Bec Andersen – Textile art
Ph: 0438 147 352
What you’ll see:
Bec Andersen is a textile artist who draws on her professional training as an industrial designer to create unique, 100% wool hand-tufted, naturally-dyed rugs. From her studio at North Tamborine, Bec creates brightly-coloured rugs using techniques she learned in Canada and Germany. The basis for her design methodology is to combine the sensual qualities of textiles with the functionality and demands of everyday living. So while her rugs are works of art she says her methods mean they are hardy and functional enough to use every day.
While Bec Andersen’s rug-making techniques are similar to those used in mass-production warehouses in Asia, the rugs she creates are nothing like those you’ll find in mainstream rug shops.
Every rug Bec designs and creates is an original. It’s been lovingly crafted by her from beginning to end. The process is involved and painstaking but the results are worth the effort.
Bec trained as an industrial designer and began to make rugs using a cut and paste technique she learned from a carpet layer. A move to Canada introduced her to the tufting gun, a handheld production tool using for mass producing rugs. Bec wanted to learn more about the technique and travelled to Germany.
“It’s used for mass production rugs in big warehouses in Asia and I use the same tool to do one-of-a-kind pieces.
YIN AND YANG
“As an artist I only produce things once. As an industrial designer you’re trained in terms of mass production, that’s grilled into me so I’m always striving for cost effectiveness and work efficiencies.
“It’s like my Yin and Yang – the other side of what I do is very earthy work. I use natural dyes to make colours from nature.”
Many of Bec’s industrial design class peers are probably working in factories mass producing mobile phones, computer parts or IPods. She’s glad that’s not the way life took her, but then again the signs that she was destined for a more artistic path were always there.
Her lecturers commented that she should be studying at art school and by creating individual, naturally-dyed wool rugs, Bec feels she’s been able to marry the two sides of her training.
“My original carpet work involved me buying carpet, designing a rug and cutting up the carpet. I’d dye all the pieces and join it back together. It was a real cut and paste method,” she says.
“I did that purely out of necessity – I needed a rug on the floor of my cold bedroom back in Canada.
“Now the rugs are really an excuse to make a functional product using beautifully-dyed natural wool. I have always worked with textiles, dying things, changing colours.”
Bec says her rugs shouldn’t be compared to the cheap rugs readily available from high street stores, although both serve a purpose.
“They both fulfil needs,” she says.
“People are drawn to my rugs usually because they have some history of textile and get the connection to textiles.”
Bec works with clients to create rugs which will fill a space in their home. She chooses colours and designs based on what the client tells her and what she sees.
“I’m into functional art, I don’t like having stuff around that‘s not doing anything. Anything that’s in your home should be beautiful or functional or both.”
After her initial meeting with the client, Bec designs the rug on computer. Once the design is very clear she begins to dye her wool.
STRUCTURE and COMPOSITION
She uses New Zealand carpet wool as its structure and composition means it is idea for rug making and will be durable and cope with the dyes.
Natural dye colours are created using bugs, timbers and flowers. The purples and greys in her palette come from the heartwood of a logwood tree. The pinks are derived from the bodies of the dactylopius species which live on prickly pear cactus. The reds are from the lac resin which is secreted by female scale insects which feed on fig and acacia trees.
Bec says once you’ve witnessed the beautiful hues created by natural dyes there’s no going back.
“I’m owned by these colours, I can’t look at chemical dyes now,” she says.
“Chemical dyes are very strong, whereas natural dyes are gentler. They can be just as intense but they don’t have that harshness.
NATURAL and GENTLE
“The dyes that I use have been used for centuries, they do fade but they become more beautiful.”
Dying wool is a very physical process which takes much energy. When the dye has set Bec is ready to start work on the rug.
She strings her base fabric vertically on a tall scaffold and projects her image on the rug. Then she starts to ‘paint’ the image with the wool tufting gun. The entire process can take weeks to complete.
Bec takes much of inspiration from the place she lives. She and her Canadian husband were drawn to Tamborine Mountain by the creative vibe they felt in the local community.
“I knew I needed to be removed from everyday life,” she says.
“It’s such a struggle in a city to get anything done, you’re dealing with traffic and people in your face.
“Up here we are surrounded by other artists which is helpful, but it’s also the vibe of the area, it has an energy.
“I need that exposure to nature absolutely – I look out at the huge trees from my workspace.
“As an artist you might have your design on paper, you might know where you’re going to go but there’s always problems to resolve along the way, it’s about having an eye for the detail, that’s where the creative side is.
Where the colours come from:
Logwood : purples to greys from the heartwood of the Logwood tree
Cochineal : pinks which come from the bodies of the dactylopius species which live on prickly pear cactus.
Lac: Reds which are derived from the lac resin secreted by the female scale insects which feed mainly on fig and acacia trees. Also used to make shellac
Madder: Oranges which come from the root of the Madder Plant. Rubia Tinctorum
Indigo: Blues which come from the powder of leaves of the Indigofera tinctoria
Osage: Yellows from the sawdust of the osage tree (from the Mulberry Family)
Cutch: Browns from the acacia catechu tree.
Fustic : Yellow from the heartwood of the Chlorophora tinctoria (from the Mulberry Family)
Photography by Chelsi Foskett