“The earliest memory I have of being creative is making clothes for my cats,” says Daisy Tortuga. Growing up in the seaside town of Deal in Kent, from a young age the multi-disciplinary artist was actively encouraged by her parents to experiment with creative pursuits such as painting, sewing, knitting, clay modelling and more.
“I think there is something special about small seaside towns and I feel so lucky to have grown up in that environment. Being an only child, I think I tended to live more in my own imaginary world, where things made sense. In this place, I collected all my little objects and coloured the world from my own perspective,” Tortuga adds.
Today, there is a distinctly nostalgic bent to Tortuga’s work, which draws on the way she viewed the world as a child. Since studying illustration at Kingston, her practice has centred around using found objects and craft to make statements, expressing herself in mediums ranging from writing to wax sculpture.
Tortuga still considers herself to be an illustrator, even if she uses materials that are not traditionally associated with the discipline. It’s unsurprising then that she cites outsider artists such as Henry Darger, Bill Traylor and Vivian Maier as some of her biggest creative influences.
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“I’m interested in these people because they made work for the pure joy of making alone, it’s so beautiful to me to see the core values of creativity without the hindrance of popularity,” she says.
While rugs have been part of Tortuga’s practice since her uni days, it is only over the past year that she has fallen in love with the process of rug making. “I used to do a lot of sewing, appliqué and beading to make images, and making rugs feels like a continuation of that,” she explains.
“People seem excited by the process and drawn to the tactile quality of the work. The process also feels quite new; the tufting gun tool seems to have led to a sort of renaissance in rug making, and is allowing more and more people to get into creating textiles.”
Over the last 12 months, the popularity of Tortuga’s playful, pop culture-infused rug designs have led to collaborations with everyone from adidas and Nando’s to sustainable trainer brand Saye.
Her favourite collaboration to date, however, has been an ongoing project with other artists including with Rachel Hodgson, Katy Daft and Nina Kersy. “I send a piece of fabric backing to the artist and they then hand draw on the design, post it back and I make it into a rug,” she explains.
“There is freedom for me with the colour choices, allowing for some reinterpretation of the original image. I think it is really exciting to work in this way, especially during a time when we can’t go out and meet new people or see work in real life.”
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While rug making is her first love for now, Tortuga is keen to continue exploring other avenues of textile design in the future – whether it be clothing or ceramics.
“My hope for my career is that I can continue to work with creative flexibility and sustain myself from my work, while not being completely tied into being a rug maker,” she says. “I hope that people recognise my style and can see that style in other processes.”