Street Hustle

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(Ed’s Note: This co-interview first appeared in Issue 3 of Knit Wit in 2015, but our feeling about Thompson Street Studio (intensely positive!) are unchanged. So, please enjoy this one from the archives. There are also a few of these left in the shop, if you want to check out the full issue.)

Last year [2014], textile designer Kiva Motnyk and artist Susan Cianciolo partnered on the Run Home collection at Thompson Street Studio, a layered assortment of quilted, stitched and woven housewares that we would pretty much give anything to live amongst. We asked the duo to talk to each other about the collection and their process when it comes to collaborating.

PHOTOGRAPHED BY ROBIN STEIN

KIVA: So, what were you thinking for some of the initial ideas for Run Home?

SUSAN: Well, the way I usually describe it when people ask is that there were versions of Run Home very briefly, long ago that provided a base for all the textiles we did, but that it was revived to this new collection that is solely for the home, with no fashion around it. It’s based on our interests and lifestyles. You can definitely elaborate on that.

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KIVA: I think a lot of the inspiration from working with you in the early Run Home days was the idea of creating a community and a family and working on some of the pieces in a more collective way, which was so different from the way a lot of people were working. Even though the vision always filtered through you, this idea of working with all different people from different mediums; photographers, fashion designers, textile designers, sculptors. It makes so much sense in creating a home environment because really what do you share more than your home?

SUSAN: And it also reminds me of a lot of times we spoke about creating art for the home and then different versions of that textile art that becomes very functional and user friendly, but is still beautiful and has an artisan feeling, made by an artist.

That’s something I feel like we’re still working on: all the different levels of craftsmanship and putting it all together. Some of the pieces are very functional and some pieces are more for beauty.

K: It’s a range of pieces that you can use in a range of ways, like how we showed the quilt as a rug. People keep asking me about the quilts that we showed as a rug because they’d never seen it before. It feels very natural to put it on the floor and use it in all different ways; hanging it on the wall or putting it on the bed. So many different ways to use that one piece, as an art form or as a functional object.

I also like the idea of bringing people on who have maybe never necessarily sewn before and have them help make a quilt for the first time. Or somebody with another background, coming in and seeing their perspective and how they would create some of the pieces that we’re working on. It makes it feel really new and interesting results come out from that.

S: I’m glad you feel that way; I mean I totally agree. That mix of certain skills that are mastered and then those that have never been tried before.

K: So much of what we do is based on traditional craft, but done in a way that feels different. I think a lot of it is this idea of freedom of experimentation—not thinking too much, even though it might be quilting, not necessarily thinking specifically that it’s for a quilt that you’ll use in a certain way.

S: As an artist, it’s such a good exercise. I have a very solitary time with my practice, so I feel like it’s such a blessing to then go back to, what you said, a community, family environment.

And I also was just remembering that depending on where you’re traveling or I’m traveling, sometimes very different places, and the colors that we see or what we collect, and then we bring back and fuse that together.

K: We are building on some of those special techniques that we didn’t get to explore last season. Natural dying is something both of us are so interested in. I loved all the fabric that you dyed in Mississippi with the river rocks.

S: Yes. That was so inspiring because we were filming in that lake. So we took back natural clay and pigments from the lake and surroundings and boiled it. Such an immediate satisfaction. The color was so rich.

K: So beautiful.

S: And it’s true we were doing so many other tech- niques. You became so involved in weaving. Now I’m very involved in cooking and I’ve started back with all the flower pressing since I went upstate with you.

K: I started working on flower pressing this summer; so incredible. I love how every flower is just such a different degree of intensity. Some flowers that you think are going to be so bright give the softest little hint of color and some flowers that have almost no color give off such a bright yellow from the center.

S: And It’s nice because it’s a long process.

K: Yes it’s a long process. I think that’s also something that is so important to our collection and working together, the idea of the process and working through things like the fabric you created in Mississippi and how that fabric now has a special story and now maybe, that fabric will be taken and given to somebody else to quilt into one of the pieces for our collection and that then will come back to you. I think that’s a special journey.

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