Stomping boots and pouting lips, Taylor Silk’s woven women are icons of female sexuality
Introduced to underground art by the comics of Robert Crumb when she was young, Taylor's woven artworks comment on sexuality, queerness and feminism.
- Peach Doble
- 12 December 2019
Essex-based illustrator Taylor Silk creates textural works depicting powerful women. “I like to make imagery of women that inspire me,” she tells It’s Nice That.
After graduating from London College of Communication, Taylor was kicked out of her east London studio because of the lack of oxygen – “must’ve been that stereotypical illustrator breathing,” she jokes. Now back in her hometown in Essex, she lives with her Nan, working and volunteering on the side of creating her artworks.
The works in question are often referred to as “Porn Rugs”; hand-made rugs influenced by the flamboyant nature of 1970s printed porn, of which she owns stacks. Commenting on sexuality, queerness and feminism, her pieces reclaim the gaze to form empowering images of female rebellion.
After being given a Crumb comic when she was young, Taylor was immediately drawn to underground art, but her schoolteachers discouraged her. “I was told it was a low form of art and was pushed away from it,” she tells us. She found her way back to radical illustration years later, after discovering the works of Melinda Gebbie, Dori Seda, Phoebe Gloeckner and Margaret Kilgallen.
On a visit to Berlin, Taylor came across an old handmade rug at a flea market. “I was obsessed, I had to work out how I could make myself one,” she says. Taylor then spent hours watching how-to videos by sweet old American women, and began experimenting. “The process of rug tufting is very similar to drawing, it just feels like I am drawing with wool,” she adds.
In line with tactile makers such as Louise Bourgeois and Tracey Emin, Taylor re-appropriates the gendered labour of textiles. “I remember reading that Louise Bourgeois’ mother made a collaged tapestry of penises and vaginas that, as a seamstress for aristocrats’ tapestries, she had been ordered to remove… that’s the energy I’m aiming to replicate,” she tells us.
Taylor’s creative process usually starts in her sketchbook, where she jots down quick things she hears and sees. She then revisits these ideas with oil pastels, drawing thick lines onto paper that she cuts up and sticks back together to find the right composition. Stylistically, Taylor feels these pieces are still a work in progress. “They evolve and change with every piece I make,” she says. “Aesthetically, I like big nipples – it started off as a joke with friends and escalated, but now I make them as big as I can,” she continues.
Her recent exhibition Soft Porn held at Plaza Plaza in Elephant and Castle had a huge turnout, with every inch of wall space covered in rugs. While planning her next show for 2020, Taylor is collaborating with the self-taught artist charity Submit to Love, which supports the creativity of brain injury survivors, one work of which was recently used for Humming Dogs’ album cover.