Adrienna Matzeg, courtesy of the designer.

2023 DesignTO Festival Awards winner, designer Adrienna Matzeg, talks to us about photography, Covid’s influence on her practice and the impact of architecture in her work.

How would you describe your profession and your practice?

I’m drawn to the narrative quality of both photography and textiles – the combination of these mediums really drives my practice. My current work is created using the punch needle embroidery technique and explores themes of nostalgia through representations of travel destinations. By reducing the subject matter to simplified colours, shapes and fragments, I’m exploring how we recall memories and how we idealize them. 

Has your work changed over the course of your career?

My background is in media arts. I studied both photography and textiles at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design (NSCAD U). I found both of the mediums powerful tools for storytelling because they are both familiar mediums to us – we interact with both images and textiles on a daily basis. My artistic practice really kick-started during Covid in 2020. I took up punch needle embroidery and immediately found that it aligned with everything I am passionate about in both design and art. I’m drawn to mediums that require a certain amount of precision, but with strict parameters. For example, I am limited to the colour of threads available and even to the size of the piece I can make. At the moment I am making framed 2-D pieces, but in the future I’d like to explore more three-dimensional pieces. 

Hands in the process of doing punch needle work.
In the studio, courtesy of Adrienna Matzeg.
What was your”eureka!” moment that made you realize that art/design was the route you wanted to take?

In the final semester of my photography degree at NSCAD U, I decided to take a screen printing and repeating pattern course. It really opened my eyes to the possibility that design could be a career path. Shortly after graduating, I was offered an internship at Umbra where I started my career as a Graphic Product Designer.

Is your work inspired by anything in particular? What turns you on creatively?

I find inspiration by looking back through pictures I have taken while traveling. This practice started when we were in lockdown, and looking through my photos became a welcome escape. I have an upcoming holiday planned where I am looking forward to finding new inspirations. Colour is also a big point of inspiration for me. After establishing the subject matter, the selection of colour is really what propels the story I want to tell. 

Which designers or artists inspire you and why?

Aldo Rossi’s multi-disciplinary design practice spanning architecture, furniture, accessories and textiles inspired the work I showed in my 2023 DesignTO Festival exhibition, ‘Mementos’. His ideology around architecture and memory was a jumping off point for the project. The handmade textiles in ‘Mementos’ were interpretations and celebrations of motifs from Rossi’s work. My tapestry design took inspiration from Rossi’s studies of beach cabins and his furniture piece Cabina dell’Elba. The motif represents a nostalgia for summer while at the same time being characteristically theatrical. It appears throughout many of his illustrations and eventually took the form of a clothing wardrobe. My tapestry design plays with space and movement of the beach cabin motif, using the repeating stripes as the vehicle. 

(L)’Destinations’ by Adrienna Matzeg, part of the 2021 DesignTO Festival; (R) Designer Adrienna Matzeg in front of ‘Destinations’ installation at Maguire, 2021. Photos courtesy of the designer.
What was the name of your DesignTO Festival exhibition and what did attendees experience?

I exhibited a series of handmade textile pieces inspired by the work of designer Aldo Rossi in my exhibition ‘Mementos’ at the 2023 DesignTO Festival. It included three punch needle pieces made by me, plus a tapestry produced in collaboration with Creative Matters – a floor and wall covering design studio based in Toronto. My 2021 exhibition titled ‘Destinations’, featured six punch needle pieces inspired directly from photos taken while traveling. Two of these pieces have been acquired by Earl’s restaurant at Yorkdale. 

How long have you been involved with DesignTO? Why is DesignTO important to the creative community?

I’ve been involved with the DesignTO Festival since 2015 when I started working at Umbra. Each year Umbra and DesignTO collaborate on a prototype exhibition which is on display at the Umbra concept store. I decided to apply to show my own work there during the 2021 Festival, a goal I worked towards during the lockdown in 2020. The reason I get involved in the Festival is because it is an amazing creative outlet and opportunity to share my own art practice with the community. I love that the Festival celebrates all creative mediums and blurs the lines between art and design. DesignTO is not only important to the creative community, but makes design more accessible and visible to other industries too. 

Do you have any memories from past DesignTO Festivals you want to share?

During my exhibition ‘Mementos’ in January 2023, I hosted an event in collaboration with The Monocle Shop and Creative Matters. I was blown away by the turnout at the event and the variety of people that attended. I met people that were just interested in learning more about the Festival, and other creatives in the community that I had only ever chatted with online. Collaborating with local shops is such an amazing way to make design more accessible. The DesignTO Festival is a perfect time to collaborate with other artists, designers and industries. I had an amazing time collaborating with Creative Matters on the tapestry. They are wonderful people and the quality of their work is exceptional. 

(L)’Mementos’ exhibition by Adrienna Matzeg at Monocle Shop Toronto, part of the 2023 DesignTO Festival; (R) ‘Mementos’ exhibition interior, 2023. Photos courtesy of the designer.

Want to show your work at the 2024 DesignTO Festival? Visit our How to Participate in the 2024 DesignTO Festival page for more information.