Textile Talk Recording: San Jose Museum of Quilts & Textiles

Contradictions: In Conversation with Ryan Carrington

August 2021

Ryan Carrington (2019) “Star Spangled Banner” Painter’s Pants, Suits, Collared Shirts 70″x66″. Inspired from the original star-spangled banner, which is currently housed in the Smithsonian Museum, Washing DC.

Flag Series- ​By utilising two classic American uniforms from white collar uniforms and blue-collar workwear, Carrington showed that the continued pride in the United States, the country that their workforce upholds can be honoured, revered, and celebrated.  The act of sewing these two different types of clothing together into this hopeful icon is a call for the coming together of the union as one for the artist. Ryan Carrington used his own personal history, the meaning of hard work and the pre-worn work garments and incorporated them into flags to best represent both America’s blue and white-collar workforce to embrace and highlight the very fabric of the nation’s ever-changing society. The artist discussed the ideas behind his work and how his creative practice engages with labour, class, and the American Dream.

Ryan Carrington (2021) Current Exhibit- San Jose Museum of Quilts & Textiles. First Solo Exhibition- Contradictions: In Conversation with Ryan Carrington

Ryan Carrington explores iconic symbols of American culture through unexpected materials and surreal forms. For this artist his work addresses the shift in public perspective towards the culturally defined roles of blue and white-collar workers in the United States. It bridges issues of labour, class, work ethic and economics with his personal and family history. Within his studio practice he delves deep into processes that parallel the monotony and tedium that laborers endure. By using construction materials directly off the shelf from Home Depot, pieces of uniforms that represent America’s workforce, and performing acts of labour while dressed as a CEO, he invites and provokes a discussion about the ever-changing class struggle in the United States. His intent is to provide a conduit for empathy between his stratified society by inspiring dialogue across communities of people that represent the corners of his culture, history, and socio-economic status.


Ryan Carrington is an interdisciplinary artist who uses the idea that the material that something is made from can inform the ideas behind the work. This artist focuses upon materiality and often stated that the medium is used as message. It is the material and how it is used that is crucial to the communication of ideas in the way it is perceived. The artist stressed that he is always looking at different materials and how these materials can best inform the concepts behind the work. For example, by using construction materials directly off the shelf from Home Depot, pieces of uniforms that represent America’s workforce, or performing acts of labour while dressed as a CEO, invited and provoked a response.

Ryan Carrington (2019) “Flag #1” First flag made on show at San Jose Museum of Quilts & Textiles. First Solo Exhibition- Contradictions: In Conversation with Ryan Carrington
Ryan Carrington (2019) “Flag #1” First flag made in the series of twenty-one flags including use of blue-collar work wear and business suits, shirts, and ties with cast cement road cones with all the details from the reflective tape. Current Exhibit- San Jose Museum of Quilts & Textiles. First Solo Exhibition- Contradictions: In Conversation with Ryan Carrington
Ryan Carrington (2021) Textile Talk-Creative Process Explained including the use of numerous business suits with a special focus on denim. The compositional arrangement of the material was the artists preferred part of the creative process as he laid out all the separate piles of similar cloth to enable the planning of each art piece
Ryan Carrington (2020) Textile Talk- “Flag#20” Hospital scrubs, lab coats. Machine Stitched. This art piece honoured Health Care Workers and their hard work especially through COVID-19 and the effects of the pandemic. Detailing from the medic’s uniforms were capitalised upon throughout the flag. Pen marks left in the pockets of the unforms, were highlighted as part of the detailing, looking at the history of the material and the history of the uniform, of utilising the material to tell the stories especially in the larger format.
Ryan Carrington (2019) “Flag #17″ Carpenter’s Pants, Suits, Collared Shirts, and Neckties 36″x68”
Ryan Carrington (2015) Flag #3 Carpenter’s Pants, Suits, Collared Shirts, and Neckties 45″”x24″
Ryan Carrington (2020) “Enough to go around” Scaled up American Pie with plywood. For the artist the message which was communicated was “If all shared everyone would have enough, they would have what they needed”.
Ryan Carrington (2020) Creative Process for gingham-plaid tablecloth which was then inserted into the larger scale installation including the American flag. Materials dyed red and pink in relation to the cotton, cotton-polyester mixed fabrics used which was a learning experience in-process.
Ryan Carrington (2020) Continuing construction of the installation artwork in process to capitalise upon all the detailing from the uniforms used including the white-collar suits and the blue-collar workwear, to honour their work through reverence to and with the material used. Patchwork processes were used using rulers, stencils, a Jerome sewing machine and perseverance alongside compositional experiencing, of the fluid nature of organising the layout of work.
Ryan Carrington (2020) 30 ft Installation in situ at the San Jose Museum of Quilts & Textiles (2021). First Solo Exhibition- Contradictions: In Conversation with Ryan Carrington. American Life celebrated with the integration of American values, symbolism, and work ethic.

The artist grew up in a family that values labour, hard work, and creating with one’s hands. So, his own work bridges issues of labour, class, work ethic and economics with his personal and family history.  Within his studio practice he delves deep into processes that parallel the monotony and tedium that labour endure and of their often-perceived reduced value despite their actual importance. The artist focuses on researching and exploring materials, processes, and relationships.

Ryan Carrington (2017) “Oven Mitt” Brick and Mortar 30″x16″x4″ Carved brick to look padded with shifted scale for noted points of reference.

Through his art, he sheds light on what is personal to him, of his society with a rich history of craftsmanship, process, and precision.  By nurturing a fresh fascination for tools and materials, he provokes consideration for how we all value each other in our ever-changing community through reference to work and society, of what is work and how do we all value the work and labour we do as well as what others do for us? The artist imbues his own personal experiencing, related materials, and family values within the work and the creative processes.

Ryan Carrington (2019) “Rhythm and Tension” 2″x4″‘s and Steel Strapping 180″x108″x36″
Ryan Carrington (2017) Detail from “Framed Square” Laser Cut Carpenter’s Pants, Suits, and Collared Shirts 56″x36″x2
Ryan Carrington (2017) “Framed Square” Laser Cut Carpenter’s Pants, Suits, and Collared Shirts 56″x36″x2

This artist’s own mantra is simply to keep making, to keep on being creative. Even if it means simply getting out the materials and having a look at them it is important that thinking about materials is a part of the creative process. He stated, “We are made to create, and, although it is difficult under these pandemic circumstances, it is imperative to your health that you find a way to keep your mind, hands, and hearts productive”. As a textile artist and sculptor, he often is figuring out new materials, of how to do something to achieve a particular end result, but this struggle for him represents part of the creative process, of how to enhance the viewers experience of the work and their relationship to the world.

Ryan Carrington (2010) Homage Aluminium 63″x56″x32″ Installed at the Wells Fargo Centre for the Arts, Santa Rosa California
Ryan Carrington (2016) “Closing Bell” Plywood 61″x50″x47″ The hard hat represents both the blue-collar worker and the closing bell of Wall Street, of the juxtaposition of different types of work.

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