Kayla Mattes

February 10, 2014

Kayla Mattes (b. 1989) is a visual artist whose practice blends together a combination of textiles and new media. Influenced by kitsch aesthetics and popular culture she utilizes hand weaving, knitting machines, digital painting, and material experimentations to craft a world of playful vibrancy. She is continuously intrigued by the parallels between pixel and knit. Mattes was born in California and received her BFA in Textiles from Rhode Island School of Design. She currently lives and works in Portland, Oregon.


Tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do. I’m an artist currently living in the mystical Pacific Northwest. My work blends together textiles and digital media. My practice takes the form of many different mediums­ machine knitting, digital painting/collage, weaving, etc. I’m influenced by pop­culture, color and texture, kitschy consumerism and the way that humans interact with technology. I also have a jewelry line that has evolved as an outlet for my material experimentations.


How has living in Portland affected your work? It’s been a crazy transitional year since I moved from Los Angeles to Portland last summer. These two places are polar opposites in so many ways and the move has definitely encouraged a shift in my work philosophy. In LA, I launched my jewelry line which initially meant working in a very structured ‘season’ based rhythm. I quickly came to realize this method of working was restricting and monotonous and that my work should not always take the form of wearable or consumable objects. Since moving to Portland, I’ve taken this into account and my practice is becoming less design based. Portland is an amazing city to be an artist because it’s affordable and has a strong creative presence. Plus, the forests in Oregon are pretty psychedelic.


What are some recent, upcoming or current projects you are working on? I’m working on a few different projects right now. One is a knitted series based on Snapchat. I’m interested in the way Snapchat’s ephemeral nature affects peoples relationships. The spontaneity built into its design encourages a silly sincerity and expressive exaggeration in its users. After using the app pretty excessively with my boyfriend, I realized that we had a certain way of communicating through Snapchat that virtually made no presence in the face to face reality of our relationship. I’m using this web­based service that sells custom photographic industrially knit blankets for birthdays, weddings, etc to eternalize the impermanent sentimentality of Snapchat’s.
For the past few months my practice has also been pretty heavily weaving based. I’ve most recently been working on a series of textural abstractions. With these pieces I’ve been focusing on the coexistence of different heights and densities of mish­moshed texture and color. I’m imagining these textural pieces will eventually take a more sculptural form. I like to weave in a very meditative and painterly way, throwing on scraps of color and letting the piece transform organically.
I’ve also been finishing up some new jewelry designs influenced by material experimentations with heat shrink tubing.


Any current or upcoming events you are involved in that we should know about? In April I’ll be heading out to San Francisco for a month long artist residency at Little Paper Planes. During my stay I’ll be analyzing pizza in pop­culture. Over the past few months I’ve spontaneously woven a few pizza slices, which eventually made me question the ‘coolness’ of pizza and how a food can become culturally cool in the first place. I’m super excited to see how the project unfolds and to explore the Bay Area! During my stay I’ll also be teaching a weaving class, plus the residency will culminate in an exhibition and publication.


Describe your current studio or workspace. My studio is set up in a room in my current house in SE Portland. It’s an old converted attic space with geometric slanted ceilings and plenty of natural light. My bedroom is conjoined with the studio space and separated by french doors. It’s convenient for bed lounging when I’m working on my laptop, but when I’m next door in the studio you can usually find me working on the floor. It’s stuffed full of yarn, materials, knitting machines, books, and various projects in the works. My bedroom next door has a shelf full of collectables: neon dice, a blueberry iBook, bouncy balls, an Obama Chia Pet, miniature globes and pineapples, and a collection of old computer games including Rollercoaster Tycoon.


What’s your absolute favorite place in the city/the world to be? I’m still adjusting to the reality of being a quick drive away from a rainforest. I’ve never appreciated the color green so much until I moved to Oregon. The forests are monochrome green and lush with different kinds of ferns and moss. It’s a refreshing and magical place to decompress.

What kinds of things are influencing your work right now? Pizza head commercials, boucherouite rugs, and grid­work/nature textures in old computer games

Tell us about your work process and how it develops? My process is a mix of visual collecting and material experimentation. If you were to look through my desktop you’d find countless folders of ideas in the form of JPEGS. Right now I have a folder containing screenshots of unusual dissolved transitions from TV shows, another folder with bizarre pictures of young Leonardo DiCaprio and at least a hundred images of ‘beware/pick up your dog shit’ signs I took with my cellphone while living in LA. Some of these documentations and observations evolve into finalized ideas, others remain as collections on my desktop. Combining and creating materials is the other part of my process and this is usually done in conjunction with all of my visual collecting. The two inform each other and eventually lead to a finalized body of work.


Top 3 favorite or most visited websites and why? Wikipedia and Netflix are my daily go­to’s. My boyfriend makes some crazy websites: applej.us, he’s working on a total redesign of my website right now too. Expect mazes…