As the oldest textile program at Creative Growth, rug making was introduced through a visiting artist workshop in 1987, and quickly established itself as a favorite among the artists. Studio Instructor Tara Tucker inherited the program in 2003 and expanded its accessibility through the addition of tabletop frames and one-handed tools. The Rug Program has become a vital part of the Creative Growth community, with over 900 rugs produced since its inception. Creative Growth rugs have been exhibited at Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum, Moss Design gallery, and featured in O, The Oprah Magazine and Paper magazine.
INTERVIEW WITH TARA TUCKER
You've been the Rug Program facilitator since 2003, what's it like to see artists transform their work into a rug?
I get really excited to see our artists take an original artwork and turn it into a rug design. Sometimes they draw something specifically for their rug, other times we use older artwork: ceramic sculpture, paintings, wood pieces, drawings, anything! The rug often becomes a more graphic and simplified version of the original artwork. The artists also love that they can touch it, sit on it, lay on it, and really appreciate their art in a whole new sensory way.
How do you see the Rug Program as similar or unique to the rest of the Studio?
The Rug Program is co-mingled with Printmaking because we share the same space in the Studio. I often think that printmaking and rug making are so similar: each type of art is very process-oriented and has a foot in craft. They both use very specific tools and are creating an image from another image. We can make editions, or if you're just going for it with monotypes in printmaking, you can do the same thing with a rug. The Rug Program is very unique, not just for Creative Growth, but for the world. We have been making artist-made and designed rugs since the mid 1980s and they always have that certain 'Creative Growth' look. I have seen other artists create wonderful rugs, but our artists always push the boundaries through their designs and application of the material.
What's your daily routine like?
Before we all were stuck at home, I worked at the Studio three days a week. Two of those days are specifically for my rug sessions. I don't really teach anyone anything, except for brand new rug artists on how to use the tools. This makes it my job to be setting up the tools, transferring designs to backing cloth, and assisting the artists with finding just the correct yarn for their projects. It's like a quilting bee during program. We all sit around chatting and working on the rugs. When I'm not assisting someone with getting yarn or fixing a tool, I'm putting a beautiful edge on the finished rugs, or giving it a label. At the end of the day, I pack each rug project up and put it all away for the next time.
What is the process like from beginning to end?
The process of rug making simplified is this:
1. Find a design.
2. Transfer it to the backing material with Sharpie and a projector.
3. Gather up all of your yarn for the project.
4. Stretch backing cloth onto the frame.
5. Punch yarn into backing cloth.
6. Fix the back of the finished rug with an acrylic matte fluid, so the yarn won't pull out.
7. Edge bind and label the rug.
How does the rug cooperative function?
We still use the Rug Crafter's Speed Tufting tool and the larger frames for the cooperative rug projects. It's a two handed tool that is faster to use but requires more strength. The artists making those rugs work on designs from anywhere within the Studio, often from alumni. Several artists will work on all of those rugs. Usually 2-3 at a time.
Any particular artists who love rug making?
Rickie Algarva has been making rugs for about 25 years. Maybe more. She, Dinah Shapiro, and Dan Hamilton were in the Rug Program before I started working at Creative Growth 18 years ago. Those three artists taught me how to use the Rug Crafter's Speed Tufting tool. Our rug artists have amazing skill and tend to stick with it for years and years. Dinah Shapiro has told me more than once that the process of using the tools is meditative and helps her focus.