In COVER 66, Editor Lucy Upward looks at the trend for tufted homewares and art and speaks to four dedicated tufters about the joys of the craft. This extract from the article focuses on the work of Brooklyn-based textile designer and artist Caroline Kaufman. BFA Fashion Design graduate from Pratt Institute, Kaufman is well known for her experimental textiles and playful hand-painted prints. She opened her textile studio in 2014 and began tufting in 2018 (not 2014 as written in our COVER article). Here she discusses the joy of the craft with Lucy Upward.
How and when did you find tufting?
For many years I worked in a myriad of textile techniques, primarily sewing, weaving, and knitting, while simultaneously developing my painting practice. In the beginning of my studio, around 2014, I was desperately testing out techniques that merged these two practices: the painting and the tactile. When I discovered tufting it just clicked. As an artist you have to go through so many testing periods, I call it ‘making bad art,’ until you find the techniques that express your visual language.
How did it change your art practice?
It changed everything! I started working bigger for the first time in my life. This came with such growing pains since I was always working out of tiny New York City studios. In the beginning the loom, covered in razor sharp nails, sat in my living room. I’m not trying to romanticise the artistic struggle; it was difficult working on a big scale when I couldn’t afford the adequate studio space. Eventually though the work itself brought in amazing opportunities and allowed me to grow.
What are your tufted pieces about and what are they for?
They are functional art pieces meant for the wall that can extend to the floor. They are about exploring my visual language through material, colour, and shape.
What is the joy of tufting about/what ideas and techniques do you play around with when tufting?
There is so much joy. The technique is rhythmic and it’s physical. When I’m working on a big piece, I feel like I put my whole body into the work through the motion of standing on a ladder for many hours holding the equipment. I love experimenting with different textile techniques to make interesting textures. I’m a rule breaker when it comes to technique.
Why do you think tufting has become so popular?
The technique is very visual and meditative to watch. Tiktok/Instagram reels of tufting feel like watching a magic trick: snap your fingers and make your own rug! I can definitely understand why so many creative people would want to try it out.
Do you have plans to expand what you already do with tufting?
Of course, but as always I’ll have to wait for the work to tell me what it wants to be.