The Block

Art & Culture — 1 year ago

It’s About The Process

On tufting, craft and knowledge exchange with Selby HI, Daisy Tortuga and AJ.


The past few years have seen a new generation of tufters and rug makers emerge, whose creations are expanding, and reimaging, what tufting and rugs can be.


From tufted pieces closer to sculptural objects, to rugs which lift their aesthetic from the realm of tattoos, these are imaginative celebrations of what craft can be. In celebration of a series of T-shirts by some of the most exciting tufting artists, we caught up with Selby HI, Daisy Tortuga and AJ, of Magic Carpets by AJ


Three very different, but equally original, makers, here they discuss their routes to rug-making, how tufting can be image making, the history of craft and much more. 


Shop Selby’s, Daisy’s and AJ’s T-shirts.

Everpress Team
Courtesy of Daisy Tortuga

Daisy Tortuga

What was your route into textile making specifically?

I’ve always done sewing projects, since I was really young. The first one that I can remember was sewing clothes for my cats, when I was probably five. 

I did study illustration, but I’ve always done kind of textured stuff. I did some sculpture work, and I also did a lot of textiles, like making quilts, and I also did a lot of storytelling quilts. Not dissimilar to my rugs really, but just in fabric form rather than tufted. Yeah, I think I just like to use materials that are textured, tangible, rather than flat.

Right now what is important to us when it comes to Typosers is that it should always present quality design to its community. It is still essential that it acts as a platform where artists and designers can interact, but also come to in order to get inspiration.  

The process of making is the best part

Courtesy of Daisy Tortuga

It adds a new dimension to the work, doesn’t it?

Yeah, and also just the making process I find way more satisfying. I don’t really like painting, I can appreciate a painting, but I’d rather sew than paint myself, It just feels more, I think I just like to do things that are a bit more physical.

You make all your pieces by hand. As an artist, why is it important for you to work this way over producing pieces with the help of a machine? 

For me the finished product is such a small part in the process of making art. The most exciting part, for me, is the making of it. If I had, even if it wasn’t mass produced, but if I had a team of people making this stuff, that wouldn’t be the same. I wouldn’t mind help, but if I wasn’t doing the making, that wouldn’t be what I wanted to do. The process of making is the best part of making a piece of work.

Do you think studying illustration over textiles made you able to approach producing textiles in an interesting, innovative way?

I’m glad I studied illustration, because I am still interested in image making. That’s what I see illustration as, and I just use textiles, materials, or tangible materials, as we said. I feel if I’d studied textiles, it’s more focused on technique, which is obviously really important, but I think I have enough interest in my own craft to learn techniques myself, without learning through university.

I am still interested in image making

You make things that can be used in the home, like ceramics or rugs, but the subject of your work tends to be domestic scenes too. So you’re making these domestic objects, that are themselves about the domestic. Why do you think you’re so interested in that as a realm?

I’m very interested in home decoration, and not in a slick interior design way, I just love objects for the home; that’s really exciting to me, to make things for people’s houses. I find it as much of a compliment if someone wants to buy some plates to use for a dinner party, as it would be for them to buy something to put on the wall. 

I do also like to make work for galleries, and I think a gallery space is a great thing, because you can really understand a piece of work rather than it being in someone’s home. But you know, there’s always been that battle between art and craft, in the 1960s feminists using craft techniques and displaying work in galleries being very controversial, and I don’t really think that’s fully gone.

The last two years of lockdowns and a slower pace of life saw the rise of craft as a trend. Can you talk a little about the new interest in tufting specifically?

I think it’s a good thing. I’m not into the idea of keeping crafts secret, for instance I do tufting workshops with people to teach them how to make rugs, because I don’t really believe in gatekeeping a craft. Obviously I don’t want someone to make the same work as me, but I don’t think that’s going to happen. I think it’s a really good thing that more people are trying to make things, it’s very important for humans to make stuff. 

It’s very important for humans to make stuff

Shop Daisy’s design here.

Selby Hurst Inglefield

Your mum is a textile artist and teacher; was childhood a creative space for you?

Yes, my childhood was a really creative space, I had access to lots of arts and textiles from a really young age. Every day after school or on weekends I’d be painting, printing, or making wet felt. I was also constantly drawing on all my school books, notebooks and my parents’ printer paper. I was also taught textiles by my mum for my A-levels in college, so that was lovely; being able to continue to learn from her into adulthood. Being an artist was something I always wanted to do from childhood and luckily both my parents encouraged that from a young age, and still do now!

Courtesy of Selby Hurst Inglefield

Being an artist was something I always wanted

You graduated from the Central St Martins Fine Art BA, why did you choose fine art over a textiles degree? 

It was a really hard choice, I got into both Fine Art and Textiles at CSM and I was really conflicted. In the end I decided that I could always do Textiles in Fine Art, but I wouldn’t always be able to do Fine art in Textiles. I think that period of studying fine art at CSM was vital to my practice now. I only actually started experimenting fully with textiles again in my third year. I spent a long time trying to find my feet and experimenting with what I wanted to make. I think those two years of experimenting helped me find the context to my work and helped me think critically about what themes I was interested in. My work is heavily linked to the mundane, domestic space, home and ideas of safety and I felt the physical softness of my work helps embody that.

