The Queue: Sarita Westrup

The Queue: Sarita Westrup

Get to know the people featured in the pages of our magazine as they share what's inspiring them right now.

Published on Monday, March 22, 2021.
Cover graphic for The Queue featuring Sarita Westrup

Introducing the Nourish series of The Queue

A biweekly roundup for and by the craft community, The Queue introduces you to the artists, curators, organizers, and more featured in the current issue of American Craft. We invite these inspiring individuals to share personally about their lives and work as well as what's inspiring them right now.

For Sarita Westrup, making can be both methodical and intuitve, but the results are always meaningful

Featured in the Spring 2021 issue of American Craft, Sarita Westrup is a sculptural basketry artist based in North Carolina. She also to part in our San Francisco Bay Area Craft Week in September 2020, hosting a live online Maker Meetup. Watch the recording. @saritawestrup

How do you describe your work or practice?
I weave sculptural baskets and installations and mess about with mixed media. While making I reflect on my original home on the Texas-Mexico Borderlands, my Latinx identity, and consider themes like tension, movement, and portals. My making process is intuitive. I start off weaving around objects methodically then make space for moments of desperation where I don't know exactly what is gonna happen next.

Portrait of Sarita Westrup

Portrait courtesy of the artist.

During this time of COVID-19 isolation and social unrest/calls for change, how are you finding beauty and staying grounded?
This year has been challenging for me, so I’ve turned to a solid routine including yoga to breathe, a gratitude journal for a time of reflection, affirmations to boost myself up a bit, and walks and weekly climbing outside in nature. Virtual workshops through the Women's Studio Workshop (@wsworkshop), Southwest School of Art (@southwest_school_of_Art) and spanish classes with Spanish Sin Pena (@spanishsinpena) have helped me feel connected to other artists and latinx folks during this isolating year.

Portrait of Sarita Westrup in studio

Read more about Sarita in the Spring 2021 issue of American Craft. Photo by Billy Hank St. John.

Can you reflect on the current issue of American Craft's theme of "nourish" as it relates to your work and practice?
Nourishment is about the ability to satisfy human needs, and the form of the basket is an excellent symbol for this. My water bottle baskets hold a contradiction. Their open work structure and permeability make them unable to perform the function to hold water. Through these works, I reflect on the lack of water available to those crossing the most dangerous parts of the Borderlands and how the United States fails to provide our immigrant community support.

My making process is intuitive. I start off weaving around objects methodically then make space for moments of desperation where I don't know exactly what is gonna happen next.

What has been the biggest barrier you have had to break through to get to the place you’re at with your career?
Wow that is a difficult one. I acknowledge there have been many barriers: my parents are immigrants from Mexico; I had zero art education until I was an adult; I am the only professional artist in my family. But I think the biggest barrier for me is time and balancing my art practice with a full time job, but I do my best to make it work!

What’s one of your go-to tools in your toolkit?
What I love most about basket weaving is that the toolkit is very limited! No equipment necessary but wire cutters, needle nose pliers, and a surface. My “secret weapon” when it comes to cement-like surfaces has been thinset. You can get it at the hardware store, and it is lighter than cement. I paint it on closely woven structures then sand it back to reveal layers of texture. I also like to cover wood or foam with fiber tape then paint over with thinset to create textural forms that can interact with my woven structures.

Woven sculptural basket with cement and pink background

Sarita Westrup, Window Wound, 2020, cast cement, twined reed, twined wire, lashed wire, paint, 
6 x 6 x 6 in. Photo by Sarita Westrup

What podcast should we be listening to right now, and why?
My top podcast selection is pretty dorky.

  • Life Kit by NPR: If you are obsessed with guidance and general life advice this is for you.
  • Bachelor Chisme: Two latinx women dishing about the most recent season of The Bachelor. The spanglish is so good and makes me feel like I’m in Texas hanging out with my amigxs. I didn’t even watch The Bachelor when I started listening to this, but now I do...
  • Naked Beauty with Brooke Devard: This podcast centers black female joy and skin care. It really helped me out during the deep down covid times this past summer.
NPR life kits podcast logo
Naked Beauty podcast logo
Bachelor Chisme podcast logo

Are you binge-watching anything right now?
Once I have a solid idea of what I want to weave and feel like I'm in a "flow-like" making state, I love to binge-watch familiar TV shows or rom—coms while I weave. Recently I went hard on Bridgerton and in the past have woven so many artworks with Jane the Virgin playing.

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