Checking in with Heirloom artist: Andrew Boos

We are very excited to catch up with textile artist Andrew Boos. Andrew is a New York-based contemporary rug weaver, who takes inspiration from the world around him to create highly intricate rugs.

It’s been a couple years since Andrew helped us kick off this project and we hope you are as excited as us to learn more about this talented artist and see the new pieces he has been working on.

Previously you had mentioned how you have always been interested in folk art and craft traditions. What drew you to them and why do you think they sparked your curiosity? 

I studied art history and archaeology in school and worked on excavations for a number of years. Most of what you find on any site is pottery and I love that direct connection between utility, design, and history. Someone created that pot to be used for utilitarian reasons but decorated it for aesthetic reasons. And when we find it thousands of years later we use it to tell us about the history of the site and the culture. We call it folk art and craft now, but really it’s just making and designing things that elevate our lived experience.

I also love the difference in experiencing it. Folk art and craft get to be integrated into our lives in a way that fine art doesn’t. We interact with these things, live with them, and use them. They don’t just hang on a wall or sit in a museum but become part of our environment in a way that is more fundamental.

Why do you prefer this process to another? Do you see any benefits in the process or the final piece by choosing to weave, a more labor-intensive process?

I like that there is a structure to work within, ends per inch, shots per inch. There’s a lot of freedom within those constraints because it’s easy to break down the options for forming a curve or a shape. I also appreciate the speed of weaving. As I don’t fully plan out my compositions before I weave, there is time for me to think about what to do next. There’s time for me to consider how one section relates to another and change my plan as I see it all unfold. 

There’s also this quality of intention in labor-intensive works. Sometimes I really don’t have a plan and I just weave and make spur-of-the-moment decisions to change the design, but even then, there is an intention behind every decision, and there can be a hundred decisions in each rug. Sometimes the color dictates decisions, sometimes the amount of yarn I have left, and sometimes I’m in a mood, and the decision I make that day is entirely different from the decision I would have made if I waited until tomorrow. This process is not me using graph paper and colored pencils to create a design and then just executing it, there’s constant reassessing and thought throughout the process. 

What is your relationship to Constructivism, Bauhaus, or any other moments in art history where fine art and design were treated similarly?

I’ve never really thought about my work in the context of any of those moments before but I certainly love those times when craft becomes central to the work itself. What I really appreciate about the Bauhaus was the idea that the handmade process was informing the artistic choices. It wasn’t about designing a textile and then finding someone to produce it, but it was about a person creating something holistically, design, construction, and finishing. The choices you make as an artist are bound by your own skill, not your ability to source a factory.

What I would love to see is the opportunity for craft to become more central to US culture. People love going on vacation to Mexico or Turkey and buying handmade textiles from local artisans but would never buy a handmade textile from a maker in the US. We really need to develop that love of the handmade here.

Some of your new pieces feature combinations of natural and unbleached wool allowing for a soft, nuanced tonal shift. How do you view these pieces in relation to your other work that uses stronger contrast and saturated dyes?

I love that the minimalism of those pieces forces you to look closer. I had one of my own minimalist pieces on the living room floor for a while and from a distance, it just looked like a beige rug, but when you get close you can see all the details, the small shifts in color, the shapes that aren’t visible. It draws you in making the space even more intimate as you realize there’s actually a lot going on.

In college, I took a course on the temples and gardens of east Asia, and the professor basically spent the whole course telling long meandering stories. One that really hit me was a story he told about a tea house that was covered in morning glories. When an important general was visiting, the head abbot had all of the flowers removed except for one that had poked through the thatched roof and blossomed on the inside. So from a distance, it was just a tea house with some greenery on it and when you stepped inside there was the vision of just a single flower. That concept of minimalism has become really prominent in the way I think about my own designs, and I really like finding those moments of intensity.

Have you ever considered experimenting with different fibers? 

I should probably experiment more. It’s just that I’ve gotten to a place where I’m good at dyeing wool and achieving the color and tone I want, it can be hard to switch to a different fiber where I have less control.

As you have developed as an artist what areas of your practice do you feel most confident and what areas do you hope to develop further?

I feel really confident about color and the process of dyeing. I think I need to be a bit more comfortable with just experimentation in general. It’s easy to keep doing the thing you’re comfortable with, especially with the pressure of feeling productive. I need to just take time to try things and not be focused on any kind of end result.

Have you seen any shows or individual works that you have found inspiring recently?

It was years ago but James Turrell’s Breathing Light at LACMA is probably the greatest work of art I’ve ever seen. It made me want to build a huge loom so I can experiment with work on a grand scale.

How has the pandemic affected your work or your process?

Probably not much. Before the pandemic all I did was work, go to the studio, and watch documentaries at home. I’ve been doing the same thing for the last couple of years.

Is there anything we haven’t covered that is important to you or about you that we should share?

Just that all my work is for sale at https://www.heirloombk.com/ and it will look amazing in your living room. 

great point, lol

As our world becomes increasingly comfortable encountering art on a digital platform, what have been the benefits and challenges for you and the documentation of your work?

Specifically, capturing texture, and people coming into contact with the weaving primarily digitally? My work is everything that goes into it, not just the colors and the composition, but the little hemstitches on each side, the interlocked yarns, and the twisted fringe. It’s hard to convey the labor and the craft that is present in the work via photographs so my work is almost exclusively seen as composition and color. I think there is a total difference when you view it in person vs when you see it in photographs so I’ve never really figured out how to capture my work digitally. 

Thanks for being part of our Heirloom community and tuning into Contemporary @ Heirloom.

– Zach, Lynn, Shara & Zoe

*Illustration and Photography by Lynn Hunter

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