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A Local Artist Upcycles Materials to Make Fun Jewelry and Tapestries

Genevieve Lavalle has been in the side business of tufting for around three years under the name BlackOlive Art. What is tufting, you ask? (Or maybe it's just me who didn’t know what it was...)

“It’s a form of rug-making with basically an electric punch needle,” Genevieve explains. “It’s a type of fiber arts, and it’s nice because typically when you see someone knitting or weaving, you think about how many hours and hours it takes, and tufting is a slightly sped-up version of that practice.”

Although the process of tufting was originally used to make rugs, Genevieve is drawn to creating detailed and ornate pieces that last through the years—or as she puts it, she likes making products that don’t get stepped on. Instead, she primarily designs colorful pom pom earrings and tapestries.

Genevieve teaches elementary art in Covington through The Carnegie. BlackOlive Art is currently a side gig for her, but she’s definitely placed a bigger focus on it since the pandemic began earlier this year.

“With COVID, a lot of things have shut down, which has been a nightmare for some artists. But on the flip side, it also means I’m stuck at home all day long, and it’s kind of like you have all the time in the world to create,” she says.

Originally from Des Moines, IA, the talented tufter has been living in Cincinnati since 2013 when she moved here to attend Xavier University. It was there that she took an art class in weaving (while studying political science) that introduced her to the craft of making beautiful pieces of work simply by looping yarn. After noticing her interest in the medium, the professor of the class let Genevieve take home a bunch of the semester’s leftover yarn.

“A big part of my business is repurposing and upcycling, so I was more than happy to be gifted the yarn,” says Genevieve, who continues to be sustainable by sourcing most of her supplies from her favorite craft store, Indigo Hippo.

With materials and a new-found passion, Genevieve didn’t set out to start her business right away. It actually started after her family decided to only exchange handmade gifts one Christmas a few years ago. The pom pom earrings she fashioned were a big hit, which prompted her to create an Etsy page (linked below).

Her products are now sold in 10 stores, some of which are in Iowa and some here in Cincinnati, but she gears most of her platform towards virtual shopping. You’ll also find her latest works (and a plethora of interesting behind-the-scenes videos of her process) on BlackOlive Art’s Instagram (also linked below).

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See examples of Genevieve Lavalle’s work in the photo gallery above. You can also get in touch with her and learn more about BlackOlive Art on its website, shop for items on Etsy, and follow along on Instagram.