Take Two®

News and culture through the lens of Southern California. Hosted by A Martínez

KCET's Artbound highlights Tanya Aguiñiga's public crafting revolution

by Take Two®

Tanya Aguiñiga backstrap weaving in Beverly Hills. Nicole Levy

The KCET multi platform arts journalism project Artbound searches near and wide throughout Southern California to bring to light people creating extraordinary art that goes unseen by the mainstream. 

One artist highlighted by the series is LA-based furniture and craft designer Tanya Aguiñiga. Trained as a furniture designer, Aguiñiga has a special interest in crafting, often covering pre-existing chairs in felt, or weaving her own textiles and creating handmade accessories. 

Artbound recently followed Aguiñiga as she demonstrated what she calls "Performance Crafting," bringing the creation of indigenous craft into the public, urban sphere. 

"I'm known for making furniture and doing a lot of craft-based processes, so I came up with this thing called performance crafting, doing it public and doing it in a very participatory way," said Aguiñiga on Take Two. "One of the things that I did a few years ago was i spent time in Chiapas in southern mexico working with Mayan artisans, Mayan women who do backstrap weaving."

The process of backstrap weaving involves the whole body, not a loom, to create beautiful textiles. Aguiñiga explains the the weaving works by tying a belt around one's waist, then tying the other end to a pole or other sturdy surface. The weaver then must move his or her body back and forth using the resistance from the other object.

For Artbound Aguiñiga and editor Drew Tewksbury, who is also a regular Take Two music critic, headed to Beverly Hills to introduce passers by to this crafting process. Only, they weren't exactly welcome.

"I tied myself to a parking meter, so I thought that for paying for a parking space that you're essentially renting real estate out in Los Angeles, so I thought I would be able to sit there and do this ancient way of weaving fabric and it was right in front of YSL (Yves Saint Laurent)," said Aguiñiga.  "We quickly realized that the city of Beverly Hills does not like people in parking spots."

Within 30 minutes of setting up shop, Beverly Hills Police were on the scene threatening to hand out tickets. 

For her next Artbound project, "Felt Me," Aguiñiga embraced her love of the wet felting process, or rather it literally embraced her. "I was head-to-toe completely covered," said Aguiñiga. 

Wet felting works by covering an object in raw wool, then rubbing it with soapy water until the object is seamlessly covered in fabric. You then let the fabric dry and it fuses itself to the object. Aguiñiga decided she'd like to try and place herself in the position of the many chairs or other sculptural objects she's felted throughout her career. 

"We wrapped my whole body with raw wool then they sprayed me with soapy water and they rubbed me down," she said. "Part of it that was very difficult for me and I think for a lot of people involved as well … was that I was naked, so the process was covering my head, my entire body, my feet and my hands and felting me."

You can see video of Aguiñiga's "Felt Me" project below, and be sure to check out the Artbound website for more interesting portraits of art in Southern California. 

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