During quarantine, Rashelle Campbell embraced her time at home and learned a new skill, a rare one at that. Rug tufting, which involves weaving yarn through stencilled fabric across a frame, became Campbell’s alternative creative outlet while her freelance photography was put on hold temporarily.
Constructing pieces of art by hand echoes Campbell’s half-Cree background, while the nostalgic shapes and patterns are inspired by her favourite 90s and early aughts pop culture cornerstones. The eccentric, flowery designs utilize a vivid colour palette of pistachio, sunshine yellow, fuchsia, orange, and more to a striking effect.
More than just a creative pastime, Campbell made use of this newfound quarantine diversion for the greater good. In June, proceeds from sales of her eye-catching rugs went to the Vancouver Black Therapy and Advocacy Fund, as worldwide efforts to eradicate systemic racism rose to the fore.
Here, Campbell unpacks her inspirations and creative process.
What prompted you to pursue the art of rug tufting?
“Honestly, it was due to the pandemic that sparked the motivation to learn a new art form. With being at home all the time, I was getting into housewares and started to think about what I could do to make my home and others’ environment more comfortable.”
“When we couldn’t have a lot of human interaction, I figured this was the perfect time to learn a new skill. I’m thankful I have the means to create shaggy creatures for people’s homes where we are all having to spend most of our time. A cozy and warm environment is everything right now.”
Who do you admire in the design world — what sources do you turn to for inspiration?
“The 90s and early 2000s pop culture play a huge role in my work. I base my colours and shapes of my rugs from television shows, movies, clothing items, and music that I was into when I was younger. For example, I recently made a rug that was the colours of my Lizzie McGuire duvet set I had when I was 14-15 years old. The goopy flower-like shapes come from when I had an obsession with watching Austin Powers. The feelings of those memories made me who I am today, someone who loves colour and fun!”
What is your creative process like (or what is needed for your creative process)?
“Friendships are needed for me to help with my creative process. I always feel so energized and ready to create after I hang with a good friend.”
“After a beautiful hang with a pal, I sit on my couch and start drawing flubbers, bloops, and flowers—it’s very casual and I never put too much thought into the design or else it loses its magic to me. Then I freehand the design onto the cloth I use, grab my laptop and put on a rockin’ movie, and start tufting! Each rug I make is imperfect and never the same, which makes each piece have a lil’ jazzy personality!”
How do you weave your Cree background into your work? Are there any traditional techniques used?
“My designs ring true to my personality, and the creating with my hands rings truth to my Cree side. My kokôm (grandmother) was always creating something with her hands, from sewing to cooking to beading, she just loved using her hands and that passed down to me.”
“I don’t use any traditional techniques with my tufting but it would be a dream of mine to go to Wabasca, where my mother is from and learn how to make moccasins, start wood crafting, and learn the beautiful techniques of beadwork from the skills of my kokôm.”
How do you find peace of mind and solace during these uncertain times?
“I had an up and down relationship with my cellphone, but these past few months I had to break up with it so I could do what I wanted to do.”
“Since setting up those boundaries, I can have that alone time with myself and let myself smell the flowers! I recommend setting up those boundaries if that relationship with your cellphone is feeling toxic—when I tuft or cook I try to leave my cellphone in a different room.”
What’s next for you?
“I’m releasing my first ever rug collection on September 25 including a full new website! I’m also a part of a few collaborations, including one with my Cree homies at Mobilize who will also have some rugs [for] purchase.”