Fibre artist Trish Andersen’s rug output really took off when her staircase runner design became an online hit in 2018. Denna Jones talks to the designer about her journey into tufting and her new wool rug line
It’s true!’ Trish Andersen laughs at the idea she might embody the artist version of the ‘truism’ that people often look like their pets. Self-described as a ‘fine artist who paints with yarn’, a scroll of her Instagram reveals how the colours and patterns of her clothes have evolved to mirror her colourful and exuberant hand tufted rugs. ‘I live and breathe my work so without even thinking my wardrobe shifts to reflect what I’m working on.’ But in fairness, the more appropriate analogy is to suggest she embodies Oscar Wilde’s famous saying ‘life imitates art far more than art imitates life’. Either way, Andersen’s anti-mimesis style gained traction after her rainbow tufted staircase runner blew up the internet in 2018.
The runner continues to amass likes (a time lapse video where the rug’s colours flow like lava has more than 40K views), and it’s fair to say it fuelled the rapid rise of artists and designers who tuft. ‘It blows my mind that people say I in she says. In a and with eyes unloved objec Michael Porte Georgia renta including curt square blanke bucks at thrift people say I influenced their taking up tufting!’ she says. In another example of life imitating art and with eyes attuned to the magic of unusual or unloved objects, Andersen and her husband, artist Michael Porten, have decorated their Savannah, Georgia rental in a profusion of pattern and colour including curtains made from crocheted granny square blankets. ‘You can get them for like five bucks at thrift stores’, she enthuses.
A native of Dalton, Georgia (the self-proclaimed ‘carpet capital of the world’), Andersen describes how she ‘never had my own set of stairs until I moved from New York City to Savannah’. She looked at the dog-legged stairs in their rental and thought, ‘that’s a fun surface!’. Busy with commissions she rarely takes time to make anything for herself, but their kitties ‘needed exercise’ and she wanted to explore how to maximise three-dimensional tufted surfaces. The irony, she says, is the cats tend to skirt the sides of the runner although they do lounge on the ‘puddle’ tufted landing to bask in sunlight.
Andersen had fewer than 30K followers when she posted the runner, she currently has 107K. ‘I just posted it for me; to be accountable to my practice. I wasn’t thinking about whether anyone would like it. I was still at a point where I was solely interested in fine art, not rugs’. Although her background is fibre (Andersen is a graduate of the Savannah School of Art and Design), it wasn’t until 2016 —years after graduating—she discovered tufting through a video shared by a friend. ‘It was kismet,’ she remembers. ‘Tufting is much more like painting or drawing than weaving because you can jump around with the tufting gun.’
To growing acclaim and to the joy of her fans, Andersen launched a rug collection inspired by her rainbow runner in September 2021. Three designs: Mixy, Pure, and Splat are available in open editions and custom sizes and colourways. The rugs are tufted in India through Andersen’s Dalton-based partner manufacturer Lapama Rugs. The new collection joins her Sweepable Shag Collection of 45 floor mats in three designs, five colourways and three sizes, and her biophilic Running Line collection in collaboration with Shaw Contract that launched Spring 2020.
The new collection’s two pile heights accentuate the ‘drips’, while dense tufting creates rugs that are luxuriantly weighty; a 9 x 6 foot rug weighs about 90 pounds. In the near future Andersen plans to add more designs and colourways to the collection. Until then, the power of Andersen’s ‘Wilde’ style will continue to attract new fans.