There’s something irresistible about the work of artist Kayla Mattes. Her bright, large-scale tapestries combine a folky, fuzzy 70s vibe with digital culture visuals — in particular, the user interfaces of the not-too-distant, yet already quaint-seeming past. “I’ve always been really interested in the naïvete of the old Internet,” she says. “How people were, for the first time, becoming familiar with actually using the Internet and building websites and doing it in this way that was very free — like people were okay with using bright pink text against purple backgrounds. Back then the web was so unleashed.” Things have gotten more sophisticated but also more staid, at least in terms of what’s considered smart design. Mattes’ tapestries are a kind of antidote to that, and to the disconnection and depersonalization that spending hours online can sometimes leave you feeling. Her work is plugged in to all the technology we take for granted but she recontextualizes it, slows it down, and the effect is immersive, dizzying, a little chaotic, and oddly comforting.
After graduating from RISD in 2011, with a BFA in textiles and the technical expertise gained from that program, Mattes was initially drawn towards design. She started a jewelry line and considered knitwear, but has since moved in a more conceptual direction. For the past year, she’s primarily been focused on making tapestries in her home studio in Portland, Oregon, where she landed a couple of years ago after a short stint in LA. “It’s a small city but I’m never bored here. And it’s such a beautiful place.“ She’s been able to work mostly full-time on her art while teaching some textile and weaving workshops at the WildCraft Studio School, an arts center in the stunningly scenic Columbia River Gorge.
The contrast between the natural beauty of her surroundings and her creative fixation on screen life has been a productive one. So has working in a medium that is both an ancient craft, and, with the invention of mechanical looms, a precursor to computing. “Part of the reason I use weaving for this subject matter is I definitely see parallels between digital references and the loom. There’s this mathematical process to weaving and there’s a grid that creates some limitations that in a lot of ways parallel the references I’m using.”
While Mattes is “excited about making the tapestries the main part” of her practice, she’d like to “be working more in other realms” too — including sculpture and installations. We’re eager to see where her process takes her, but also very happy to get a closer look at where she’s at now.
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.”
There are few people who get the opportunity to uproot, relocate, and be instantaneously welcomed by a community of powerful and creative women. But Maryanne Moodie — the Melbourne, Australia native who settled in Brooklyn last year after her husband got a job a Etsy — did just that. Since arriving, she says, “I’ve been able to meet and forge fast friendships with so many amazing textile ladies — inspirational women who are creative as well as business focused. I’ve had the chance to collaborate professionally with them — as well as down a few glasses of wine over plans for world domination.”
If I was a bit late to the Hannah Waldron party, only discovering her work in May at the Here & There exhibition that Field and Various Projects put on during our Noho Design District event, it's probably only because I have a deep, embarrassing secret that, until today, I've never admitted publicly: I don't know why, but I just don't like most contemporary illustration all that much, particularly when it's figurative. Which means that I can sometimes throw the baby out with the bathwater, failing to notice the work I do love because I'm so busy filtering out the work I don't. Waldron definitely falls into the former camp for me, probably because she has such an intricate, graphic style — she's more influenced by the Bauhaus, for example, than the aesthetics of street art or cartooning. The woven Map Tapestries she exhibited at Here & There (and previously at Rossana Orlandi gallery in Milan this past April) feature long, abstract representations of her journeys from one place to another, plotting the transition in landscape between, say, Tokyo and a hot spring in Japan's Gunma prefecture (pictured above). Check out some of Waldron's works in this lovely Q+A, excerpted below, that ran recently on Designboom.