Denja Harris demonstrates tufting using yarn at City College, September 14, 2023. Photo by Bailey Kohnen/City Times Media
Denja Harris demonstrates tufting using yarn at City College, September 14, 2023. Photo by Bailey Kohnen/City Times Media
Bailey Kohnen

Experimental fiber artist gives tufting demonstration at City College

Emerging artist Denja Harris gives an interactive and improvised presentation of her artistic process to City students

Experimental fiber artist Denja Harris stopped by San Diego City College to give a tufting demonstration Sept. 14. 

The event was held in the AH building and hosted by Professor Yvette Dibos from the fine arts department. 

Harris, a San Diego native from Imperial Beach, had previously started learning with embroidery, but eventually wanted to make larger pieces. 

She then stumbled across tufting and was hooked.

Tufting is an ancient embroidery technique used to create rugs, carpets and tapestries. It involves pulling a thread through a base cloth to form a loop.

At the demo, Harris set up her frame at the front of the room with a piece of white primary tufting cloth stretched across it.

Students watch Denja Harris at work on campus, September 14, 2023. The spectators interacted with Harris during the demonstration. Photo by Bailey Kohnen/City Times Media

Students were invited to walk around and see the piece from all sides.

The artist began by outlining the shape she was going for with an electric tufting machine. 

Her work is not planned in advance — she just follows her instincts.

“I’m just expressing whatever feeling or thought I’m processing in the moment,” Harris said.

When the outline was done, she began filling sections of it with color.

Harris explained each tool as she went, switching between electric tufting machines and a manual tufting tool. She also described the yarn she was using, which was mostly recycled.

During the demonstration students were invited to ask questions from which a conversation ensued, ranging from social media use to the artist’s creative process. 

The audience was also encouraged to suggest colors to add to the developing art composition.

The piece started to take shape within the allotted time. 

The piece at the end of the demo on campus September 14, 2023. Photo by Bailey Kohnen/City Times Media

Afterwards, she pointed to the way different colors and textures create a cohesive piece. 

“So I like how this is shaggy and this is flat,” Harris said pointing to the final product, “then we have like a different color and they all meet together and build a bigger conversation within the entire piece.” 

The composition still had some work to go when the hour was up, but some attendees expressed appreciation.

“I thought it was super cool,” Destiny Santiesteban, a studio arts major, said. “I’ve never seen anything like that in person.”

To see more of Harris’s work, check out her instagram @brownacidgoods.

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