Photography and words by
Taryn Slawson is known for her bold geometric weavings made mostly from hemp. She lives slightly outside of Santa Fe in the small community of Rio En Medio, where she works and also hosts a rotating art residency, Tanu.
Driving to Taryn’s home from Santa Fe had me feeling like I was in a car commercial, even though I was driving an ancient Honda that had my 4 year old’s signature grime all over it. It’s a 20 minute cruise under a canopy of cottonwood trees in Tesuque and opens up into the rolling hills of Rio En Medio. No wonder Taryn is producing the mesmerizing weavings she does. She’s done an amazing job in creating a very intentional life for herself and her weaving practice. Taryn’s home is small but just the right size for her and her two looms. It’s perched up on a hill sounded by sky and miles of piñon and juniper. Most of the home has floor-to-ceiling windows which she keeps open, so it has a real indoor/outdoor vibe. It feels clear, clean and crisp. It feels like a place made to focus and not be distracted by the clutter and noise of everyday life. Taryn showed me around her home, made me tea, and before I knew it 4 hours had gone by.
Here’s a bit from Taryn and her life in New Mexico:
Tell us a little bit about your experience moving to New Mexico and more specifically, Rio En Medio in the last year. How do you feel the landscape and the solitude has changed you?
The decision to move here was a commitment to follow my heart. Perhaps the first time that I have made a life changing decision without letting my linear/logical thought processes of the mind interfere. The way I experienced the transition from my previous life circumstances to coming here was like going through a portal, or actually a series of portals. The timing, alignments, and synchronicities that brought me here were too potent to be random guideposts along the way. The way this experience unfolded for me, and continues to do so is a really clear example of how we literally are creating our own reality and the way we choose to live in it.
“It will always be important for me and my creative process to honor my need for periods of solitude, and that is why I knew this location, away from the buzz of town, would be best for me. ”
I thought I was moving out here to hide out in the hills, heal my heart, and make art. While this has definitely been part of my experience out here, Santa Fe has really surprised me. The community here is outstanding, I have met such amazing kind-hearted, and creative people, that I am finding my original vision of solitude in the high desert has totally shifted. Even though I chose to live outside of town and away from much of the community, I feel more satiated than ever before by the relationships I have built here. It will always be important for me and my creative process to honor my need for periods of solitude, and that is why I knew this location, away from the buzz of town, would be best for me. Spending time alone is what allows me to really cultivate my creative energies, the space I am able to access when Im in solitude is invaluable to my work here.
Living so closely with the wild and natural elements of this land has really helped me to fine tune my senses and gain a greater understanding of the interconnectedness of all the forces. The silence I experience out here is such a gift, I love to spend time weaving in my studio listening to nothing but the shifts in the winds. The vast expanse of this high desert landscape has really opened me up to the infinite cycles of all things, and shown me that there are so many layers to this experience. This land has so much to say and I feel that we have only just begun our dialogue together.
I like to ask artist and craftspeople about their relationship with Instagram. It seems more possible now than ever to fashion a career by obtaining commissions and selling artwork through their personal reach on Instagram, but it can also feel detrimental to the integrity of their vision and workflow. Can you talk candidly about your own personal experience with Instagram? What is your process in using it, if any at all?
For the most part I have a really positive experience with Instagram and have so much gratitude for the supportive foundation it has allowed me to create for myself and my creative work. The relationships, connections, and opportunities that have come to me through Instagram have been so of the most powerful catalysts for my creative growth, and I honestly wouldn’t be where I am today without it. I think we can all agree on the beneficial uses of Instagram as an important tool in today’s world, however I think it is important to use it with purpose and intention. Obviously we all use it for different reasons, but I feel that it is worth asking ourselves with every impulse to share a post, “what is the value in sharing this?” It is something I constantly ask myself, as it feels like the amount of content we are exposed to on a daily basis has become so oversaturated that I personally feel like what I am contributing needs to be rooted in a place of authenticity and inspiration.
Why is hemp your chosen material for weaving?
Hemp came to me when I had reached a point of frustration in my early weaving days. My vision never translated with wools or other yarn materials. That sense of connection and communication just wasn’t there, and I started to question if weaving was really even something I could get into. I think it is the texture and durability of the hemp that I really work well with. There is nothing soft or gentle about my overall weaving process, and hemp can handle that. As my relationship to the material matures I am becoming really interested in the vast potential hemp holds for many of our current outdated industries. Once we get to the place of full legalization of industrialized hemp, we can easily transform so many of our unsustainable industrial practices by switching over to a more hemp based economy.
