Featured Punch Needle Artist – Rose Pearlman

‘Amazing’ is how I often describe Rose Pearlman’s work. She was one of the pioneers to make Punch Needle cool again. She honed her artistic talent first with paint, turned to Punch Needle after having a baby and she continues to inspire me daily. She not only creates amazingly beautiful pieces of art, she also has a knack for classic, timeless photography.

I love her use of color, as well as her ability to make art with simple, classic colors and even the absence of color. It is my honor and delight to introduce to you, Rose Pearlman.

Punch Needle basket by Rose Pearlman

The Journey

Tell us about how you became the woman you are today. Where did you grow up? What moments in life have influenced your character most?

I grew up in a creative household in rural Vermont.  Both my parents are painters, and they worked for an artist residency organization which was very much woven into our daily life. Being surrounded mostly by artists, I never had to question the importance of creativity or justify why I wanted to make something. Even though I didn’t discover my personal expression until many years later, I always played with making simple projects and crafts. My parents had art supplies and found materials everywhere, and I loved to assemble and fidget with things; it filled a deep creative need.  

Rose Pearlman Punch Needle artist

Tell us about the exact moment or period in time when you realized you were born to create.

Oh boy. I’m not sure if I ever had that moment or even feel that way now, but creativity is a practice I keep showing up for. I do remember, when I was a young teenager, when I first became interested in photography. There was such elation when you felt you might have captured something special with your camera, and such satisfaction when it materialized in the darkroom. I seek out those creative highs when it feels like something special might be possible.

Punch Needle artist Rose Pearlman

The Art

How do you decide what project to work on next?

When experiencing a creative lull, there may be ideas I’m interested in, but lack the motivation to start. That’s when a notebook of sketches comes in handy, and helps me to focus and pushes me to start a project. Once I’m involved in the project, it’s easy to keep going. I often hit a point, especially in a large piece where I have to push through. Usually that means pulling out what doesn’t work and re-punching. 

There are the rare times that inspiration strikes and I’ll drop everything to see the idea through to the end. Those are the few but wonderful experiences when you are so motivated and excited by an idea that you power push through all obstacles. 

You have such a fun color aesthetic. How do you decide what colors to use when creating and/or designing? 

Color decision is not easy when there are companies like Seal Harbor Rug Yarn, that create so many gorgeous hues of yarns to choose from. It is a very daunting task, especially when using a color chart. I have to have the actual yarn in front of me to see how the colors interact and I try to balance the composition of the rug by how much of each color will keep it proportioned and harmonious. I usually go with one shape, fill it in, then build up around it, color by color. Figuring what comes next like a jigsaw puzzle, you need the piece before to figure out what comes next. 

Punch Needle purse by Rose Pearlman

Do you plan ahead when making design choices? Or go with the flow? 

I almost always go with the flow; I am bad at planning and very impatient. With big abstract rug work, I sketch right onto the foundation cloth, which can take less than 5 minutes. It’s not so much about being totally confident with your initial design, but knowing you can change things as you go along. 

What’s your favorite thing about Punch Needle?

The repetition and ease of the technique, the freedom of design, and the forgiving nature of the medium itself. 

Where did you first hear about Punch Needle? 

My mother.

What made you want to try Punch Needle? 

Picking up a punch needle was a result of being a busy mother. I didn’t have the time or space for more involved creative expressions. I needed a craft that would not take up too much space, or be too complicated or messy. Working with my hands, and the repetitive process of punching is soothing, settles my nerves and grounds me.  

Where do you find inspiration for your Punch Needle designs? 

The abstract designs are very informed by the art of my parents and the work of artists I admire. The punched objects I make are are influenced by the shapes of objects I see on the street, in stores or books/magazines. I live above a clay studio, and their in- process work lines the windows of the shop. The organic shapes and clean lines of the clay have been showing up in many of my small punched accessories.

What is the message you’re sending into the universe with your work? 

You don’t have to stick with one way of creating. I do experiment with everything, from repurposed plastic bag wall hangings, to functional bags made from hardware store string, and big bright floor rugs. If I have an idea for a children’s toy or a ridiculous 10lb jacket, I just go for it. The versatility of the medium keeps me coming back and trying new ideas. 

Share an experience that started out as a complete disaster but looking back turned out to be a magical opportunity.

I wouldn’t be a punch needle artist if it wasn’t for a failed business venture that came before. Sometimes it’s a loss that makes you examine what you want and can push you in a different direction. Starting something new and different for me was easier when I felt I had nothing to loose.

Rose Pearlman large rug art using Punch Needle for her medium

Just For Fun

What do you know for sure?

That everyone dies.  

Give us three of your favorite/most inspiring things right now. Could be a book, a food, a destination, a song, a person, etc.

  • Spring at the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens 
  • Alice Neel at the Met
  • Milk Design Magazine 

What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?

Just start.

It’s karaoke night and you’re up. What song do you sing?

I would never.  But if I had the voice,  Bonnie Raitt – Love Letter

Finish this sentence. I find myself most inspired to create when I am…

On a walk

Rose Pearlman working on her punch needle art piece

A genie grants you three wishes. What do you wish for?

  • World peace
  • Good health for my family and friends
  • A little upstate cottage (with a studio attached)

Name 3 of your guilty pleasures.

  • Chocolate
  • The Great British Throw Down (clay competition)
  • Design magazines

If you had to give a 30 minute speech without preparing, what would it be on?

How to punch needle, I’m terrible about speeches but very comfortable with teaching a craft. 

Abstract Punch Needle art piece by Rose Pearlman

For Fellow Artists

What do you want the younger female artists coming up behind you to know about you, your journey, and the craft/design/art industry in general?

Value your work, create what you want regardless of what others think.

Big or small, what’s the single best money making tip or piece of advice you can share with up and coming artists?

Never let other people’s expectations dictate what you should do. Always follow your instinct and create what appeals to you. If you’re taking on a project for money, make sure it stays true to your own creative voice and message. 

What tools, apps, websites, blogs, books, or podcasts help you the most when it comes to financials?

  • Freshbooks …for accounting
  • Studio 78: Nache Snow- podcast
  • Craft Industry Alliance- podcast

How do you stay motivated? What does your daily routine look like?

Wake up at 6, exercise, then have coffee. The rest of the day I am at the mercy of a 4-year-old, so I just go with the punches.

Punch Needle artist Rose Pearlman in front of her large punch needle art piece

To see more of Rose, check her out on IG @rosepearlman (be sure to show some love, like, follow and share) and on her website rosepearlman.com. You can also buy her book Modern Rug Hooking: 22 Punch Needle Projects for Crafting a Beautiful Home.

Thank you Rose for sharing your style, your creative process and your tips for artist block. I thoroughly enjoyed reading your answers! As an artist, it was helpful and inspiring. It has been an honor. xx, Shawna