Portrait of an artist: Cat Babbie, hunter of colours, and her textile universe | Entertainment


Cat Babbie’s artwork is as warm and soft as the afternoon sun in spring.

Cat moved to North Carolina over ten years ago. She now works in her studio at the VAPA Center.

Cat describes herself as an abstract textile artist. She appreciates the freedom that the abstract gives her and the infinite avenue it offers to play with color.

Her love for textiles is expressed in various forms: tufting, felted sculptures, weaving and sewing. As long as it is an art form related to textiles, she is interested in it.

Of textile art’s many obsessions, her favorite is machine tufting – using a yarn-powered power tool called a tufting gun to create wall pillows and soft sculptures with hand-dyed wool.

It was at the dye pot that she fell in love with the world of textiles.

For her, dyeing yarn for upholstery is like mixing colors to paint. She must think like solving a puzzle because it is not possible to superimpose the colors as in painting. Linear thinking is necessary when creating tufted art. For every piece she creates, it’s like solving a puzzle that she doesn’t have a reference photo for, and that’s what piques her interest.

“Creating color is what drives me to create,” she said.

This process is one of his favorites when creating a work of art. It offers subtleties and variations that cannot be found in commercially dyed yarns and can help him add more depth to his works.

For example, in his recent tufting series, “Future: movement”, Cat noted, “Commercial blue is blue; my blue is aqua, robin’s egg blue, first morning blue, all in one skein of yarn.

In Cat’s hand-dyed wool, certain colors stand out so well that they are good enough to stand on their own and be celebrated in small works. They would then be hung together like map pins, vibrant and full of liveliness. Other colors form larger skyscapes and become echoes of direction through memories and dreams.

What is more sentimental about textile and textile arts is the comfort and friendliness they bring to the environment in which they are found. When displayed, the pieces soften the space and invite viewers to come closer.

Having always wanted to create immediately accessible and comforting works of art, Cat is very happy to have fabric as her primary medium.

She describes the arts of tufting as “both soft and structured”, able “to balance the tension between wanting to touch the artwork while knowing it’s against the ‘rules'” .

Fabric is something we interact with every day – we wear clothes, we sit in car seats, we walk on carpets; So, when people see Cat’s work, a tension builds when they yearn to touch the work, knowing that it’s not allowed. This interaction is very interesting and exciting for Cat, and is one of the biggest motives for her to create.

Although the main ideas are similar, the process of creating tufted artwork is very different from painting. Before or after starting to dye the yarn, the patterns of the tufts are often sketched in watercolor.

Cat said that although she deviates a lot from the script, the watercolor sketches help her get the colors in her head. If she’s working with an odd shape, she’ll create a paper pattern to make sure she tufts in the right direction.

Like a painter using canvas to paint, Cat uses a backing fabric designed for upholstery and stretches it over custom wood panels using carpet staples. The panels, like our bones, are the invisible support of each piece.

Once everything is ready, it’s time to start tufting using the tufting gun. It must be very relaxing, I think, to see the beautiful colors blooming on the plain fabric in front of you, and to immerse yourself in the white noise created by the tufting gun.

Today, many gift shop tufts and patches are mass-produced using computer programs and machines. In the era of mass production, Cat believes the purpose of handcrafting lies in the act itself.

“I think making things by hand, especially textiles, immediately reminds me that we’re all human and we need to slow down,” she said.

Handmade craftsmanship is not as perfect as machine-produced ones, but it shows how imperfect we as human beings are in our own way, which makes each of us an individual. unique. In modern society, where people move so fast, handcrafting is almost like meditating, having a conversation with your own soul.

My favorite series created by Cat is her cocoon series. Each of the cocoons is so unique and delicate, and even has its own name. These are her deeply intuitive pieces, and each title is a reflection of her thoughts and emotions while she was doing it.

She said, “Cocoons are deeply infused with a sense of security, and each of the cocoon pieces I’ve made is sometimes a reminder to be protected.”

The order for a custom cocoon is opened and Cat asks about the intention or emotions her client wants her to think about while working on it. They are special and personal parts for Cat and its customers.

Sometimes I would like to cocoon myself and be hugged by the thin wall of the tight space when I feel tired or sad. Cat agrees with me. She is dying to create a cocoon big enough for people to sit in.

Talking about her journey as an artist, she said, “I’ve been an artist all my life. I’ve always been creative in the sense of creating art, and I don’t remember having a “NOW I WANT TO BE AN ARTIST” moment, creating art has been a constant friend.

As a child, Cat enjoyed doing arts and crafts in her spare time, and the experience of being able to interact with artists working at a young age also inspired her to become an artist herself.

Looking back on some of her childhood pieces, she is surprised how they connect to her works now as an adult. Large expanses of colors and patterns have always been in her creative journey since she was little.

After studying studio art and art history at James Madison University in Virginia, Cat spent some time trying to figure out what artistic field she wanted to pursue. At first she thought she would be a potter for the rest of her life. Although she later realized that pottery wasn’t for her, she said she doesn’t regret any of it, as learning different art forms helped her become the artist that she was. she is today.

If Cat had to describe her relationship with art in one word, it would be “constant”.

“It’s still there,” she said. “It’s always something I think about and come back to.”

Cat doesn’t always have as much time as a full-time artist to work on her art because she has to balance a full-time job alongside her art, but art still gives her inner peace whenever she needs it. She told me that having a full-time job takes away the pressure of feeling that “I have to sell art” and the pressure to create art for others rather than for herself. Having her bills paid means she can focus on her art with pure passion without worrying about anything else.

“It almost makes it more exciting when I sell my art because it’s not my only means of survival,” she said. “As frustrating as it can be not being able to work on my art full time, it gives me a lot of ease and relaxation while making art.”

You want to know more ?

You can see all of Cat Babbie’s work online at www.catbabbie.com or view photos in progress at @catbmakes on Instagram. She is always interested in taking orders and working with people.


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