Christy Matson, Textile Artist

In the parallel universe of false starts, where every cabinet is filled with tools you’ll never use again and every heart with ideas that didn’t stick, artist Christy Matson is a welcome presence, a reminder that sometimes lost things have a way of finding you again. Matson bought her first loom before she’d ever woven, certain that she would take immediately to the repetition and logic of it: “I was, like, I’m going to love weaving, I just know it! I had never met a textile-related process I didn’t like,” Matson says. “And then I took a weaving class the next semester and hated it. I thought, this is it? This is boring.”

So call it kismet or just the long way around, but somehow more than a decade later Matson has led an entirely unboring life devoted to warps and wefts, becoming one of the youngest people ever tenured at the School of the Art Institute in Chicago, in the department of Fiber and Material Studies, and landing her work in the collection of the Smithsonian. Not only did weaving strike the second time, but it struck hard. Matson works in jacquard, a technically demanding and labor-intensive style of handweaving, on a vacuum-powered loom with 880 individually controllable moving parts.

“This light bulb just went off,” Matson says of discovering jacquard, which is now more often automated and done on an industrial scale. “Suddenly everything seemed possible that wasn’t with traditional harnessed floor looms. It sort of blew things wide open.” For Matson, who was drawn to California in part for the surf, the attraction to handweaving jacquard was in its difficulty: not how quickly she could pick up a technique, but what might be possible once she did. “I tend to be drawn to the types of activities that seem like they could take a lifetime to master, not a quick flash in the pan and then I’m on to something else. I want to still be figuring it out; I don’t like to do things that are revealed to me all at once.”

Last summer, Matson left Chicago for Highland Park in Los Angeles, and a house with a vegetable garden and two breezy detached studios in the back. As much as she misses teaching, the move offered Matson a chance to focus more on her own practice, including a new series of pieces that are like the light in Southern California refracted through the history of modernism. “There’s knowledge that you know with your hands, the things that are much more unquantifiable. Those are the things you can’t teach, not like throwing a shuttle so the edge is even,” Matson says. “You just tell your students over and over: it takes time.”

Su Wu is the proprietor of I’m Revolting.