July 27, 2021
Publish date: DEC. 14, 2020
Most of the TikTok tufters find their equipment and materials through Tim Eads, an artist based in Philadelphia. He, too, was fascinated with the technique when he first encountered it a few years ago, and also experienced a crush of engagement with the Instagram videos he posted of him using it. “I had been running this canvas-bag business for years, and I had never seen this rabid curiousness before,” he says. But instead of just focusing on making videos of his own work, Eads was more interested in making this means of production more accessible. He founded an online community for tufters in 2018, and steadily began selling tufting guns and yarns, and posting YouTube videos on how to use and fix the tools. “I’ve always been someone who thinks that trade secrets as an artist is BS,” Eads says.
Tufting, in many ways, represents a union of many of the different types of artwork that Eads has done over the decades. He grew up on an Angora goat farm in West Texas, and his parents made mohair fibers. He studied graphic design as an undergraduate and was a screen printer for decades. After earning an MFA in ceramics at Cranbrook, he went to Philadelphia for a job at the Fabric Workshop, which he held for six years. Eads’s rugs usually feature geometric patterns — often with a dimensional effect — and vibrant colors. Right now he’s working on a series of rugs based on the shapes of gerrymandered congressional districts.
His business had been growing steadily — he’s pretty much got the monopoly on tufting guns and supplies and has accessible lessons online — but since COVID hit, it’s gone gangbusters. He’s receiving six times the number of orders now that he did in February and has customers in 120 different countries. Eads sees a future in which tufting will lose its novelty, but not its appeal. “Like any art technique, it will become common knowledge, and people will learn about it in school,” he says. “It will be like, Oh, yeah, people know how to tuft now.”
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July 13, 2023
Eads uses the AI software DALL-E, similar to ChatGPT (they are made by the same company, OpenAI) to type in parameters for an image request. For example, Eads asked for a geometric pattern loosely based on paintings by Bridget Riley, the British artist known in the 1960s for creating optical effects with line patterns.
The software generates many versions of what it thinks Eads is asking for. He chose one of DALL-E’s images, a squared spiral in black. Its imperfectly aligned lines create a slightly dizzying effect.