Rose Pearlman is one of the five New Makers that TOAST will be supporting and nurturing throughout the year. Based in Brooklyn, New York, she creates natural raffia and cotton bags using the punch-needle technique. Working from her kitchen table, Rose creates tactile pieces through a slow, thoughtful process.
“I’m drawn to anything that is rhythmic and soothing,” says textile and accessories designer Rose Pearlman. “With continuous repetition, I can see my pieces slowly start to take form.” As rug hooking can be easily returned to throughout the day, Rose started using the technique when looking after her young son; finding it an expressive medium, she began to make functional objects for the home. Now, she uses the punch-needle technique to create not only rugs, but cushions, wall artworks and bags. For TOAST, she has created two bags: one from recycled cotton and the other from raffia, each with an incredibly tactile nature.
Rose’s parents are both abstract artists and so she grew up in a very creative environment. “I tried lots of different crafts and art mediums, and I gravitated towards painting.” she says. Often when she was at home, she sat alongside her mother as she was making rugs. “She wanted to find a way to be creative that worked seamlessly with everyday family life. She created these large rugs in our living room that took years and years to complete – it was such a slow process.” When Rose had children of her own 15 years ago, she asked her mother about how she created her rugs. “She sent me a little kit, and then I just didn’t stop. I enjoyed how you could work slowly and keep coming back to pieces.” She initially started making small items like pillowcases, before taking on larger projects. “They were very colourful and abstract, much like my paintings.”
Rose teaches workshops in New York, and credits this with the evolution of her creative aesthetic. “To teach, I had to really get a grasp of the medium and find different ways of adapting and sharing techniques in a workshop setting,” she explains. “This led to my own pieces becoming more pared-back. Now, it’s all about the material, and the colours and design come out of that.” She has moved towards designs with muted colour palettes. “That allows me to focus on the sculptural aspect,” she says. This is especially expressed by her bags, which she first created about five years ago.
Since then, she has become more experimental in her use of materials. “Using raffia for example is very untraditional for punch-needle rug hooking,” she explains. Even though raffia can come in many different shades, Rose wanted the bag to be just one tone, to draw attention to the tactile surface. “It has a flat surface which I wanted to contrast with wild fringing,” which is created by making long loops and then cutting the ends. “As well as being carried, I imagine it hanging on the wall as functional storage,” Rose says.
To create the bags for TOAST, she threads her punch needle with a long piece of material, often raffia or cotton. This is then stabbed through the fabric on the frame, “so you can create the whole piece in one sitting,” Rose says. “You don’t have to cut the fibre, or change it, which speeds up the process.” The body of the bag is created as one full piece. Then, it is taken off the frame and trimmed to size before she sews it by hand. “There’s really nothing that can’t be taken out and done again if you make mistakes, which is wonderful.”
Interview by Alice Simkins.
Studio photographs by Suzie Howell. Portrait by Raphael Gaultier.