How This Textile Artist Brings Whimsy to the Home
Moira Quinn is weaving her way to a better future.
Published Jul 7, 2019 7:00 AM
In New Voices, we shine a spotlight on inspiring up-and-coming talent shaping the future of their respective industries. Consider this the new class of creatives.
Textile artist Moira Quinn is part of a growing class of creatives that is redefining what our flooring should look like. Alongside Ugly Rugly, Cold Picnic, and Sam Crow, she’s taking a bold stance: Rugs no longer have to be stuffy. In an era in which politics seems relentlessly dark, Quinn hopes her designs can bring a beacon of joy to the home.
As an only child growing up in Chicago, Quinn spent a lot of time indoors, amusing herself by sewing and drawing. “I never really had childhood fantasies about my career, but I’ve always known exactly who I am and I’ve always tried my best to survive out here,” she tells Domino. The artist, who cites childhood cartoons as an influence, crafts whimsical rugs that depict deviled eggs, oysters, and lava lamps—imagery not typically used in an item considered to be a big home splurge.
Quinn earned a B.F.A. at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Initially wanting to study embroidery and surface embellishment, she took a weaving class on a whim in her freshman year. “The laborious, unforgiving process came easily to me and it just clicked in my brain. It’s a very rigid medium that serves as a conduit, which helps me work through my obsessive thoughts,” she says. Her mentor, Christy Matson, a weaving instructor at SAIC, inspired her to keep going. “She’s a genius,” says Quinn of Matson. “She and I work completely differently on the loom, but we just ‘get’ each other and love weaving for the same reasons.”
Now 28, Quinn remains in Chicago, splitting her time as a wardrobe dresser for theater actors while working at a vintage store and designing rugs for herself and clients in her off time. Her goal: proving that the home, too, can be its own form of radical entertainment.
What excites you the most about rug-making? Rug-making excites me because it combines the two things that are most important in my practice: imagery and functionality. It genuinely bums me out when people hang my rugs on the wall, because I work really hard to make them durable enough for everyday use.
What fascinates you about using food in your designs? I’m from Chicago, where there is zero pressure to be thin and good-looking. Food is the center of the universe around which we all orbit. I try to steer my clients away from food-centric imagery because I don’t want to be pigeonholed as the “food rug artist,” but people love it and I like to make my clients happy.
Why do you think there is more playfulness in decor right now? I think people are a little anxious and depressed right now due to wealth inequality, the influence exerted by massive corporations, and the constant threat of violent global conflict. Why not loosen up your home decor? If the outside world doesn’t make you giggle, you’ve got to find [fun] elsewhere.
If you could start your career over and money was no object, what would you want to be? A layabout. Even though textile art is profoundly difficult, I’m still inherently lazy. If money was no object, I’d be in my studio for a couple hours a day, and I’d spend the rest of my time cooking and puttering around the house. I’d go to the movies twice a week.
What’s your favorite method of procrastination? The poor man’s exercise: walking. I walk for miles and miles every day and I love it, even in February when the sidewalks are snowy. Chicago is very flat, so you can cover a lot of ground in a short amount of time with very little effort.
What excites you right now in design? Nothing, really. I mostly look inward or at historical sources.
What’s a trend you wish would disappear forever? I think all of the Memphis Group–inspired design is so ubiquitous right now because it’s incredibly easy to copy. Let’s move onto something else, please.
If the sky was the limit, where would you want to take your career next? Living the dream and quitting my day job, naturally.
What is your dream project? To make a rug for Frances McDormand. Or Cornel West, if he’s interested!
What’s next for you in 2019? I’ve already used up my vacation time for the year at Haystack Mountain School of Crafts, so for the rest of 2019, I’ll have my nose to the grindstone. New rug designs are forthcoming!