I came across the work of textile artist Simone Elizabeth Saunders online and was instantly intrigued by her bold designs. Her rugs and wall hangings are truly unique. Here we’ve shared our Q&A from February of this year with the talented lady herself along with a selection of Simone’s beautiful and bright pieces…
Hi Simone Elizabeth Saunders! Would you mind telling us a little about yourself and your background please?
I am a classically trained actor. I spent over a decade on the stage acting, producing and writing. Theatricality is instilled in my textiles. I have been weaving and tufting for only a little while now. I am currently in my final year of studies at the Alberta University of the Arts in Canada.
How did you get into working with textiles?
Within my theatre career I started doing stage design. I fell in love with visualising and creating spaces; dreaming up colours and marrying objects that represented a new world. Going to art school, my initial drive was surface design- wall paper and fabric patterns- (still on my radar)! The loom room in my University’s Fibre Department blew me away. Learning to weave was a wonderful challenge! The history, the engineering, mathematics and a world of colour! From there I learned jacquard. Last summer I discovered the tufting gun and I set myself up, teaching myself to tuft and rug-hook. Now, it’s all I think about!
Your pieces are very intriguing, where does your inspiration come from?
Most of my work is portraiture, highlighting women of colour, advocates and leaders within their communities. Sometimes the work is personalised, stemming from my history. Powerful animals are often represented within my textiles: snakes, leopards, spiders, teaming with each women. Within my textiles I tell a story, content and colour working together.
Can you tell us about your creative process, what steps do you take when starting a new project?
I usually start with drawing or collaging- automatic renderings that stem from inspiration from my research. And then I digitally convert the image to my iPad, projecting and tracing the predominant content onto my stretched canvas and then I tuft!
What textile techniques do you most commonly use in your pieces?
Tufting and hand-hooking is my most common practice within textiles.
How do go about choosing your colour combinations, any tips?
Firstly I decide how dynamic I want the piece to be with colour. I pick my predominant colour and from there I generally want colours that pop with that. I am also at the whim to what yarn I use, it isn’t always what I had in mind!
What do you enjoy most about working with textiles?
The tactility of creating and the interconnectedness working with the yarn. It’s a slow and steady process that intertwines to create something magical.
Which other textile artists do you love? Are there any that inspire you, past or present?
Do you have a favourite piece you’ve created so far?
She Holds the Key is a recent piece I tufted inspired by the legendary tennis player Serena Williams. The level of detail from the gun is my best yet and the dramaticism that is portrayed from the composition is truly satisfying!
Have you ever faced any challenges whilst creating a piece of work?
Of course, endurance can be one. Tufting at such a large scale can be physically draining, so staying hydrated and taking lots of little breaks is key.
Do you have a least favourite part of the process?
Hmmmm.. real talk? The finishing! Gluing the back and sorting out ways to stitch the edges with a backing material is all trial and error right now! Any tips, hit me up!!
Have you ever experimented with any unconventional materials?
I created a rag rug once cutting up any up-cycled black material- suede string was one, denim, cotton and I wove in black plastic garbage bags. The outcome gave many varying textures!
What are you currently working on? Are you able to share any ‘in-progress’ photos?
Currently I am using velvet yarns to create a large portraiture inspired by Nina Simone.
What’s next for you in terms of textile projects?
I’m hoping to acquire the cut pile gun, offering an even more dynamic recipe for tufting. Tufting is a huge part of my practice right now, creating works that are built to be showcased on a wall.
What advice would you give someone looking to get into textiles?
Play! Pick a technique you’d like to learn, do the research and get started! Oftentimes looking to decide what medium, what image, what colours… If we get too precious about things it won’t get done!
We are trying to be a bit more eco friendly in 2020, do you have any tips or tricks to be more environmentally friendly in our day to day lives?
Always have a reusable bag on you, take a reusable mug when go out to grab a coffee. Have/attend clothing trade parties to revitalise the wardrobe, and visit your local antique shops when looking for that new furniture item.
Where can people find out more about you and your work?
Please follow my Instagram! I love to share my process:
My website is www.SimoneElizabeth.ca
Thank you so much Simone Elizabeth Saunders! It’s been great getting to know you! 🙂
*DISCLAIMER* This interview with Simone Elizabeth Saunders took place in February 2020. Simone has since graduated from the Alberta University of the Arts and is currently creating a textile series for a solo exhibition in Harlem, New York for early 2021.
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As always, happy rag rugging!