A lot of your recent work combines needlelace with weaving and other techniques. What are some of the challenges of mixing techniques and how do you dream up these wonderful combinations?

Both needlelace and weaving are structural textile techniques. When weaving a tapestry or making a piece of knotted lace, you are determining the tension and density of a piece of cloth. Because of their nature as woven and knotted textiles, they can be easily embedded together. The challenges come in understanding the tension and the ways the different types of cloth will be impacted by one another if sewn or knotted together. I often begin with a phrase or image that I want to arrive at and determine which techniques, and in what sequence will get me there.

Your work touches on ancestral traditions of weaving and needlelace - in the context of your teaching practice, what is the importance of preserving these traditions for new generations and passing them on? What feedback have you gotten from your students learning these methods? 

Janyak, the needlelace was lost to the past two generations of my family because the ancestor who practiced it experienced a disabling injury to her dominant hand. I explored the lace in graduate school but I found it discouraging that I needed academic database access to learn about my family’s craft. I wanted to take the work I had done to reclaim the technique and make it more accessible to my community both locally and online through teaching workshops. When I began teaching I found that I connected to people all over the world who were looking for basic instruction. I’ve seen past participants in my workshops carry the lace out in dynamic and creative ways that gives me a lot of hope about the future of janyak in the Armenian-American diaspora. 

How has teaching influenced your own practice and growth?

A very specific outcome is that teaching has inspired me to learn to use my non-dominant hand. I have realized that there is a great need for left handed craft instruction and often times tutorials are geared toward right handed person. While I’m not perfect at left handed instruction, my students have taught me a lot about how to make more inclusive lace demonstrations. This has also inspired a practice of left-handed writing and drawing in order to strengthen underused muscles and allowed me to rest my dominant hand when it is fatigued from the repetitive demands of textile craft. 


Why do you think the medium of needlace has become so compelling to you?

My introduction to needlelace was through looking at my great-grandmother’s doily that my mother kept. The lore of it was fascinating because no one in our family knew the process anymore. I was also interested in the slowness and intentionality of it. Once I learned the technique and began to practice, I found that the knotted structure could be applied in ways other than the traditional doilies, and that’s when I began to use color in the work and treat the technique a bit more like drawing. This allowed me to apply text and image to the lace practice in a way that I had already been doing with weaving. 

How has the use of inherited materials affected the process and ultimate outcome of some of your pieces?

Over the years I have become the “needlework” family member, so as matriarchs have passed, I’ve found myself inheriting most of the yarn, needles and other textile tools. This became a mixed blessing that often made me feel overwhelmed, especially when the colors and textures my great grandma used may not be what I would choose for myself. In 2021, I challenged myself to not buy any new yarn and focus on working with what I had inherited. This came from a place of economic resourcefulness as well as a desire to minimize my textile waste. To make it work I found myself blending different yarns together and creating textures that appealed to me more than the individual yarns. This practice of color blending taught me a lot about how I can stretch the boundaries of my materials but also gave me the bravery to use bold colors that I had often been to shy to experiment with. 

Can you discuss your use of words and typography in some of your work?

Some recent work with text pulls words and phrases from the care tags inside of my clothes. It came from some thoughts about the ways that careful washing practices can extend the lives of our clothes and the idea that gentleness towards our clothing is a radical act in a fast fashion economy. I took phrases like “do not wring or twist” or “gentle cycle” and transcribed them in my own heirloom crafts, to rest on notions of both labor and tenderness. 

Another work, an embossed velvet framed with a border of needlelace fruits, reads “put these on a piece of blue or green velvet and it’s art.” This work seeks to challenge the idea that lace is “art” only when it placed on a piece of velvet and not when it is carefully made. 

What is currently inspiring your works? Has this changed since we last spoke?

Last spring I spent time in Rhode Island as a resident artist at the Newport Art Museum. During my time there I collected marine trash from the shorelines and experimented with reclaimed fishing line as lacemaking material. This came from a desire to contextualize janyak in a saltwater environment, as it is said to have descended from Mediterranean fishing net technique. This work is ongoing and includes pieces knotted with fine braided fishing knots, as well as larger works made from thicker fishing line and rods, such as those used for lobster traps. The work is not purely about material and process, but also considers ocean front access and the ways in which alienation from the shoreline is a timeless struggle. 

A tangential body of work was  looking at the name Newport as both a city and a brand. I began to explore the branding of Newport cigarettes, only to learn that the image on the front of the pack is intended to be seen as a sailboat on a seascape. I’ve been transcribing the cigarette pack in lace and weaving as a way to consider the way words and images function differently within different contexts and demographics and the ways that the history of Newport cigarettes in such an affluent Rhode Island town has become somewhat obscured and forgotten.

Do you have any upcoming events or shows that you are excited about?

I’m currently working on a body of work for a solo exhibition at Studio Hill Gallery in Woodbury, Connecticut in March 2024. This will be an opportunity to show the work that has come out of my Newport preoccupation and expand on a few new techniques that I’ve been experimenting with behind the scenes. 

Is there anything that we missed that you would like to share?

I always like to mention that these techniques in my work come with a lot of historical context that can be disheartening. This includes historical and contemporary genocide, generational trauma, patriarchy and economic abuses. Ultimately I’ve learned that the best thing I can do as a weaver of carpets and a practitioner of janyak, is to fold in joy and playfulness into these techniques. This has come in many forms including color, image and word play. It is something I see as a future-oriented feature of this practice because in order to make slow cultural work sustainable for ourselves and to ensure continued evolution of this practice, I see joy and even silliness as crucial ingredients.