As creative origin stories go, Janelle Pietrzak’s is a good one. About a decade ago, for a few post-college years, she was toiling away at a denim company in New York and looking for some kind of escape. So she started knitting, took a yarn spinning class, and eventually entered a competition at the New York Sheep and Wool Festival — which was more “farmers and grandmas” than hipsters and makers. “I won for the State, which was not hard. I was competing against eight-year-olds; it was mean of me to even compete.” Still, she says, that was her entree into the fiber world, and she hasn’t looked back.
Pietrzak has since made a name for herself as a Los Angeles-based textile artist and one half of All Roads Design, the creative studio she runs with boyfriend Robert Dougherty. It’s fair to say her thickly textured woven wall hangings helped usher in the trend; in Pietrzak’s distinctive work, abstract fields of color and looping yarns meet shaggy, silky fringe in pieces that are warm and fuzzy yet elegant. Lately she’s been incorporating ceramic tiles into her designs, as well as materials like rope, hemp, and raffia grass.
Her interest in textile work in fact predates the upstate wool festival. She learned weaving while studying fashion design at Virginia Commonwealth University, and after graduating in 2003, she eventually landed in Philadelphia with a job at Anthropologie, doing fabric sourcing, then accessory and concept design. She also met Dougherty in Philly, and the pair relocated to Los Angeles in 2012. “That move was pivotal,” she says. In LA, the demands of a new job made it vital for her to have a creative outlet. So she started weaving on a loom Dougherty built for her — initially to make “something for my house” — and soon became taken with it. She wasn’t the only one. At a pop-up residency at a local shop, her weavings sold well, made the social media rounds, and quickly led to opportunities that have allowed her to make All Roads a full-time endeavor. In addition to private commissions, Pietrzak has collaborated with clothing and accessories labels like Suno, and Clare V. handbags. She’s licensed designs to Anthropologie and worked with Ace & Jig on their spring 2016 collection.
When we spoke with Pietrzak, she’d just returned from a trip to Japan, for the opening of CPCM, a lifestyle concept store in Tokyo featuring some of her pieces. And she would soon be headed to Arcosanti in Arizona. We can’t wait to see how her travels affect her future work, but we also loved the getting the chance to explore her home studio in LA for a sense of where she’s at right now.
Four years ago, Sight Unseen featured the first product by what was then a brand-new studio on the scene: The Syzygy series by Dutch duo Os ∆ Oos consisted of three lamps whose intensity depended on the subtle rotation of three light-filtering discs placed in front of the bulb; it was inspired by the astronomical phenomenon of three celestial bodies aligning in space. As a design product, it was both conceptually driven and artistically minded, but it was, at the end of the day, a lamp. “We’re definitely not artists; we’re designers,” clarifies Oskar Peet, who with Sophie Mensen makes up the Eindhoven-based studio. “We like to make functional projects.”
Since moving to Los Angeles five years ago, the artist Rachel Duvall has been refining an almost scientific approach to handweaving, based as much in foundational considerations like hue and line as in methodical chemical experimentation. She uses only natural dyes and modifiers such as copper and iron to “investigate the subtlety of colors,” she says, though the range she achieves — including a bright neon yellow and purple from fermented lichen she collects herself and then brews in her backyard — is striking.