Artist: Caryn Aasness

Exhibition: Instructions for Living (Fruitfully)

Media: Fiber (quilt), paper (code sheet)

Gallery: Dr. Maxine Merlino Gallery

Website: None at this time

Instagram: levelyellowproblemchild



About the Artist

Caryn Aasness is an undergraduate student at CSULB, in the School of Arts Fiber program. Outside of weaving, Caryn likes to read, or listen to audiobooks when she does not have the time to actually read. After college, she hopes to get a regular job and eventually move on to grad school.

Formal Analysis

Instructions for Living (Fruitfully) is a large, vertical tapestry. It is comprised of several different colors in a plaid-like pattern; there are various reds, pinks, oranges, blues, and greens. At the bottom of the tapestry are 26 fringe tassels.

The plaid pattern creates a grid formation. There are seemingly random squares on the grid that have an extra layer of fabric to them, making them slightly 3D and more noticeable upon repeated looks.

There is a vertical paper to the left of the tapestry with its own grid, to which the tapestry corresponds. The top row of the paper has the letters A through Z (26 across), with squares underneath each letter (the same number of squares on the tapestry).

The paper grid also has seemingly random squares filled in with corresponding letters (see below for photos and better visualization). These filled-in squares match the 3D-like squares on the tapestry. The code is read from left to right, and top to bottom. For example, the first letter is F. The next letter is I, but on the second row. The third letter is R on the third row. Continuing this spells, “First.”

The full message reads, “First comes love then comes marriage then comes the baby in the baby carriage.”


Content Analysis

Caryn told me that she liked to use text in her work and wanted to see how different mediums “said” different things. She was fascinated by how people often dismiss something (e.g. a textile) because they cannot immediately see a message in it, or see that it has a deeper meaning. She was also interested at how things tend to lead us in a a certain way or path without us really knowing. So she embedded the code of “First comes love then comes marriage then comes the baby in the baby carriage” into her textile as a way of saying that e.g. this textile unconsciously gives us Instructions for Living (Fruitfully) (hence the title); the textile sends us an invisible code, telling us to fall in love, get married, and have children.

This message connects to a part of her Artist Statement posted in the gallery. Number six on her “Choose Your Own Adventure” way of understanding her work says that, “We are taught that all of our problems can be solved with a white picket fence. For some, the ‘ideal’ is attainable and desirable. For so many of us, we learn in the negative space who we are supposed to be….To realize the American Dream is not yours still feels like giving up a dream.” While growing up, we all hear that general “Get married and have kids” goal. But this goal is not necessarily attainable for everyone, nor is it always ideal.



I like what Caryn did with her weaving. I think it was very clever to put a hidden code into her tapestry, and even more clever to have it be something that could steer us in a certain direction without us even realizing it. Looks can be deceiving, and I doubt that anyone would expect a mere tapestry to be able to influence us so subtly.

According to Caryn, these tapestries could take anywhere from 20 to 25 hours to complete, with the most time spent in just setting up the loom. For this, I commend her. I know nothing about weaving other than it is very long, hard work, and I think this deserves praise. Even if you do not like her tapestries, or her messages, I think she still deserves recognition for her strenuous effort.