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portrait de sabibiche dans son atelier de tufting

30 May 2021

Sabibiche – graphics from the perspective of tufting

A few weeks ago, we had the chance to meet Sabibiche and visit her workshop. The designer revisits the art of tapestry by deploying all her creativity, and applies her graphic creations to tufting!

You told us that you came from Paris. How did you come to Brussels?

I did a master’s degree in graphic design at the ERG and after that I stayed, like many French people!

What did you like about Brussels ?

I have the impression that there are more possibilities in Brussels to start new projects, and I feel good there.

You studied graphic design at ERG. How did you come to the tapestry?

I am still a part-time graphic designer. For the tapestry, I have the impression that it is a bit of a logical continuation. In fact, I did a lot of illustrations when I was a student, just for myself, outside of my education. Whenever I had the chance I used my illustrations for my academic projects. I also did a lot of collages. I think it still shows a bit in my aesthetic… I love to compose with textures, colors etc. I ended up switching to digital collage, I found it a good way to have fun faster and experiment with ease. I then started to work in series. And then the textile and its possibilities of textures arrived. So I did some weaving. It’s still work because translating something flat, like an illustration, into an object is complicated!

Later, I discovered tufting, quite by accident! It was one of those nights, between two and four in the morning. I was watching a youtube video that showed tufting with the tufting gun and it was totally mesmerized. From there, I started to research and my friends got me my first tufting gun! They said to me: “It’s true that when you look at your illustration work, it seems obvious!” And indeed, when I look at all my work right down to the tufting, I feel like it was preparatory work for that. After their gift, I bought some skeins and started experimenting.


How long have you been tufting now?

Two years … maybe a little more. It’s difficult to say between the time of taking control, doing research, accumulating material.

Has the switch to tufting changed anything in the way you design your illustrations or collages?

Not necessarily … But maybe a little bit ! Collage is pure composition, it comes down to nothing else. Even with a paper of the same color you can do a lot of things. With tufting, I focused even more on this vision of composition, which we have with collage. Especially since tufting produces objects that are meant to occupy space. So now when I do a design draft, I flip it all over the place, imagine how it can live in a room, if you look at it one way or the other. Sometimes, even when I’m drawing for myself, I tend to look at my designs through the perspective of tufting.

So is it really at the level of your perception that it transformed you?

Exactly !

What inspires you ?

My first inspiration is the colors and shapes. Sometimes I just work with shapes. I like the energy between two forms. I focus on the contrast, the strength that emerges. And from that, I’m going to work everything around to conserve the energy present between these two forms. Then it’s a work of color research: trying to find colors that evoke energy, the primary sensation. It is really a language between shapes and colors that results from it.

I also have a personal design catalog that I send to people who are interested in my designs. It may happen that the colors do not quite suit the tones they have developed at home. I then ask them to send me photos and I make them a proposal based on the color games present at home.

Are there any artists or aesthetic trends that particularly inspire you?

Yes of course, the artists who inspire me the most are obviously Henri Matisse, Josef Albers, Helen Frankenthaler, Etel Adnan … because of the colors !

You mentioned the importance you give to textures when you do collage. Are you also developing something similar with tufting?

Not yet, but it is not excluded ! I design objects, which live in spaces and there are a lot of possible textures … My goal is to work with different textures by playing on lengths. Going through both the mowing but also the pressure I emit with the tufting gun. These are variations that I really want to experience but I’m not there yet. So, for the moment, I’m having a little trouble projecting myself into what I could do at this level, other than into an aesthetic idea.

What are the  different steps of your creation process?

I start with the design. Once it’s done, I stretch a canva, called a “monk cloth”. It has a fairly wide, airy weft, which allows the thread to pass easily without being deformed. Once the canva is well stretched, and I have good pressure, I trace the visual on it with the overhead projector or with my free hand, if I feel like doing something a lot more “thrown”. I then select the colors. I have a small rewinder that makes it easier for me to unwind them when tufting without it cutting me in the process. Then I do my little math to find out how many balls I need. And then the tufting can begin!

I run the wire inside my gun. And there are two levels inside that go back and forth throughout the tufting. On the underside is a pair of scissors that cut the thread each time it crosses the canvas. The place I put the tufting gun is the back of the rug. The tuft points consist of a succession of U which will therefore form the carpet. I make the rug color by color, in the order I prefer, always trying to go from the inside to the outside, so as not to have any pressure problems.

When the tufting is finished I apply glue to the back to secure the weave. You can pull the wires, they won’t come off. The glue dries for 24 hours. I then cut the margins of threads around the carpet. Then I make a template with organic cotton that I sew. And finally I end with a mowing for a very smooth result.

How do you see the future?

I am still a part-time graphic designer but I would like to be able to live off my passion and do bigger projects. I had an exhibition planned in Belle Île, Brittany this summer, but it was postponed. With the Covid all their exhibitions are shifted. As part of this exhibition, I had to work on very large formats and in particular wall formats. In addition, I also have future collaborations with people who work on the design and creation of objects. The idea would be to combine tufting with the making of objects. In the future, I want to find new ways to bring my tapestries to life in a different way !

Are you thinking of making other objects than rugs ?

Yes completely ! I want to explore all the possibilities of tufting ! I thought about making handbags, cushions, stools … I have lots of ideas but I have to continue to perfect my practice of tufting. You have to think of tufting as fabric to imagine what you can do with it !

What is you favorite step ?

I’m not sure, but I know which one I hate ! I always have a lot of apprehension at the end, when mowing the rugs. When I’ve been working on that from six days to two weeks … All it takes is a bad mower sweep, and it’s the end of the world ! The carpet is lost.

To get back to my favorite step … It’s tufting. I love seeing the color infill, and seeing the rug come to life! It’s amazing, you are hissing on one side, colors explode in clumps on the other. There is a fascinating, hypnotic, magical side!

I spend all my free time tufting. Despite the Covid and the long confinements, I was not bored for a minute. I was tufting. It is really the joy of making objects that will please people, every day.


Find the illustrations and carpets of Sabibiche on her Kreamondo designer profile

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