Updated: Aug 8, 2019
Micah Clasper-Torch, Textile Artist & Fashion Designer, Los Angeles, CA
Drawing inspiration from her travels, the natural world, and architecture, Micah creates collections of one-of-a-kind art pieces that range from functional items like clothing and rugs, to wall hangings and art. These days her work is almost exclusively centered around a technique called punch needle, with a goal to showcase and elevate what is traditionally seen as a "craft" and integrate it into contemporary high fashion and works of art. Micah's mission is to highlight the inherent value in making things by hand and the importance of keeping traditional and hand techniques alive.
Have you always wanted to be an artist? What inspired you to start creating?
Growing up, creativity was highly encouraged by my parents, and I have been experimenting with various mediums since I was a child. From drawing, painting, pastels, jewelry making, collage, mixed media sculpture and sewing, I dabbled in a little of everything before going to school for fashion design. Though creativity and art has always been a massive part of my life, it is only recently that I have felt comfortable calling myself an artist – for a long time I tried to reroute my creativity into safer/more accepted career paths. My inspiration is driven by a love of the process itself – creating has always been very meditative and calming – as well as the thrill and sense of accomplishment that comes from making something beautiful or functional with my own two hands.
Where do you find inspiration?
I find inspiration while observing and interacting with beauty and design in every day life. Architecture, furniture, fashion, flora and fauna can all be the catalyst for a new idea. My best ideas are sparked when traveling and immersing myself in new surroundings, cities and cultures, or when I am outside in nature. The relationship and balance between color, shape and form is at the heart of my work and I find inspiration for this everywhere.
How have you, as an artist, found your creative voice?
Allowing myself to evolve, and having many different creative and professional experiences has helped me learn about my own design sense and direction to this point, and helped to reinforce my belief in the importance of making things by hand – both for us as individuals and as a society. I'm still finding my voice, and recently my journey has been focused on unlearning a lot of the things I've learned over the past 7 years while immersed in the startup and corporate design worlds, and allowing myself to return to experimentation, and being more free with the work that I create.
Where do you create your artwork?
I have a studio not far from my home in Highland Park, where I go to work on my art each day. It is small but filled with light, and it brings me so much joy to have a space of my own dedicated to creativity!
What is your typical day like?
I wake up around 7:30 am and start my morning with coffee and a book on my porch. I post to Instagram and journal for about 30 minutes or so before reviewing my bullet journal / to-do list for the day. I head to the studio by 9:30 am, where I dive into my punch needle work until I remember to eat lunch somewhere around 1 or 2 pm, after which I pick up working again. Some days I'll leave the studio by 4:30 pm to meet a friend for a drink or go for a run, which I find to be a nice transition between working and relaxing into an evening at home, and other days I'll continue working until around 6:30 pm when I start to lose steam. If I don't have an event to attend, my husband and I eat dinner pretty early, usually by 6:30 or 7 pm. He's an amazing cook and sitting down for a meal and a glass of wine with him at the end of the day is one of my favorite things. After dinner I sometimes pick up work again, but it's very easy for my mind to become consumed with work and my to do list 24/7, so I try to protect my evenings at home as a time to relax and be inspired in other ways, like reading. We travel pretty frequently so when I'm at home I really enjoy having a steady routine!
Do you have any advice for aspiring artists or creative business people?
Prioritize making the art, learn through doing, and don't be afraid to share before you're "ready". This is advice I constantly need to remind myself of as well – I have the tendency to overthink the end purpose of work that I make, and probably spend far too much time planning what I will do with work that hasn't been created yet. However, the biggest priority every day should be on continuing to make new work, and I often find that questions I have about the direction I should be going are answered through the process of creating. I'd also encourage artists to experiment and not to worry about how to categorize themselves – sometimes our work takes us in wonderful directions we could never have expected.
How do you build community as an artist? How has the creative community helped you grow and share your art?
I've been so pleasantly surprised by how wonderful the creative community on Instagram has been! I have a love/hate relationship with social media as I'm sure many people do, but especially within the fiber arts and punch needle community, I've found a lot of support and begun to forge real friendships through those platforms. I've only been living in LA for 3 years, so I'm still building my creative community on the ground here, but there are some amazing organizations and events I've attended, including one I'm involved with called Textile Arts LA. I am excited to continue to meet and collaborate with other artists in Los Angeles and beyond!
What artists inspire you? Do you have any favorite blogs, artists, or social media accounts that you’d like to share?
I follow a lot of artists and illustrators, which is a great inspiration to my color palette and sense of composition. When I lived in NYC I worked with a lot of neutrals and a pretty minimalist palette, but since living in California I've been inspired to go bolder with my colors and am drawn to artwork that is fun, out of the box, and makes me smile. I also love the Ello social platform – I'm not as active on it as I'd like to be but every time I do log in I am so inspired. Some artists I'm following on Instagram: Alexandra Kehayoglou, Ashley Longshore, Mattea Perrotta, Heather Day, and Vanessa Barragao.
What are you most excited about right now?
I just completed a 60 hour program in Vermont with Amy Oxford, the founder of the Oxford Punch Needle, to become certified as an Oxford Punch Needle Instructor. I learned so many exciting new techniques to incorporate into my work, from shading and sculpting and working with various sizes of needle! I am bursting with endless ideas and can't wait to bring them to life. Being certified as an instructor also provides me a huge base of knowledge and resources to teach this technique as well, and I can't wait to begin teaching and sharing this craft with others.
All photos provided by Micah Clasper-Torch.