Rising Artist


Jacob Olmedo

Fusing fashion and environmentalism, Jacob Olmedo describes his art as subtle activism – probing the intersection of creativity, sustainability, and the exploration of his queer/Latino identity. In addition to techniques such as crocheting, knitting, beading, tufting, Jacob has used hydroponics to create garments that are wearable gardens. He earned his MFA in Textiles at Parsons School of Design.

AIRED: September 17, 2020 | 0:05:47

(gentle music)

- My name is Jacob Olmedo.

I go to Parsons School of Design,

and I'm in the inaugural MFA Textiles program.

I decided to work with textiles

kind of from the beginning of just the creative process.

I worked a lot with clothemaking and garment construction

and fashion and then decided to come to New York City

to study at Parsons.

To be able to touch something and assemble something,

every stitch, every action

reflects the person who's making it,

and I think that's truly important.

Everyone in the world uses textiles.

The clothes you're wearing, the rug you walk on,

the towel that you dry yourself with.

A lot of the work that I make hones in on

how do we care for something?

How do we care for one another?

How do we care for our environment?

And then when you bring that through

the art of making textiles,

you also think about how do you care for this textile

and how does that relate to everything else?

It's a reflection on the world, it's a reflection of myself,

but sometimes it's also a reflection

on the making process itself.

I'm using nature a lot in my work.

(gentle music)

Whether that be in hydroponics or these like seed beads

and the work I'm working on right now is, you know,

looking at nature on its own as a privilege,

but it also looks at it as the ultimate commonality

between all people.

We can't live in a shared environment

if we all don't take a part in taking care of it.

The materials that I use come in different forms.

I use a lot of wool in my work just because

it's a biodegradable material that is so amazing

in terms of fluctuation of its own self.

It could be yarn, it could be felted,

it could be spun super tight, it could be spun super loose.

(gentle music)

So all of the seeds are

seeds that are supposed to be for perennial prairies,

which actually creates healthy soil.

Because of growing and tilling and all of these things

is so much of our soil is actually turning into dirt.

It doesn't have any nutrients anymore.

It's not gonna be able to sustain us.

So what are we gonna do with it?

Through this garment of wearing on a body like myself,

who is a minority,

who's intersectional, who's a hybrid human,

to be able to hold the power of these seeds

that will be able to repair these lands

is a huge part of that process.

The color palette itself is beige, white, ecru.

The work that I make is extremely tactile.

There's a lot of technique that goes

into every single object.

And for me, using the same color palette

lets the viewer concentrate on those attributes of the work

instead of what the color is.

I came into the program with a lot of knowledge

in hand knitting.

It was something that was taught when I was a child.

I went back to a technique that my mom would do

when I was a kid.

I did a lot of paper mache,

reminiscent of my mom making pinatas.

I started creating these like paper mache bodies

that would host a lot of the garments that I was making,

a version of casting oneself into a physical space.

I also played with different shades.

Like I wanted the bodies to be my skin tone.

I didn't want them to be just a cream skin tone.

So I played a lot with different papers

to get that skin tone in there.

(gentle music)

The pieces themselves

were a compilation of layered materials

that would be able to sustain the plant themselves.

One of the biggest things I learned from that project

was the lesson that nothing lasts forever.

I would make these garments

that are growing these like beautiful green grasses,

and people said, well, how long does it last?

And it was like, it lasts up to two weeks

if it's in the right conditions.

And then I let them dry out

and then they become beautiful browns.

I think it's important to say this work isn't forever.

This work is temporary.

This work changes.

It's ever-evolving and that's okay.

I feel like I've really thought about that a lot

in my textile making of maybe we design

for change over time.

(gentle music)

Language is, at the moment, very prominent in my work.

I think it's important to ask questions,

and so how do those questions that we ask make others think?

Making those poems letters, manifestos,

and then translate them into textiles.

"Dear Earth," I made it into a carpet

and it's kind of a letter asking Earth will you forgive us?

The other poem is titled "Dear World,"

and that one I made out of a knit with beads

and kind of like use that as more of a self portrait

asking these questions of are my ideas valid?

Is my love respected?

Questions that I think will follow me

throughout my entire life

that I will constantly be reflecting on.

I would hope that my work would be able to speak to people

to think about care differently,

to talk to someone they would never talk to,

to hear their own perspective.

I call it like subtle activism.

A heavy carpet, a delicate knit, no matter what it is,

it's subtle in its space,

but it's loud in what it's trying to say.

(gentle music)


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