Artist of The Week: Making Rugs With Sam Crow
Cousins! Ever heard of ‘em? Didn’t think so…
But when your best friend outs her cousin as a fucking rug maker you lean in, you ask the tough questions, and you Find. That. Cousin.
Because rugs honey? Rugs are the real deal, an investment piece, a true indicator of one’s personality – when a wild night in New York lands me in a stranger’s bed (almost never happens) there’s only one thing I’m looking at when I wake: his rug.
When I moved in with my ex-boyfriend who I absolutely knew was @misterright.jpg.com what was the literal grudge of apartment purchases on our list? You bet your butt it was rug, Rug makes or breaks you. Oh it’s Vintage? But is it from Morocco? Oh a reproduction of the unicorn from the cloisters? Cute.
Enter Sam Crow. A fucking angel from the only place angels come from: Toledo, Ohio.
The New York City-based artist twirls between the worlds of textile arts, design, and craft to create what artists are calling “art”. Her contemporary hand-tufted rugs are inspired by her hard earned skills developed through trial and error, same way the pyramids were built. Is it function? Is it fashion? Science doesn’t know – but one thing we’re all agreeing on is holy crap is it HOT to see this gal (with steam rolling off her like she’s a fucking fresh donut) shoot yarn into rubber backing wearing goggles gloves and a look that says: give me your money, please.
But enough about what activates my restless leg syndrome, you can assess this badass all on your own – because I tricked her into stopping by my studio via DM slidin’ on Insta (it’s this thing that you’re on) and guess what? She even let me snap some pics. Yeah, I know.
Ok…. So…. Whats Up?
Why are we sitting across from each other?
Because I’m a journalist.
Ok so tell me a little bit about who you are and where you come from and how you got into this and how you got to New York and if it was always a part of the plan or you just sort of ended up here and what inspires you and how long you’ve been here.
Thats a lot of questions. I’m 27.
From Toledo Ohio, midwest baby!
If there’s one thing I’ve learned in NYC it’s that you can’t sleep on Ohio, some of the most incredible people in the world come from Ohio.
Oh I totally agree, and they’re all here, so to answer your question it was kind of in my DNA to end up here.
School sent you here, yeah? Would you recommend formal education for newbs tryna get on your level?
I think school, plain and simple, taught me work ethic. I don’t know if there are skills that I picked up in school that I’m putting in my day-to-day right now however, I still sew a lot and I still practice construction every day because to me it’s important to have a base level of training and build from it. [School] was worth it [for me].
I think school, plain and simple, taught me work ethic.
Ok, big one: how does it feel to make a thing?
Haha. Well in school I’m a rule follower, I made things to please my instructors, I did things by the book and I think that’s what my school wanted out of me as a student – I was a good student.
But I had an insecurity around that as well. What will I do without the parameters of assignments? Am I actually creative?
… is my work … good?
There’s no more projects with rules! *screams into the abyss*
So I think doing the rugs has proven to me that like – no one told me to do this, I’m doing this on my own whim, and it feels so right. I did embroidery before – I was able to get a lot of good freelance work but I just knew in my gut it wasn’t what I was gonna do for the rest of my life.
FULL BODY CHILLS.
I was very lost for awhile – definitely. First maybe three years of living here, probably even four. But in this past year I’ve found community. The only advice I can give to people [about New York] is to stay. I plan a move like twice a year because I’m very cyclical in my process and mood, and when I hit those lows I feel the need to escape.
What do you think has kept you here?
I think I realized that my problems might follow me wherever I go. So I stay. But not without running through the basic existential dread of: what is my purpose here? Where are the people in my corner? But now I feel what I’m doing – I’m excited to present it to the world. I’m excited to share it. Now I feel like I have an entry into the conversation that I’m proud of. And that has given me community.
OK FUCK YES.
But it’s so interesting to see what people like and don’t like about your work. For instance, there was a piece I made that I was really unsure about and still am and it’s always one of peoples’ favorites.
Ah! But that’s the name of the game! Ok let’s get some practical application for our Milk Fam: best way to show your work?
By far Instagram. Everything single thing that has happened to me in the past year has come through Instagram. I can say that without a doubt. Shows help, and a recent commission I did for Smiles restaurant in Noho has built some buzz, but by far it’s Instagram.
Commission oh my god tell me everything! How did that feel?
First Commission. It felt amazing. The owner approached me. He’s super supportive of artists in New York. I’ve found this city to be one of the most supportive places. People want to boost you up, because they want to be surrounded by incredible artists.
And that’s why I’ve locked the doors – I’m keeping you here all day. No wait, how did you land on the final concept for this?
He gave me no rules, size color, nothing. I wanted to play with what was there – it’s a brick wall – and I thought it would look weird to just slap up a rug. So I took a lot of inspiration from traditional American art and this diagram of weaving and that’s where I’ve gotten this style. Used the colors that they had, went outside of my comfort zone for style. It’s more feminine but you can see brick behind it and it morphs into the space. It’s noticeable but it’s not in your face.
Would you say that’s a fair representation of you as an artist?
Ha – yes.
No one told me to do this, I’m doing this on my own whim, and it feels so right.
So where is this going, what are you working on, what’s next for our hero?
I’m making what my musician friend called my sophomore album and I like to think about it like that because the sophomore album is a difficult one. You just finished your first one people like it or they don’t and you’re always gonna lose some people so you gotta shake it off and keep creating but also you don’t want to regurgitate what you just did.
I like so many different styles of art so I don’t think I could just choose one and stick to it forever. So, I’m in the process of trying to figure it out – I don’t actually have a clear answer, I’ve just been marinating for a couple weeks. I just know it’s gonna be more personal. I like what I made but I think there’s something inside me itching to create something that’s really just specific to my life and hopefully people will resonate with it.
I want to tell a story.
Do you find people trying to put your textile arts into specific boxes? And talk to me about making a flipping rug!
I don’t even know what box my work would go into and that’s the biggest compliment I get. When someone says, “I’ve never seen anything like this,” that literally makes me…yeah – I’m mean there was zero information on the internet about the machine I’m working with. And how to work it. So the first eight months was trying to figure out how to work it. And that’s a totally different person than the person who went by the book at school. I’m basically a mechanic now – I would go to Home Depot with tubes and connectors and be like, “Help”. They were like, ‘What are you talking about.” No one had heard of it because it’s basically a weird power tool and you get to be up on a ladder like a badass and wear noise canceling headphones and it terrifies the cats. The second I turn on the air compressor they fly out of the room.
This has been a literal joy and a half. I’m obsessed with you. Leave me with what you’re obsessed with.
Well, my favorite thing is that I’m learning so much in the process.
*She ascends to Toledo, the only place angels come from*
Stay tuned to Milk for more artists we love.