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Credit: Julia Hirsch
Class of 2020

Class of 2020: How Molly Haynes Is Reinventing the Ancient Craft of Weaving

published Oct 18, 2019
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Who: Molly Haynes, a New York-based textile artist
Nominated by: Rebecca Atwood, designer, artist, and author of the book “Living With Color
Where to follow her: Instagram

Apartment Therapy’s Class of 2020 Design Changemakers is a specially-selected group of the 20 people in the design world everyone should know about by next year. We asked experts (and you!) to tell us who they think should be included—see the rest of the nominees here.

Why Molly is part of the Class of 2020: “Molly makes beautiful hand-woven art pieces. She works with expressive materials like jute and found rope—which remind me of my coastal upbringing on Cape Cod, gardens with wild grass by Piet Oudolf, and just the way that nature grows in this structured but wild way. There’s a simplicity to her work, but it’s also so tactile and rich. I think she has a strong point of view and explores it. I follow her on Instagram @mollyhaynes_, and I met her when she worked at Pollack textiles. I think she deserves to be in the Apartment Therapy Class of 2020 as she’s someone to watch. She’s working at this intersection of fine art and craft, and her materials connect us back to the tactile world when so much is digital.” —Rebecca Atwood, designer, artist, and author of the book “Living With Color

Molly Haynes didn’t set out to be a textile designer—being gifted at drawing, she was set on a major in illustration when she arrived at RISD. But after taking a machine knitting class on a whim, she became enamored with the sculptural capabilities and the physicality around creating textiles. “I was in love with the process of weaving. It’s very meditative, and I also love how there are so many restraints with weaving,” says the Massachusetts-born artist. “It allows you to really focus in, and actually be more creative through the restrictions, forcing you to narrow down your materials to something that’s conceptually relevant to your ideas.” And while her heart was in fine arts, she pushed herself toward focusing on interiors because, as she puts it, “I wanted to get a job, right?”

Credit: Sophie Fabbri

After spending the past few years designing high-end jacquard fabrics for Pollack Textiles, she realized how much she missed the loom, weaving, and creating just for the sake of creating, with no expectations. So, after a year and a half of working on her own projects while still at Pollack, she started her own studio for fine art textiles, and things have certainly taken off from there.

Haynes says what sets her apart from her peers is that she didn’t learn weaving in the traditional sense. “Weaving is such an ancient craft and there are so many books and information on weaving and how to make a tablecloth or a bedspread or a structure—but since I figured it out on my own, I think I’ve been able to create an aesthetic that’s different and unique.” In fact, she says she’s had a lot of fellow weavers tell her that they don’t quite understand how she’s made certain pieces. “I guess I’m really open to positioning a woven fabric as a fine art piece or sculpture. You can do so much more to a woven fabric than you could if it had to be a functional fabric, which is exciting to me.” We sat down with the innovative textile designer and artist to talk about inspiration from nature, sustainability in design, and the legacy she hopes to leave.

Credit: Sophie Fabbri

Apartment Therapy: What do you remember as being design inspirations growing up? What is your inspiration now?

Molly Haynes: My great-grandfather was a Bulgarian artist and painter, and he did abstract expressionist paintings that are Rothko-esque, but more textural. And then my mom is a chef and very visually gifted with food. I guess you would almost call it food styling, but she’s an artist in her own right.  My mom’s mom was a seamstress and owned a dress company in Boston, so I was lucky to have inspiration in so many ways and places growing up.  

A lot of the time, my inspiration now comes from making and discovering new materials that excite me. From watching marsh grasses blowing in the wind, or striations in a rock, or the burl of a tree that’s growing through a fence—moments where nature is pushing its way through and progressing—just observing natural growth over time really inspires me.

“You can do so much more to a woven fabric than you could if it had to be a functional fabric, which is exciting to me.”

Molly Haynes

AT: What’s your favorite project you worked on in 2019 so far? (and why?)

MH: I did a residency in Maine where we collected all of the used lobster line and just started weaving with it. The lobster line has this very wily, crazy energy which I love. So now I’m working on a series where I’m using this lobster line and embedding it into natural materials to create these sculptural wall hangings, and they present a sort of tension between natural materials and artificial materials. And it’s also great because using the lobster line means you’re recycling a material which is exciting; using found objects that would normally go to a landfill.

Credit: Sophie Fabbri

AT: Is there a specific piece or design of yours that you think is particularly indicative of who you are or what you’re trying to do?

MH: I have one piece that’s called Wind-Shaken, and it’s a hand woven textile that undulates. It’s sort of like a highly structural wall that’s been disrupted by this natural organic movement. And I feel this piece really indicative of my style because of the sculptural quality of it which really takes it out of what would be an expected use for textiles and it becomes a sculpture. I think that piece shows the versatility or the perfect union of strict structure, architectural, and linear but with an organic wildness, which are both things that really inspire me.

AT: What three words would you use to describe your work or style?

MH: I would describe my works as tactile, sculptural, linear abstractions.

Credit: Sophie Fabbri

AT: Any big plans for 2020 or beyond you can share with us?

MH: I’m doing my first collaboration with a fashion designer, which I’m really excited about. I’m going to be hand-weaving, not garments in their entirety, but portions of garments and accessories, which is going to be a lot of fun.

AT: What three words would you use to describe where you see the design world going in 2020?

MH: Sustainability, material-driven, hand-crafted.

AT: What legacy do you hope to leave?

MH: I hope to leave a legacy of innovation and experimentation within the field of textiles, one which could inspire others to honor and pursue ancient crafts and their histories. I’d like to leave behind a body of work that blurs the line between traditional craft, contemporary design, and fine art.