Process is very important to me

And relatedly, how do you think a training in fine art, rather than textiles specifically, has shaped your work?

It made me think more critically about my practice. CSM Fine Art is pretty focused on critical thinking, which I didn’t tend to do naturally. I think that training really helped me understand where I wanted my practice to go. Another thing that I believe shaped my work today was the amount of time we were left alone at CSM, we saw our tutors maybe once or twice a term, the rest of the time was left up to us. That really helped with creating studio culture and self-discipline when it came to working, and being proactive in finding inspiration and discussing work. I think if I had studied Textiles and had more briefs my work would not have progressed to where it is now. It was the freedom in the fine art course which allowed my work to naturally get to where it is now.

The last two years of lockdowns and a slower pace of life saw the rise of craft as a trend. Can you talk a little about the new interest in tufting specifically?

Yes, I love it, I’m all here for it. I started making rugs back in 2018 and it was really hard to find other rug artists or a contemporary textiles artist community until the lockdowns. The lockdowns really changed our perspective on art and craft in general. As a tangent, it even changed our perspective in terms of design with slower fashion, and people encouraging others to buy from small businesses, I think it maybe felt like another way we could connect with each other in those distant times. I really love how you can tell time has gone into craft based practices, a lot of the wider themes in my practice are about care and looking after things so the time-consuming nature of my practice is vital. I love a long process which is why I use a rug puncher instead of an electric tufter 

I like that you can see defects

You make all your pieces by hand. As an artist, why is it important for you to work this way over producing pieces with the help of a machine? 

As mentioned, process is very important to me in my practice, I want to ‘look after’ and show care to my practice which is why I initially do it by hand instead of the machine. My other reasoning is that I prefer the way it looks, I want it to look made and sometimes I feel the gun is too rigid and clean. I like that you can see defects or mistakes in my work. It makes them more human and homely. 

Shop Selby’s design here.


You have a professional background in tech originally, what first made you interested in tufting?

I was following a rug maker called @gaudmother on Instagram for a long time, and early pandemic, boredom-induced curiosity led me down a rug-making rabbit hole. At the time, there weren’t a ton of resources online and it took me a while to even discover the tufting machine. But when I did, I became flooded with inspiration and a sense it was going to be something really special and important in my life. 

I was always pursuing creative outlets outside of my job as a user experience designer and almost looking for a way out of it. The sense of security I had in having a salaried job in tech was pretty ruptured during the pandemic. Actually, I coincidentally bought my first tufting machine two weeks before being laid off from my job, which opened up all the space I needed to dive into the craft. After having that time, it was really difficult to imagine going back to the job I had. So tufting became my path and I’m so grateful for that. 

Courtesy of AJ

Problem solving and curiosity are really important

Do you think you bring any of the skills or knowledge from working as a user experience designer to your tufting practice? 

My career as a user experience designer definitely paved a solid path to becoming a business owner. I run my business pretty much solo and my skills as a systems thinker plus graphic design chops have helped a lot with that. Problem solving and curiosity are also really important when learning something new, and those are traits UX helped me refine. 

The last two years of lockdowns and a slower pace of life saw the rise of craft as a trend. What do you think about the new interest in tufting specifically?

I watched this documentary a year or so ago about focus and our collective struggle with focusing in this day and age. One of the solutions they offered in the film was craft—creating things with your hands and body. It feels like the antidote we all need, so it makes sense to me that there would be such a rise in tufting during the pandemic. Tufting is extra special to me because not only does it drop me into my body and a state of flow, it’s also such a tactile and sensory experience. There is nothing like running your hand over the rug you’re working on. It’s deeply satisfying! I’ve always had an urge to share tufting with others because of how good it has been for my mental health, so I’m happy to see more and more tufters out there. 

It feels like the antidote we all need

You have a very original tufting aesthetic that’s reminiscent of elements from the tattoo world. How did you arrive at your style?

Typography and graphic design were my first loves and luckily that translates really nicely into rugs. I am not the strongest illustrator, but the good thing is that simple designs are great for rugs. I primarily work with type, colour, and symbols, but the impact goes a long way in rug form despite the simplicity.

Courtesy of AJ

Educating, and passing on your knowledge, is central to what you do, with your Youtube videos, workshops and more. I’m interested in how this ties to the history of crafts, which would have been passed through communities through mutual knowledge exchange. Can you talk a little on that?

I come from a lineage of women who were textile artists, all of whom learnt their craft from their mothers or close communities. I really wish I had learned to quilt from my grandmother before she passed away. My other grandmother, who is still with us, tells me stories of the large tapestry rugs her mother used to make with latch hooking. It feels really special that I found rug making without even having that knowledge. When I think about my relationship to the craft of tufting when it first began, there was just a natural desire to share it with others online. There was no real thought behind it. The desire to teach has always been present in my relationship with tufting and feels like a relic of my lineage and the history of textile arts.

Shop AJ’s design here.

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