Steadying the handles of a handheld tufting gun, Trish Andersen shoots a stream of bright red yarn through a layer of poly-mesh backing. Just as suddenly, a forest of woolen tendrils materializes on the opposite side, almost as if by magic. “I like to say I paint with yarn,” says the artist, who roughly renders each design digitally before commencing the nimble gestures that produce these expressive swirls, swoops and drips.
Each of Andersen’s fine-art fiber works is partly an homage to two Georgia towns—the first being thematic and a harbinger of Andersen’s creative future: Her family hails from Dalton, called the “carpet capital of the world.” The second is visual: Andersen says her “drippy, loose” style takes inspiration from the surroundings of her downtown Savannah studio, where great swaths of Spanish moss drape the city’s iconic oaks. “When I look at the marshes around us, all I see is tufting!” she says from a studio teeming with hundreds of colorful spools—plus a cat she calls Gracie.
It’s an environment that stands in stark contrast to gritty New York City, where Andersen moved upon earning her degree from SCAD in 2005. As an intrepid graduate just beginning her career, she dressed windows for Anthropologie, then launched a business designing events. “The maker movement was just starting,” she recounts. “It was the era of renegade craft fairs, and I said ‘yes’ to everything.”
One such affirmative was a 2015 residency in Southern France, where she refocused her talents and fell in love: with her fiancé and fellow artist, Michael Porten. Departing the Big Apple proved an opportunity to pursue something deeper. “New York was fast-paced and fun, but I wasn’t working from the heart,” she admits. With the move to the South, her artistry blossomed, attracting such fans as designer Kara Mann (whose office commissioned an Andersen original for a San Francisco hotel).
“I never expected to enter the carpet world; everything just resonated,” the artist says of her unexpected foray into the family industry—though her own output has taken a distinctive detour: comprising digitally printed floor mats, collaborations with Shaw Contract, an upcoming wallpaper line with Porten and her signature wool rugs launching this summer. Still, the wall hangings remain nearest her heart. “I took a risk and gave myself time to explore it,” Andersen says of her tactile creations, which are approachable yet curiously mollifying, much like the artist herself. There’s an inherent unruliness about them, but at the end of the day, Andersen explains, “They’re soft. And a little softness is what we all need right now.”