Described by her customers as creating “the best wall hangings in the universe”, we’re excited to introduce you to the graphic handwoven tapestries of Australian artist Kristen Carter, creator of Olive and the Boy. Bored during naptime of her two young children, she formed a love for weaving. Now, Kristen is making some incredible moves in the art world.
We had a chat with Kristen to learn all about her journey to handwoven wall art and find out what the future holds for this NSW artist.
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A crafter at heart, it took Kristen a while to come across her passion. With the birth of her second child, Kristen knew she needed some me-time. Don’t we all?
“Northern NSW born and bred, I live a nice quiet life with my husband and our two kids — even if the kids do as much as they can to change the quiet aspect. We have a very old toothless Schnauzer that rambles around the house, and I can’t overstate how much of my productivity is thanks to chocolate.
“I have been a serial craft picker-upper and putter-downer my entire life. Knitting, watercolours, softies, crochet, even button making. I tried it all but nothing held my attention for long. After my second baby was born, the two of them fell into sync, napping for three hours together in the middle of the TV. Daytime TV got boring real quick.
“I was conscious that my mum-centric life needed a dose of me-time put back into it. I wanted to fill a spot on a wall with something textural and knew something woolly might be a good option. Here I sparked my weaving obsession!
“I honed my skills during those three hours a day, keeping the house silent. I became lost in a world of shapes, texture and design where nappies and dishes didn’t dare tread!”
Now Kristen has found her passion, there’s not sign of her putting this one down.
“Being the least patient person in the world, I’m surprised that something so repetitive has held my attention for this long. I think it has definitely helped slow my brain down. I have something that’s just mine. Something that’s made me more than a mum. It’s connected me to a wealth of creative types all around the world that seem to be the friendliest, most supportive corner of the internet.
“I really love that weaving combines many of the artistic disciplines I’ve tried in the past. I get to sketch and design the piece, play with colour and texture, and even embroider and bead detail into pieces. It’s so very meditative.
“I love making portrait pieces, and of course, the Golden Girls commission was a favourite. After falling in love with vintage scientific illustrations, I did some Australian bird, butterfly and bug pieces that were super fun to make and really well received.”
Gaining inspiration from a variety of areas, Kristen is not constrained to a style, exploring different avenues and making truly unique pieces.
“My creative process is much like my brain — it’s all over the shop. I envy makers who have such control over their style that their work is recognisable anywhere. I like so many different styles that I have to try them all.
“One week it might be a gentle natural style featuring Australian birds, the next week might be bold neon typography. I delve into a style, generally creating around 3 different pieces to thresh out the idea fully.
“My inspiration comes from a million different places. Colour palettes from the kids’ picture book. A typography piece from a well-worded sign on the side of the road. A crazy hairstyle portrait down at the shops… I’ve found the peaks and troughs of inspiration when making art is a ride — you can’t escape. So, a sketchbook of ideas when they’re running hot is worth its weight in gold during those dry times.
“The highlights are the pieces I make that have sentimental value for the customer and will be a special piece of family history for years to come. I’ve had some really emotional makes like a memorial piece for a family that can now run their fingers through the fuzzy, iconic moustache of the grandfather they lost too early. I made a special weaving for a little girl who lost her Daddy with him in his favourite shirt.”
With her youngest just a few months away from school, Kristen is excited for all the opportunities that will come from those extra hours in the day. We can’t wait to see what graphic handwoven tapestries she does with the time!
“Next year will be the first year that I have five days a week to myself, so it will be interesting to see where things go when I have more time to dedicate to it. I also have a custom made creative space in my back garden being designed right now.
“I’ve been burning the midnight oil to get a very special project across the line. Although it’s a little too early to share, but keep your ears to the ground in 2022 for some big things a-coming!”
Thank you Kristen for taking the time out of your busy schedule to share your work with us! You can shop her range of tapestries on Etsy or connect with her on Instagram to keep up with all her exciting projects! Her DMs are always open to chat about custom orders, too. What are your favourite graphic handwoven tapestries? Do you have a craft you use to relax? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!