A whiz in a variety of mediums (weaving, silk screening, pom-pom making… you name it), artist Dana Haim works out of a Brooklyn studio that’s an endless treasure trove of inspiration. Ahead of her upcoming pom pom workshop at Space Ninety 8, we take a peek into her life and find out more about the inspiration behind her work.
Photos by Frankie Marin
Hi Dana! Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I was born and raised in Miami, FL to Colombian parents. I went to college in Providence, RI at RISD (Rhode Island School of Design). After school, I spent some time traveling abroad and lived in Tel Aviv as a freelancer for a few years. I then moved to London to get an MA in design for textile futures at Central Saint Martins. I currently reside in Brooklyn NY.
Do you remember when you first became interested in art in a more serious way? If so, can you tell us about it?
My mother is a talented artist and designer, so watching her work growing up was a huge inspiration for me. Even as a small child, I remember the giddy excitement I felt from the smells of her oil paints and turpentine. I’ve been drawing for as long as I can remember, and my parents totally encouraged it, letting me turn my childhood bedroom into four walls and a ceiling for art and graffiti. It was wall-to-wall COVERED in drawings and sketches. I had a giant basket of crayons at the entrance of my room and people would come over and go to town. It really felt like a creative sanctuary for me. I also remember endlessly playing with My-First-Sony electronic drawing pad with my sister. In high school I was constantly doodling and drawing, even when I wasn’t supposed to. Eventually I realized that art was not really an optional activity for me.
What was your time at RISD like? Did you study one thing in particular there?
I attended a high school magnet art program for my last 2 years of high school, and then I went on to get my BA at RISD where I was exposed to so much. In our freshmen year we endured a pretty rigorous and quite formative foundation year where the focus was on the basics, from drawing and painting to studies in 3D and art history. I loved how free and experimental this year was as we were encouraged to really push ourselves beyond our limits. I remember spending a lot of that year at RISD’s renowned nature lab studying from their comprehensive collection of natural specimens, plants, and taxidermy. It is such an inspiring place and we would get lost in there for hours on end. I went on to major in Textile Design. I focused on weaving, machine knitting, and screen-printing. I also did an MA program in London where we learned all about innovative materials, new processes, sustainability, smart textiles, and more.
We read that you started your business by designing wallpapers and then expanded to mobiles and textiles. Do you have a favorite medium to work in or does it vary?
I fell in love with weaving while studying textiles at RISD and it continues to be the medium that excites me. It is very time consuming and requires a lot of patience, but there is something meditative about it that makes me feel complete. I also love how global and culturally significant it is to so many communities worldwide. I see as a portal to immerse myself deeply with various cultures that I couldn’t access otherwise. Weaving to me is quite literally the art of connecting things and works so well for me as a universal language.
We love that you’re known for your pom poms. What made you decide to start creating those?
I did a very special project just after receiving my MA where I was commissioned to make a memorial quilt for Wieden + Kennedy’s London office. They wanted to create a tribute to Martin Cole, who was a beloved member of the WK team. We figured a quilt was the appropriate way to do it, as he loved fashion, textiles, and parties (the quilt would serve as a sound buffering curtain in the main event space). I was asked to make thousands of pom-poms for that project. Later on, when launching my wallpaper line, I made some more elaborate and marbled style pom-poms to decorate my booth with and people loved them. So I kept making them.
And you even give workshops on how people can make their own pom-poms. Were you surprised by the demand for them?
When I was in London for the last 2 weeks of the quilt project, I sat around the office space with tons of Martin’s friends and colleagues making pom-poms. This gave me a chance to get to know everyone who loved him. It was a very emotional and powerful experience. Something about sitting together and making these little yarn puffs allowed people to just talk openly to me about Martin and themselves. I realized then that there is something quite therapeutic in that process and I believe that is why the demand is there. I think people yearn for connectivity with themselves and with other people, and these workshops are a simple and fun way to do it.
While we’re on the topic, can you tell us a little bit about your workshops?
They are so fun! We sit around and have drinks and snacks while I teach people my various techniques for making my style of pom-poms and pom-pom shapes. Depending on the workshop, I also will teach various ways for finishing the poms for example, stranding them into garlands, mobiles, or making key chains or bag ties with them. They are a great way for me to get to know fellow craft and textile people in communities and to engage with them. I also love getting out of my studio and meeting new people, so it’s always a positive experience to open up and connect with like-minded folks. I also really enjoy seeing how happy my students leave the class.
When working with colors, are there any specific ones that you’re always drawn to?
Iridescence, bioluminescence, fluorescents! I love every color and I especially love finding them in nature. I think RISD and being an '80s kid taught all my friends and I to love neon but lately I have been challenging myself to work with more toned down, earthy palettes. I am obsessed with mineral springs and rivers and the various pure aquatic/azure colors, mixed with the tones of sands, rocks, and mud often found there. I am currently developing a new collection of rugs and home goods and I am trying to work only with natural dyes, which come with their set of constraints, but I find those parameters exciting and challenging.
What do you think your strength is as an artist? Your weakness?
This is a tough question. I think my strength does lie in fearlessness when it comes to color. It has always come quite naturally to me and I was never one to shy away from using it in my work. I love to travel with my husband and I think of that as a kind of strength too. It is risky and can get expensive and exhausting, but it exposes me to all kinds of new stimuli, which to me as an artist and human is essential. It is not always easy and sometimes we go to tough places or are running out of resources and energy; however in the end, it is always worth it and I believe really does serve me as an artist and human. As far as weaknesses, it’s very hard for me to say no to things, which I am starting to have to do. I don’t like disappointing people.
What’s your favorite part about living and working in New York City? Do you ever see yourself moving elsewhere?
Living in New York City was always my dream. My grandmother was born and raised in Brooklyn and my sister went to NYU, so I have been coming to NY since I was little. I knew from the moment I got to the city, that I did not want to leave. Something about the constant hustle and energy is very profound. I just love the fact that we are all in it together in a way. There is something deeply moving about that. I love walking down the street and getting to see lots of different points for inspiration just between my doorstep and the bodega. I like urban messes and graffiti and different cultures blending every day. For somebody who is obsessed with travel, NY is great because it’s kind of an all access pass to the whole world if you want it to be. I could see myself living in lots of other places too, like out somewhere out West, or an island somewhere.
Can you tell us five things you’re currently SUPER into?
1. Natural Dyes
2. Coconut oil
4. The Abyssinians
5. Neroli Orange blossom essential oil facial mist.
Favorite moment of 2015 so far?
Jumping in to the Yuba River for the first time and meeting my new nephew Harry! Sorry, that’s 2!
If you're in the NYC area, you can check out one of Dana's workshops for yourself at Space Ninety 8 (98 N. 6th St) on October 8 from 7-9pm. For more info and to purchase tickets, click here.