Interview with Olive Kraus

Angela interviews Olive Kraus about their collaboration, her work, process… and her beautiful cats!

Our latest collaboration with artist, Olive Kraus has been a very fun creative project. I’m a big fan of Olive’s work and admire how she works, in her studio in Missouri, surrounded by beautiful cats!

Where our company has evolved over the years and has ventured in and out of different collections, products and business models – we have always been a team of people working toward shared goals.

Collaborations with other artists and designers are always a highlight. Learning about how people work, what inspires them and why they do it – is fascinating to me. Olive and I speak a shared language of color, pattern and spontaneous design. I love how she lets the day guide her through her design process, letting her work come to life on its own, by not holding back and just letting it rip as she goes. I greatly admire how independent and resourceful she is. If she has a goal or a dream – she sets about making it happen – on her own, step by step. I have a life partner who is also my business partner and we have an amazing team that we work with to make our dreams come true. Different approaches to how we work, but with a lot of the same influences and inspirations.

Hello Olive! As you know, I am a huge fan of your work and this collaboration has been a lot of fun. Will you please share a bit about your history and the path you took to becoming a textile artist?

My mother was a fabric nut. Truly! I spent many childhood hours playing under the huge wooden tables in fabric stores. She was a quilter, member of the embroidery guild, formed a sewing group and also orchestrated the town bicentennial memorial quilt, which was hand quilted in our living room and hangs in the town museum. Of course she sewed a lot of my clothes. I started making latch hook rugs as a kid, later hand hooking with recycled wool I dyed from thrift store clothes and blankets. My first love was always jewelry. I could just never tune out the lure of textiles.

I find it very interesting that you live smack dab in the middle of the US, in Missouri. How does the Midwest influence your work? Have other places been influential in your creative journey?

It doesn’t. And it’s not interesting to me. Perhaps the influence, if any, is that I feel so alien here, and isolated, that it allows me to fully focus, monk-like, on my art. I grew up outside NYC. My parents always took us to art museums in the city. I traveled a lot abroad after college. Studied abroad, lived abroad, then moved to Taos, NM – which is aesthetically beautiful and filled with like-minded, creative souls.

If you could choose any place in the world to live – where would it be?

Everywhere. That’s the problem, and explains my Zillow obsession. I can imagine multiple lives in multiple locations. Always thought I’d end up living in another country. I’m drawn to water and mountains. Currently thinking: Taos (again), Pittsburgh, and Maine.

Did you do craft projects as young girl? Any projects or stories that you think of as an early turning point for you?

The latch hook, mentioned above, but pivotal point was my Dad giving me a book on paper beads in 5th grade and we had my birthday party making them, rolling up shopping bags, decorating and dipping them in yummy beeswax. I made paper bead necklaces up through high school when I started metalsmithing.

What other crafts to you like to do?

Jewelry, fiber sculpture, watercolor frescos, hand hooking, knitting, crochet, etc. Always experimenting.

I have to talk about cats with you because not only do we share a love of textiles, but we are both cat lovers. What is it about cats that makes you connect with them so?

Cats are deep and non demanding. Perfect studio companions. As the only beings that live with me, they are also my family. My fave Auntie only had cats (at least 8 at any given time), not kids, so I grew up with someone who more than worshipped them.

We have named a lot of our designs after cats and dogs and we are always looking for new namesakes. Please share your cats names – maybe they will have rugs named after them one day.

Currently: Franklin, Fenwick, Wilma and Gizmo (my aunt’s cat who came to live with me when she passed). Other departed ones include: Fiz, Festus, Beasley, Smedley, Pip, and Felix.

Your process is very intuitive – you don’t set up a detailed plan for a design – you just dive right in, which I can totally relate to. Can you share a bit about that and how your favorite pieces have come about?

The goal is not to think. Or think as little as possible. With the rugs – I am drawn to some colors that day, I grab the yarn and start. Then I wait to “be told or guided” to the next color, the next shape. I find when I try to think or plan- it comes out looking forced, overworked or blah. Of course, this could all be pure laziness on my part!

Do you listen to music while you work?

Sometimes silence – otherwise I listen to WKCR – the jazz and classical radio out of Columbia U. (NYC). I like Bach, early (1700’s) Christian church music, baroque, jazz, The Roches, folk music, Sufi. I love all things punk but usually opt for a calm sanctuary music feel while working.

Do you have a hero?

Gees. Eleanor Roosevelt, Amelia Earhart, Dr. Martin Luther King, Woody Guthrie.

Can you describe one of your most cherished possessions – and why it is so meaningful to you?

I have a pipe cleaner bird cage with a swinging bird inside that I made for ballet class recital in kindergarten. No idea how it survived. Anything from childhood, handmade things, things attached to memory. I found a lot of childhood objects after my Aunt died. Not mine – but duplicates of things she’d given me – a Fat Cat coloring book from the ‘70s – found randomly on a shelf in her basement, a stuffed mouse – but perfectly preserved – my actual mouse long gone. Personal memory archeology- like time traveling.