When the Nuanua first came across my Instagram radar, my eyes were delighted by the joyful explosion of colors and I was eager to learn more about this artist! Rosemary, the creative behind the brand, had been weaving for years but quickly found that translating her vibrant, joyful designs to punch needle was a natural next step. She has only been punching for the past year, but has created an impressive body of work that expands beautifully upon her earlier weaving. Read on to hear more about the Nuanua in Rosemary’s own words!
Tell us a little bit about your creative background. How did you come to do the work you do today?
I’ve always been a creative person and art and design is a big part of my life. I studied design in University and have been a graphic designer for almost 10 years. I've been obsessed with rainbows and colourful things since I was a kid, and I’ve always struggled to fulfil that love in my career. The Nuanua began as a colourful outlet, which I chose to explore with fibre. Compared to working on the computer all day, fibre art was more slow and hands on which was a really nice change.
I have always appreciated the depth and detail in fibre art. I never learnt how to knit or crochet, but I was always fascinated by the colours and patterns that could be created with some knitting needles and balls of yarn. I always wanted something bigger than a sweater or scarf, something that was big and vibrant, that physically took up space. When I discovered hand weaving, I was instantly hooked, it gave me the creative freedom to paint any picture I wanted, with the added bonus of texture.
How did you get started with Punch Needle? What about this technique appealed to you?
I made an instagram to share my weaving work in 2019. As I connected with other artists, I was exposed to so many other areas of fibre art that I didn't know existed, including macrame, embroidery and lastly punch needling.
As much as I adore weaving, executing fine details and shapes can be quite challenging. As I started to see more punch needle work and how easily a graphic could be replicated in fibre form, I was immediately drawn to the technique and was eager to learn. I watched a handful of videos on Youtube, and ended up purchasing a cheap punch needle kit when I went into quarantine in May 2020 and I have been punch needling ever since.
We’d love to hear about your creative process. How do you come up with new ideas? What are your sources of inspiration?
I think the limitations of weaving really motivated me to make so many pieces when I first started punch needling. I began replicating designs I had weaved (like my wave design) and in punch needle form I was able to make cleaner lines and distinct shapes. I found many colourful illustrations I had done years ago, that I also decided to replicate in embroidered form. A lot of my ideas are all illustrations and designs I have accumulated over the past few years.
My biggest source of inspiration is probably my heritage. I am Pacific Islander, my parents are from Samoa and Fiji, so I love tropical landscapes and capturing the warmth and escapism of the beach and a beautiful sunset. That combined with my love of my colour, is pretty much the essence of my work. I would describe my art as vibrant, uplifting and warm.
Nuanua is the Samoan word for Rainbow.
How has your work evolved over time?
Since starting all my fibre work, I’ve been adamant that I wanted my creations to be visually and stylistically unique. Although I’m still very new to punch needling, I would say the biggest evolution has been refining the way I finish my pieces (this has been a big learning curve for me). Another evolution has been working with different shapes and sizes. I started with 8” hoops, and I’ve since gone up to 14” hoops and I’m currently working on a small rug.
What is your favorite part about the work that you do?
My favourite part of punch needle work is that it’s therapeutic but not necessarily slow. You get satisfaction quite quickly as you're punching along and it’s pretty low maintenance if you wish to stop and start throughout the day. It's also super exciting to know you can make something with your hands, in your home that looks so professionally finished.
Another aspect of punch needling that I love is the infinite possibilities. I have so many ideas visually for punch needle work and I have only been working in wall art/decor. So knowing I will be expanding my creations into other products, like homewares and accessories is very exciting to look forward to.
What do you hope others see / take away from your work?
I hope people can see the love that goes into all my pieces and my passion as an artist.
Making fibre art is such a labor of love, so people sharing your excitement and enthusiasm for the pieces you have put so much time into, is very rewarding. I think hearing from people that share, or are often surprised, by their love of colour from my work. I’ve received many lovely messages from people saying that usually they are about neutral tones and decor, but they are drawn to the colours and energy in my work.
It's nice to hear that my work can make people feel things they wouldn't ordinarily feel towards colour. Knowing that my work convinces them otherwise, makes me feel like my love of colour is contagious - which makes me so happy!
Do you have a favorite piece, or one that has a lot of meaning to you?
I think at the moment, my favourite piece is my Rainbow Landscape piece. Up until I made this piece, I had still been replicating a lot of my wall hanging designs and illustrations, and this was a completely new design that I spontaneously decided to create one night.
I roughly sketched out the design and I chose all the colours as I went and the whole creative process was really organic. I was so excited to see it all unfold, I ended up staying up through the night to finish it and I was so happy with how it turned out.
As it is quite abstract, many people have their feelings about the art. I love that it has a unique and special meaning for each person.
What punch needle materials and tools do you use? Do you have any favorite supplier recommendations for tools, material or yarn?
I use Oxford Punch Needles and they are very well designed and reliable tools. I live in Australia, so I ordered mine from a small fibre business also based in Australia called Mego Workshop. I’ve used just one needle for around 4 months, but I’ve slowly been ordering more in a variety of sizes to experiment with.
Other than that I get all my yarn and fabric in person from local craft stores in Sydney . Because I work with so much colour, my preference is seeing the colour of the yarn in person, and comparing the shades, sheens, thickness and textures.
What advice do you have for other artists or creatives looking to try punch needle?
I get a lot of messages from people wanting to learn but not knowing where to start, I always direct them to YouTube. I would highly recommend watching lots of YouTube videos and following lots of punch needle artists, to get an idea of the technique. By the time I got my hands on a starter kit (a super cheap one from my local craft store that had everything in it), figuring it out was so much easier and quite seamless because I understood how to use the needle and stretch the fabric etc.
Another piece of advice, would be to spend some time finding a suitable and affordable fabric to use. It can be difficult to source Monk's cloth, I highly recommend taking your punch needle (whichever kind you have) with you to a fabric store to visually compare the needle thickness to the grids of the fabric, purchasing some samples and testing them out.
I tested a range, and found a suitable fabric that I could rely on long term, that was available from my local craft store that worked perfectly. I read a lot of blogs that say punch needling is an expensive hobby, but don’t think it needs to be. So experimenting and finding affordable ways to make the craft work for you is probably my biggest advice.
Where do you see your work going in the future?
Overall I think it’s just seeing how far my designs can work at different scales and across different products. I am definitely looking into more handmade products, outside of wall decor. At the moment I’m really keen to create some vibrant cushion covers.
How can the punch needle community support you and your work?
What is something that you are excited or curious about these days?
At the moment, I’m saving up for a tufting gun so I can make rugs, which I’m super excited about. I’ve spent so many years trying to find a cool colourful rug, so knowing I can make my own with as many colours as I want, is so exciting!
What are 3 other fun facts about yourself that you would like to share with the Punch Needle Community?
I’ve watched Friends (all seasons) over 15 times, I watch it while I make my pieces, and I continue to thoroughly enjoy it
I could happily live off french fries
I’ve been hoarding yarn for over 6 years, I have a real fear of running out of yarn