Story by Kathleen Boyle
Photography by Connie Chornuk

When Claire Roberts developed a serious back injury, she needed to take time off from her dance career. A teacher, choreographer and dancer who had worked most recently with the Found Movement Group, Roberts has studied a range of dance disciplines. Dance was an outlet for exploring and cultivating her creative energy, so she feared its forced absence would be a void for her innovative side.

“I knew that I needed to rest, but I also needed a creative outlet,” Roberts said. “I was randomly on Instagram and found the beautiful work of tapestry artist Erin Barrett of Sunwoven Wall Art and Interiors. Seeing her work made me think to myself, ‘I want to try this!’ It seemed like something that I could do while in recovery.”

Fast-forward only a few months, and Roberts has already established her niche in the tapestry community with her business Nashty Threads. (You can find her on Facebook, Instagram and Etsy.) Offering a range of handwoven works that Roberts describes as “colorful and funky,” her collections deliver an assortment of interior décor deliciousness sure to suit many a fancy.

Original wall hangings, pillows, and even chandeliers populate the space of her Donelson studio—each square foot an indication of the fiber artist’s seemingly effortless flair and good taste. A retro gold sofa and a modern cabinet showcasing a bounty of multicolor yarn are second-hand finds that contribute to an already-lively room. “I like to be unique and to share my love of all things eclectic, because all these styles have a purpose in their space and a story to tell.”

Roberts’ philosophy on interior décor directly translates to her artwork—one of a kind, thoughtful, and unexpected. A self-taught artist, Roberts first began weaving with a loom she created using a wooden stretcher for pulled canvas, and numerous tiny nails. Her work started small, and it has grown significantly along with her developing artistic technique—and her investment in larger looms.

Much of Roberts’ imagery reflects geometric abstraction, as though channeling a fusion of Native American and Bauhaus sensibilities, as well as an assortment of textures.

“I’m really interested in experimenting with many techniques, there is a lot of trial and error involved,” Roberts said. Although her completed tapestries are static works, the inspiration of movement born of her foundation in dance permeates her threads.

“My movement has always been a bit quirky, fun, provocative and colorful,” Roberts explained. “When I teach, I’m always using the word ‘breath’ and ‘velvety’ to describe how I need my dancers to move with more dimension and texture… it should compel their audience to watch and be engaged in their dancing. This all comes full circle for me and translates back to my design aesthetic. I want my customers to feel drawn to the movement in my tapestries.”

It seems that even in her recovery, Roberts found an opportunity to dance.