This month, we are thrilled to feature Portuguese punch needle artist Carolina Vaz to the Punch Needle World community! Carolina’s work is recognized by bold, geometric shapes, often utilizing bright colors that really pop from the canvas. She is constantly exploring new materials and applications, as seen in her recent collaboration with Italian design project Iconica where she was challenged to translate her work to an armchair! Read on to learn more about Carolina, her background and what ignites her imagination.
Tell us a little bit about your creative background. How did you come to do the work you do today?
Since I’m a child I was always creating something and I was very creative. At home I was always drawing, painting, trying different materials. Doing things with my hands and coloring was my special spare time. At school, art classes were my favorite and the ones I had the best grades. So since then I felt that one day I would like to be an artist.
At the same time, I grew up in an artistic environment surrounded by creatives. Many people in my family have this artistic vein and my grandparents were art collectors and friends of many Portuguese plastic artists so I was used to being surrounded by art works. I think my family artistic environment was one of the main triggers that made me want to explore my creative side.
How did you get started with Punch Needle? What about this technique appealed to you?
I was very interested in textile techniques (I was already doing macramé) and I started to explore other techniques that I could learn. I began to saw some videos of punch needle on the internet and immediately I wanted to try it. I soon realized that I would love it and be addicted. I found a workshop and I didn't hesitate to do it. And since then I never stopped.
We'd love to hear about your creative process. How do you come up with new ideas? What are your sources of inspiration?
I’m always idealizing new things in my head and then I try to reproduce them. My head never stops ahah. I think that my creative process occurs very naturally and the search for inspiration is always a little bit unconscious. Whenever I see a work of art, an object, a color, a fabric/pattern which inspires me, I immediately start to have ideas and imagine how I could create something new.
But sometimes to unlock I’ll look for inspiration. I’m mainly inspired by colors and geometric shapes that I appreciate in other works of art. And, of course, on the Instagram or Pinterest scrolls, we can see incredible works that also impact us right away.
How has your work evolved over time?
I think my work evolved very organically. I was doing punch needle as a hobby and then I decided to do an Instagram page to see how it would be like, how people would react to my art and suddenly it was an amazing surprise. I started to sell, to do commissioned pieces and even invites to exhibit in galleries. And over time, I improved the technique, I got to know better the needle use, the fabrics and all the different materials.
What is your favorite part about the work that you do?
My favorite part is coloring (I love colors!) and getting to know the behavior of the materials.
A cotton thread doesn´t behave in the same way as a wool thread, nor does the needle pierce different fabrics in the same way, and this process of knowing the materials is fascinating.
What do you hope others see / take away from your work?
I hope that others see a beautiful piece, aesthetically and meticulously elaborated. I want people to look and feel the same as when they see a painting.
Do you have a favorite piece, or one that has a lot of meaning to you?
I like all the pieces I do, but the ones I like the most are the ones that I have total freedom to create.
I have one that I especially like. It was a collaboration with the Italian project Iconica that challenged me to create a new design for an armchair. It was a huge and amazing challenge that made me think beyond and outside the box to create a different piece. And I couldn't be happier with the final result, it was a success
What punch needle materials and tools do you use? Do you have any favorite supplier recommendations for tools, material or yarn?
I have several needles but I only use Lavor needle (is produced in Portugal). I mostly use cotton fabric and sometimes I use linen or monk cloth. Regarding yarns, I use cotton and whenever I can I use recycled or organic. It is the material that I like to handle the most. However, sometimes I use wool or mixed yarn because I like to obtain different textures and I give more importance to color than to the material itself (but I hate acrylic).
For now I don’t have any favorite supplier. I’m always experimenting new ones.
I´m still in the process of choosing the best materials / suppliers. What I have been experiencing is that not every supplier has everything I want / need, so I end up using several.
What advice do you have for other artists or creatives looking to try punch needle?
Be careful, is addictive! Ahah
And please be careful with your posture while working. This is my biggest advice. I was working intensively during a whole year in a bad posture and now I’m dealing with the consequences. I have my shoulder tendon of my right arm inflamed and I felt very discouraged by the pains. I'm still curing the inflammation with physiotherapy and acupuncture sessions.
Where do you see your work going in the future?
Good question.. In a year, so many good things happened that I didn't expect to happen so fast (like international collaborations, participating in exhibitions, magazine articles), so from now on I just hope that good things will continue to happen.
How can the punch needle community support you and your work?
Following, sharing and recommending my work. I think the most important thing for each of us is the community to remain united and supportive in each other’s work.
What is something that you are excited or curious about these days?
I’m really excited to start to make wall rugs with my tufting gun. I already bought it a year ago but I have had so much work with punch needle that I end up not having a lot of time to practice the tufting gun. A this moment it's the gun that dominates me instead of me dominating the gun ahah
What are 3 other fun facts about yourself that you would like to share with the Punch Needle Community?
I studied astrology for 4 years (I’m a Sagittarius ascendant Leo)
I’m obsessed with detail and order and I love puzzle games
I play transverse flute
This one is not really about me, but about the tradition of embroidery in Portugal: the technique translation of "punch needle" in Portuguese is "home fairy", which means to be a good housewife