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Get to know… Micah Clasper-Torch

For sisterMAG No. 61 we met virtually with fiber artist and fashion designer Micah Clasper-Torch from Los Angeles for an in-depth interview. In addition to this introduction, she enriches the issue with an historical overview of punch needle techniques, for which she is a true expert, and a punch needle DIY of her own that you can try out for yourself. But for now, get to know Micah in this portrait – enjoy!

Get to know… Micah Clasper-Torch

Fiber artist & fashion designer

We talked with fiber artist and fashion designer Micah Clasper-Torch from Los Angeles—who shares one of her own creations with you here in sisterMAG—about her work, the different stages of her career and the special craft of punch needling of which she is a real expert. We are very pleased that she took the time to talk to us via Zoom for you to be able to get to know the artist.

Micah Clasper-Torch is a fiber artist and fashion designer based in Los Angeles, California. Her work bridges the intersection between art and design—decorative design and fine art—and also experiments with a variety of textiles and materials. Mostly, she works with the mediums of fabric, thread, yarn and paper. She had a few different careers before she got to the point where she is now. She studied fashion design in New York City, and her special focus was tailoring coats and contemporary women’s wear. She really loved fashion school, and her dream at the time was to work for a large fashion company after university or perhaps start her own company. Pretty quickly after graduation in 2009, when it was not easy to get a foothold in the fashion industry, Micah found a job in an art gallery—a furniture design gallery in Chelsea where she learned about designers like Charlotte Perriand or George Nakashima and got a lot of inspiration for her further career. She then understood that there were items that were functional but also bridge that gap between being art.

After three years working for Coach handbags, and a little disillusion in the fashion industry, Micah founded her first own online e-commerce company with a friend in 2010. They shut it down after three years, and Micah’s last stage was working in business development for a start-up in New York. Today, relocated to Los Angeles, her work is divided into two areas: her personal brand Micah Clasper-Torch with a lot of collaborations and one-off commissions for people and the online academy »Punch Needle World« which was founded last year as a separate company based around education. There is her own artwork, on one hand, which is the design oriented aspect: She creates unique coats and jackets, handbags, pillows or mixed-media artworks. On the other hand, there is information sharing about the history of punch needle and different tutorials and techniquessomething Micah would also have wished for when she started punch needling.

When we talk about punch needling, we always have to keep in mind that there are different ways of creating that might not mean the same thing. This is what people sometimes confuse in the beginning. What are these different techniques? Punch needle rug hooking, punch needle embroidery and a technique called »Banka«. Technically, there are three different crafts but some people use the words »punch needling« and think that it all has the same meaning.

So, what is the best way to get started with punch needling? Micah’s tip: The easiest and best projects to start are mainly the smaller projects because you can actually finish them in a short time. It is a lot more fun to have a finished product much sooner than endlessly making one big rug. So start with making little coasters or even small pillows. In Micah’s online courses you get to know the different techniques and the whole history around punch needling. It took her a lot of research in conversations with experts and literature to accumulate this all-encompassing knowledge which she now wants to share with all who are interested in it. From all different techniques to the specific tools and where they come from—the »Punch Needle Academy« gives an overview and is also a good starting point for your own creative ideas. Here you can learn the traditional techniques and then experiment. You will get an understanding of the traditional ways and discover your own afterwards.

Where does Micah get her inspiration from for her own creations? Shapes and colors that cross her path naturally. She absorbs impressions from the environment and the things around her. Los Angeles is a vibrant breeding ground for textile art with a rich history. Therefore, good conditions to work creatively. She has gotten out of the habit of planning pieces precisely beforehand, since a lot usually still changes in the process. So Micah gets right to work and gives her ideas free rein! This results in unique pieces that seem like abstract works of art.

If you now want to become part of the punch needle community and explore your own creativity, check out the »Punch Needle World« website and for more art inspiration and fashion design, the personal website by Micah Clasper-Torch. Learn more about punch needling in our history of the punch needle.