Standard Goods Featured Artist: Hannah Ruth Levi
Get to know a little about Hannah Ruth Levi, the Seattle based textile artist in our interview below! We are very excited to have her joining us and her beautiful tapestries hanging in the shop! Join us during our group show Maison Du Art this coming Thursday for Capitol Hill Art Walk, there will be live music from Chris King & The Gutterballs. See you then!
What initially sparked your interest in weaving and textile art?
I found weaving by accident in college, but in general I have no clue what initially drew me to textiles. It’s just something I’ve always done.
Explain to us what it is that you create and the process that goes into your work?
I primarily make woven wall hangings: tapestries and ikats. The two different techniques result in wildly different weavings.
Tapestries are a weft-faced fabric, where only the horizontal threads are visible. This is easier to put onto the loom, but since the imagery is built row by row the weaving process takes quite some time.
Ikats are almost exact opposite. Before ever touching the loom I dye the vertical threads, these yarns are visually what make the weaving, the horizontal thread is meant to blend in and only contribute to the structure. My ikats take far longer to put on the loom, but once they’re on it’s a smooth quick weave.
Each technique is a different experience, but both are a meditative process. I don’t plan what my finished weavings will look like. I usually have an idea of what yarns I’d like to use, or the colors, but what it will ultimately look like is a surprise to me. Since each piece takes 10+ hours it’s a way to keep myself interested and excited.
What is your personal style? And how is it reflected in your designs?
Right now my personal style is “Scandinavian Babysitter”. This is mostly for my wardrobe but I suppose it could also apply more generally. I’m interested in simplicity, subtlety, texture and careful color exploration.
How has your work changed since you began and how do you see it evolving as time goes on?
Visually speaking, my work has become larger, and more abstract. When learning to weave it took about a year to make anything I felt very proud of, and these days I feel like I’m developing my own style.
I learned to be very exact and rigid with my weaving in school - focusing on the technical skills to make a “good” weaving. Once I left school I didn’t have a lot of space and certainly not a dye lab so I had to do a lot of improvising. I thought I was “cutting corners” for a long time, but now I think of it more as developing my own practice/techniques. I’m excited to explore these techniques more and see what other weird stuff I can make.
What do you enjoy most about what you do?
I love the meditative process, and of course that moment when I get to cut a long weaving off the loom.
Do you have a creative ritual?
I’m hesitant to consider anything a ritual, I like to think of it more as an experience? When I weave I like to create a very controlled environment. In the summer I go to my studio on Whidbey Island where there is no internet, no cell service and I bring all my food so I can work uninterrupted for days. There I can focus completely on the work I’m making. Being at the studio is so important to me, it’s about slowing down and creating a space that is easy and pleasant to exist in. My weavings become a representation of that physical and mental space.
If you could choose to live anywhere in the world where would it be and describe your dream home?
Ideally I’d have 2, my space on Whidbey in the summers and a desert home for the winters. My ultimate desert home would be a 1 story rambler. Big windows, cool floors, a cactus garden, and an outdoor shower. On Whidbey I’d love a sauna, maybe a hot tub too for good measure.
What time of day do you feel most creative?
Mid-day, I’m not much of a morning person or an evening person. I don’t like making a racket with my loom too late at night so I’m usually working from 1pm - 9pm, give or take.
I love the patterns you use! What motifs would you say are seen repeating?
Abstract geometric weirdos. I seem to be developing a visual language built of symbols that keep reappearing in my tapestries. They’re influenced by my Dad, runes, artists like Hans Arp, Gunta Stolzl, Constantin Brancusi and on and on.
Favorite colors to use and why?
I love playing with color, but most of the yarn I use is found at the thrift store so unless I’m dyeing it I don’t have a lot of control over the color. Recently I found 20 cones of navy and purple cotton so I’ve been using those, though most of the time I find just small quantities of yarn I like.
If left to my own devices I’d probably only weave pink things.
What advice would you give someone wanting to find their own style?
Stop looking at the internet and just start making stuff. I find it very easy to feel inadequate when looking at the internet so I try to stick with art books and take in more of my surroundings. Focusing on creating my own content vs. sitting around making Pinterest boards of things I wish I had.