An Interview with Artist & Textile Designer Elizabeth Grubaugh
All of your work is (wonderfully) very rich in animal themes and nature. You dress some of your animals in ties, hats, and people clothes! There is a sweet and charming human element to your characters and yet a very wild, almost mysterious look to them as well. I’ve read that you like to hop on your bike and explore the woods with your hound dog. Where do you think your characters come from? Can you share a little bit about the animals (and humans!) in your life and why/how they offer inspiration?
That is exactly right, charming yet wild. I live in New York State parkland, in an area called Sterling Forest. We have lots of wildlife along with lots of neighborhood dogs. I have a high energy Coon Hound mix named Starlight who chases bears up trees and runs the red foxes away from our chicken coop. There is always lots of animal entertainment here! Once in a while a bear will not run away from Starlight and he will just sit down and watch her run laps through the woods and bark non-stop. Eventually the bear will give in and walk away. You can’t help but giving them human personas. Even our chickens are filled with personality!
When you are creating a collection – from stationery items to textiles, do you have any patterns, “rituals,” or even maybe “odd” routines to get you into the creative mood for a specific project? Do you collect colors in swatches or objects you see around as you think about a color theme for the next project?
The first thing I do when starting on a new project is clean my desk and work area. This is a very important step and can be quite therapeutic. It is kind of like washing a window; it helps me see more clearly. After that I try to take in a lot of information whether its fashion, architecture, painting, nature, not worrying about how it ties into the project, but keeping an open mind and refueling my creativity. A constant source of inspiration is the hiking trails by my house. Neighbors and I are always taking our dogs on hikes where I tend to collect an abundant number of wild flowers!
To elaborate on your creative process – I read you begin by painting with sumi ink then turn to the digital realm by working on colors and details in programs like Illustrator. Why do you begin your projects in sumi ink and do you think you favorite any part of the process – for example – painting hands-on or playing with colors on the computer?
I love all steps of creating new work. To be able to take the time to paint is an amazing part of the process and I try to stretch this out and not to rush through it. This is a very important step. Importing all the painting work into the digital realm is also very rewarding since now I can add to it and work with color, which I LOVE. It is a great balance. Process can always change and it is great to be open to mixing it up. I was screen printing a small card line for a while which takes a lot of patience, so now I am really enjoying the freedom of painting and the malleable nature of the digital work. I also sew my own pillows and accessories so I am not getting tired of a process. There is always something different to work on!
From Elizabeth's Etsy Shop
Your studio space in Newburgh, New York looks absolutely beautiful! I love the video of your studio. I see a small guitar/ukulele, a sweet robin’s egg blue type writer, and books on art. Do you collect anything specific – or just acquire items randomly that strike your creative eye?
I have been a lover of flea markets for as long as I can remember. I was lucky to go to school in NYC in the late 80’s and we had amazing flea markets at that time. Then graduate school was in Detroit and that was church sale territory! Walking though a market is so visually stimulating. I have held onto many treasures that are well designed or bring me joy to look at.
From Elizabeth's Etsy Shop
On a similar note – your studio looks pretty perfect to me, but if you could add anything wild or crazy to your studio space – from a pool with a slide to something fantastical – like a time travel machine – what would it be and why?
This might seem very practical and boring but I would like some more work stations for when my kids come to the studio with me. They both like to sew and make things so I would really like them to be able to explore and have their own work space. They are at great ages (11 and 13) for exploring mediums and craft. That seems easy but somehow I can’t seem to make it happen! I also wouldn’t mind a really great rooftop garden so I could eat fresh vegetables for lunch.
Is there a creative medium you would like to pursue that you haven’t yet?
I would love to incorporate flower arranging into my life somehow. Not as a business like wedding arrangements (because that seems really stressful) , but as an art form. I will let you know when I start flower arranging classes in my studio!
I also have played around with dress making but have not taken it too far. I would like to do a collaboration with a fashion house. That would be very rewarding.
Caravan Collection Coming Soon!!!
I understand you’ve lived in Vermont and Japan, traveled through Asia and South America – I can see influences from each of these places in different pieces of your work. Do you think it is important for an artist to get out of his/her comfort zone?
I can only speak for myself, but I find a change of environment and culture really helps to propel my work forward. I get so inspired when I travel. I take a lot in visually. I love wandering and searching out traditional crafts and textiles and experiencing the way other Women, Mothers, and Families live. I do think it is so important to step out of your comfort zone, not just for creatives but for everyone.
Thank you so much for the lovely interview, Elizabeth! Spindle + Rose can't wait to see more of your amazing work!
To see more of Elizabeth Grubaugh's wonderful work visit her:
- Alexa Clauson