Follow your gut and take chances. It will take you everywhere. Such is the case for Georgia based fiber artist, Trish Andersen, whose tufting work has caught the attention of the masses. After over a decade-long career working in a corporate design job in New York, Trish dropped everything to focus on a solo freelance career and follow her entrepreneurial spirit. Years later, after taking a hard look at her jobs and deciding she wanted even more independence, Trish would drop her client work, move back home to Georgia and pursue a daring career as a solo fine artist in rug tufting, a very niche art form that she had little knowledge of at the time; but something about it just felt right. Fast forward to today, Trish is one of the best known tufting fine artists in the game, appealing to the fine art and interior experts all the way to streetwear heads and hypebeasts. All of this success is attributed to Trish’s ability to keep a level head, follow her gut and never stop exploring and we got the chance to go through all of this in a very special conversation.
Hey Trish! The first question we have for you is, what was it like moving from New York back to Georgia.
It was definitely a little scary because there’s so much opportunity in New York but it just felt right for me. Turns out, Dalton, which is only a few hours away from Savannah where I live now, is the rug capital of the world so the fit isn’t so bad [laughs]. They produce something like 80% of the world’s rugs there which is insane.
Wow that’s wild! What do you think it was about tufting that got you hooked (no pun intended)?
Tufting is super free flowing with the gun because you can go in any direction you want. You can really jump around your canvas and it was like painting for me which I love. It’s like a dance working with the gun. It also lets me focus on the fine art more and then I can bring in the functional aspect, like with the line of products I have inspired by my fine art, such as the wool rugs and runner rugs, as I want.
One of our first discoveries of your work was actually the Runner Rug through Hidden NY, a curation mood board catering to art and streetwear fashion enthusiasts. How does it feel to see your work catch the attention of subcultures like that?
Honestly, it blows my mind! I made the runner rug with no intention of selling it. I thought it was cool but not that cool [laughs]. I had no idea that it would catch the attention of consumers in these other groups and I never cared about what people were going to think of it when I made it but it’s really cool to see everyone so into this art form and the pieces that I make.
It’s very hard to always fight that evil voice in your head asking “will people like it?” or “is it good enough to share?” but I think because I got into this just for me, I’ve been able to get away from that voice. I’m constantly trying to remind myself to just make what I want to see in the world and tell myself that there are people out there who will be into what I make and eventually I’ll find them.
Very true and clearly there are a lot of people who are liking what you are putting out. How did it feel, as someone who’s been making rugs for so long, to see so many people get into rug making during covid?
I think it’s super cool. I’m a big “community over competition” kind of person. The process for me has been so beneficial and it’s really great to see other people embracing it. Everyone has their own voice and I think there’s room for us all. It’s been super cool to see how people like Tim who runs tuftinggun.com has grown such a big community and business in the last two years and how social media has really helped it take off.
At the end of the day, if we can all add some more softness and joy to the world during quarantine then that’s amazing!
What’s your design process like? Do you typically draw things out first and have materials/colours in mind?
It’s a little bit of planning and a little bit of free flow. I usually sketch out designs on Procreate which I love. I always had some trouble sketching on paper so working on Procreate on my iPad is amazing and it lets me scale designs which is super helpful. For the colors, I’ll usually have a palette in mind but I'll pull all the colours I think I'm going to use and then visualize them and move them around. Once I’m working on the canvas, I really try to move feely and respond to the piece in the moment. If I plan colours but then don’t think I want to use them, I’ll change them. It’s definitely like a dance.
I also like, however, that you have to be decisive as much as it is free flowing. It’s always a challenge because you can only pull out things you don't like so many times before the backing is compromised so it's a mix of free and calculated.
How many rolls of yarn do you think you have gone through in the last 4 years?
Ha! I have no idea. It must be thousands. I’ll use all different types of wool and I’ll source yarns everywhere. It’s all a precious exercise of locating yarns. I’m using so many different colours and materials which I think creates great texture.
Back in September you launched your first reproduced collection which gave general consumers the chance to buy your work. How was that experience for you and were there any learnings that you’ll take with you for future releases?
So far the feedback has been really good and the experience has been great. I set things up for the e-comm site so that the orders go out to a factory that makes and ships the items so luckily I don’t have to deal with that. I am still getting familiar with how to handle the customer support side of things the best way possible but so far so good.
I think one of the biggest learnings was really around, once everything launched, seeing how much work it can all be for one person and understanding the importance of having a good setup throughout. If I was packing and shipping everything myself it wouldn’t be scalable and would slow down the creative side. I’d say to anyone, make sure you think about the process all the way through before going live. Otherwise, it can be easy to get overwhelmed.
Luckily now that I’ve done this though and things are running smoothly, I can start thinking about launching new lines!
Oh! What other lines are we talking about? I have a ton of ideas. I’m going to be collaborating with my husband who’s a painter on something and some other projects as well. I’m not a big planner though [laughs]. I kind of just follow what feels good.
Living with your husband who is a painter must be super cool on the collaboration side! Ya, it’s super fun. I don’t think I could be with anyone who’s not an artist. We both live and breathe art and we learn a lot from each other too.
Any tips for young artists trying different mediums to express themselves?
I’d definitely go back to the idea that you have to try to get away from comparing yourself to others and caring what they think. It’s hard with social media but it’s very important. I always say that social media should be for connecting, not comparing.
Everyone has their own voice. Follow your gut and what makes you happy and explore that.
Find a creative community that you can be a part of. Try to work with other artists. Observe others. Get out there.
Be patient and keep putting in the work. Eventually, you’ll get to a point where you can really dictate what you want to do.
Lastly, take risks and don’t be afraid of making bad work. It’s required in the art world but that’s also what makes it fun.
That’s great advice! Lastly, for those looking to start tufting, where should they look?
Honestly, the first thing to do is just Google tufting and watch a ton of videos. I’m actually going to film a workshop next month with Domestika which will be super fun, so watch that too [laughs].
Another great site to check out is Tim’s site that I mentioned earlier, tuftinggun.com. There’s an awesome forum for people posting about their experiences, where they get materials, etc. Everyone is super supportive and willing to share information. It’s a great community! Also, if you are looking to buy gear you can use my code "Trishtufts" for 15% off :)
Make sure to check out Trish's Instagram for more news on upcoming projects and releases and keep it locked to Pier Five for more interviews and stories with the coolest entrepreneurs, designers, artists, activists and more.