really delve into an idea...repeat, change a bit, repeat...until I've exhausted my interest in it.
You do commissions; many artists have a love/hate relationship with commissions. How do you feel? What is your favorite type of commission?
I do take commissions and, in the right situation, I really enjoy them. I find the back and forth motivating and it challenges me to push myself. I am still trying to figure out how to navigate it all, though. I think my best work has come when I can just make decisions without considering what someone else would think, so I find it is important to be working with people that are coming to me for my specific perspective and voice. Not to plug Procreate again, but it has helped immensely in communicating my ideas/sketches for commissions. I love to work large, so those projects are my favorite! I would love to do a big piece for a hotel, an airport, or a fun restaurant one day.
Are there any projects or ideas on the horizon that you're excited about?
Many! I am currently creating work for my first gallery show ever (eeek!) at Spalding Nix Fine Art in Atlanta, GA, to open on June 14th. A rug line based on my rainbow runner is in the works, and I hope to launch that in the next few months.I have several commissions to complete including a 22' long guy! And I have some thoughts on tufted furniture I hope to get time to explore when I find the time. All in all, very very thankful to have the opportunity to keep tufting because I love it to my core!