Today we’d like to introduce you to Micah Clasper-Torch.
Every artist has a unique story. Can you briefly walk us through yours?
When VoyageLA first interviewed me two years ago, I was working full time for a NYC based startup and beginning to revive my passion for sewing and tailoring on the side, creating one of a kind coats, blazers, and dresses that were produced more like art pieces. With a background in Fashion Design and a career path that spanned art galleries and design work for fashion brands, I was eager to get back to a more artistic side of myself. However, I didn’t want to start a traditional fashion label and deal with production (no matter how small-batch) — I wanted to create one of a kind works of art that also happened to be wearable.
It was shortly after the first VoyageLA article that my work took a new turn. I learned about a technique called punch needle rug hooking, in which wool yarn is pushed through a backing fabric to create a looped pile textile in various patterns and designs. I took a class with the specific intention to realize an idea I had for a punch needle coat, thinking it would be a one-off addition to my other fashion pieces. Little did I know that this technique would shift the direction of my work going forward!
I had done a lot of research to find out whether this textile (traditionally used for making rugs) had ever been used for a coat. I could find no evidence that it had ever been done before, so I got to work combining my patternmaking and tailoring skills with my newfound punch needle skills to explore how I could best turn my vision into reality. The process was a lot more difficult than I anticipated – the finished textile is extremely thick, cannot be cut into and cannot be sewn on a machine. But through patience (and a lot of delicate hand-sewing) I found a way.
The response to my first piece was immediate, and I knew I was on to something! I fell in love with the process of punch needle, I continued experimenting, created new coats, and honed my technique for their construction. I wanted to learn more, so I took an intensive training course in Vermont with renowned rug hooker Amy Oxford and became certified as an instructor in the traditional method. I became fascinated by the history of punch needle rug hooking, and it’s early American roots. I saw endless possibilities for the application of this technique across multiple areas of interest to me – art, fashion, furniture and home goods.
In May of 2019 I quit my job to make fiber art and design my full time focus. My path as an artist continues to surprise me and take me in unexpected and wonderful directions!
Please tell us about your art.
I specialize in one of a kind pieces that range from wearables to rugs, wall hangings, and artwork. My focus is on punch needle rug hooking, though my work also incorporates fabric, paper, hand sewing techniques, embroidery, and beading. I find inspiration in the color, patterns and geometry of our world, from manmade architectural creations to natural landscapes. Travel and new experiences are a big part of my creative process, and my goal is to translate the energy of those experiences into a piece, pattern or collection through color, texture and form.
Looking back on the first VoyageLA interview, it’s interesting to see that despite the fact that my primary medium has evolved from fashion to fiber art, the underlying purpose and theme of my work has stayed the same. My intention is still to create unique pieces that are positioned as works of art. My work is still centered around a deep appreciation for beauty, craftsmanship and quality. I still believe that pieces created with joy and reverence for the process are imbued with a different energy than mass-manufactured items, and the consumer can feel the difference.
Given everything that is going on in the world today, do you think the role of artists has changed? How do local, national or international events and issues affect your art?
I believe that art is a reflection of the times. While my art does not overtly address current events or issues, it speaks to our growing awareness of and appreciation for traditional craft and slow-made objects. It sheds light on a fiber art form that was dismissed largely because it was considered “women’s work.” It challenges people to understand the true worth of handmade items and to consider the value in owning fewer, better things.
How or where can people see your work? How can people support your work?
My work can be seen online at www.micahclasper-torch.com and on Instagram @claspertorch. One of my coats is currently on display in a gallery exhibition in Philadelphia at GROUP PROJECTS PHL and will be up through March 22, 2020.
For those interested in learning more about punch needle rug hooking, I also run a website geared towards community and education called Punch Needle World, which can be found at @punchneedle.world and www.punchneedle.world.
- Website: www.micahclasper-torch.com
- Email: email@example.com
- Instagram: @claspertorch
- Other: www.punchneedle.world / @punchneedle.world
Davy Kesey (photographer for shots with models)