You recently changed the moniker for your weavings from "Future Zulu" to your own name to acknowledge what could be interpreted at appropriation, I admired your willingness to reflect and grow from that. It's a hard line to walk, but I'm curious where you draw the difference between inspiration and appropriation. (SIDE NOTE: If this feels heavy, no pressure to answer! I just think it's a super relevant topic that we all could talk about more.)
I have been reflecting heavily on this as it feels like a really relevant issue that is needing to be discussed right now. While I am still not sure I have come to full clarity on everything this topic entails, it does feel highly subjective and a matter of personal perception. What is genuinely inspiring to one could easily be seen as appropriation from another’s perspective. I think it is important when ‘borrowing’ or taking inspiration from another culture or a realm of existence outside of your own to do so with respect and proper acknowledgment. But I also think as an artist it is inherent to our imaginative processes to explore beyond our own narrow perspectives and in order to keep up the progression of artistic creativity realms outside of our own experience will naturally influence the work. I personally believe that we are all one, sharing in this collective experience together, over and over again. Energy, inspiration, thoughts, ideas, ways of self expression- these are all infinite and without limitation. Meaning we all have access to what resonates with our current experience and should be allowed the freedom to express what we feel is authentic to our unique selves. However, the majority of humanity is still very separated in duality and judgment, and we all have a lot of work to do as we strive towards unification through a greater understanding of one another’s experiences.
What is your process in weaving? From the beginning to the end. Also, it seems so repetitive! Do you get bored or is it kind of meditative?
Well, I have a creative process, and I have a weaving process, and they are two completely different things! I have to be somewhat systematic to be effective and accomplish anything, and this is what my weaving process is all about, it is a systematic approach. I understand things in series and sequence, so my weaving process is comprised of a series of steps that build on off of the other to create the larger dynamic whole. I start with the pattern, which either comes to me directly, like in a vision, or it starts with a shape or motif that I transform into pattern. The pattern is really important in that it needs to communicate a certain frequency of energy, it needs to be able to hold the power I am attempting to communicate. Once I have the pattern I figure out how to break it down into sections, which are woven as panels and hand sewn together to create the larger piece. To put it this way seems brief, when really the overall process is extremely deep and time consuming to say the least! I’m currently working on getting video documentation of my process together so that people can see what really goes into each piece. I spend hours upon hours literally repeating the same monotonous motions, usually alone, and often in total silence, but I never get bored. It is a great time for me to sit and reflect and pay attention to my internal dialogue. Weaving has taught me so much about myself and I feel like it is a great reflection back onto me of where I’m at in my life. But often I feel that my weaving practice is actually just a training process for the next stage of my creative unfoldment. Like once I master the lessons of the loom I may not need the practice like I do now, and for this reason I sometimes hesitate to even call myself a weaver, as it seems like only a fraction of what I am here to creatively explore.
Can you talk us through what a usual day in the life of Taryn is like?
Since moving here, and settling into a different pace of life, I have yet to find a typical flow to my days. Honestly everyday is different and also they are all one in the same if that makes sense! I really thrive with routine and structure in my life, which is also something I find extremely challenging to manage as a self employed artist. I spend a lot of time exploring what the ideal balance between routine and structure is while allowing myself the necessary time for creative nourishment and play. The refinement of this “ideal” daily routine is like a ongoing side art project in and of itself! But to give you an idea of how I typically flow through time, my days tend to look like this- I appreciate rising early and following the natural cycles of the sun, so spending a little time with the sun every morning is super important to my overall vitality and well being. I have a strong and dedicated energetic enhancement practice, (for lack of a better term), but it basically means that everyday I take time to follow a series of energetic practices given to me by my teacher to keep my energy fields intact and coherent, this is really important for my personal and creative process. I’m big on nourishment and enjoy eating a clean and healthy diet. I prefer to fuel myself in the most optimal way so that I can exist in my fullest vitality. For me this means eating as local to my environment as possible, I love the farmers market and I feel really nourished supporting the thriving local agriculture scene here in New Mexico. Some form of daily movement or exercise is pretty crucial for me, but it varies in what that is on a daily basis. I really enjoy walking, especially long distances, and it is a pretty important part of my overall creative process to allow myself the time to do so. Lately I’ve really been enjoying heading into town in the evenings and wandering around all the charming streets of Santa Fe. Aside from these daily practices the majority of my time is spent in my studio, mostly in production mode. And when I’m not working I love to spend time engaging creatively with all the amazing new people who have come into my life!