Fabric artist trades L.A. for desert
Leaves fashion industry behind and creates unique tapestries using hand-tufting technique
As a fibre artist working with deadstock fabric and vintage tufting tools, Svetlana Shigroff has an acute appreciation for what she describes as “old-school women’s work.”
“There is something so special about using your hand with these old tools,” Shigroff says of her hand-tufted tapestries. “I don’t want to become mechanized.”
After working as a high school teacher in her native Australia and in the fashion industry in Los Angeles, the 36-year-old moved to the Yucca Valley. Now, the full-time artist and occasional wardrobe stylist creates colourful, powerful tapestries in hergarage overlooking the desert.
“Being in the desert allows Svetlana Shigroff blends her interest in goddesses and mythology into amazing tapestries she prepares with vintage wood tuft tools. PHOTOS IRFAN KHAN/TNS
me to be free and delve a little deeper into my art and what’s going on with me,” she says. “I can be a little less self-conscious out here.”
Interested in tapestry but intimidated by the process, Shigroff taught herself how to tuft by watching a dated, grainy tufting video on YouTube.
Today, she works 8 to 12 hours a day in the garage, crafting pieces from leftover
or rejected knits she buys in the downtown Los Angeles fabric district. After cutting the knits into half-inch strips with a rotary cutter, she then tufts them onto a fabric canvas using a well-worn antique wood and metal shuttle punch.
Her custom pieces take anywhere from two to six weeks, and range from $350 to thousands of dollars.
Her work is inspired, she says by her family, mythology and “half-truths.”
A faceless Medusa juggles heads on a bed of flames in one unfinished tapestry hanging in the garage. An “alchemistress” grips a spider, scroll and flames in another. Coiled snakes tufted onto fabric are widely represented, hinting at her interest in lore and legend.
“I draw a lot of goddesses from different cultures and mash them up,” she says.
Viewers experience her work differently, Shigroff says.
“I love hearing what people think,” adds Shigroff, who also creates one-of-a-kind jackets. She views her work as a mix of sculpture and painting.
“Sometimes I don’t know what my pieces will be about until they are done.”
Is her work always about something? “Always,” she says with a smile. Fox News host Tucker Carlson was targeted.