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Pulling the rug out from under the art world: How Janna Watson bridges the gap between abstraction and textiles

(© Drobot Dean –

Janna Watson is breaking all the rules as an artist. Having two very successful careers, the first as a renowned Canadian abstract artist, and the second as a contemporary rug designer with her own studio, Studio Watson, in Toronto, has allowed Janna Watson to explore two independent and very distinct art modalities, and she has found a way to combine them in her own unique way.

Who is Janna Watson?

Janna Watson is a Canadian painter best-known for her compelling abstract compositions. Her unique abstract compositions have featured in over thirty solo exhibitions, the latest one being Finding Joy, in Canada and as well as internationally.

Janna Watson also works at her rug studio where she sets out to redefine interiors with hand-tufted floor pieces uniquely designed by her and inspired by her abstract paintings. Janna Watson also designs hand-tufted cat scratchers for other cat-lovers like herself at her studio.

Janna Watson – the abstract painter

Janna Watson is first and foremost an abstract painter. Her use of bold colors and pigments, and emotionally charged gestures – a signature of her work, sets her apart in the Canadian art world.

Her original inspiration was her grandfather, Arthur Bonnett, a landscape and abstract painter. Her grandfather gave her her first art lessons as a young girl and supplied her with artist-grade art supplies while she completed her Honors degree in Drawing and Painting at the Ontario College of Art and Design.

Janna Watson fondly remembers a wise lesson her grandfather had taught her. He asked her to paint the essence of a tree, and when she did so he simply said it needed to be “wilder”.

Janna Watson commented: “Finding the wildness in objects and moments has been my goal and inspiration, I want to consistently find my own wildness in my life and work”. Janna Waston has kept this comment with her as she tries to find the wildness in her daily life and her art.

Janna Watson – the rug designer

At her rug studio, Studio Watson, Janna Watson creates exquisite floor pieces and rugs, each piece inspired by one of her abstract compositions. In her studio, she bridges the gap between abstract art and textiles by using her abstract paintings as her inspiration for her rug designs. The free use of bold colors, the dramatic paint strokes and the overlapping shades of contrasting textures of her abstract compositions are what inspire her unique rug designs.

Her time spent with her grandfather also inspired her as a rug designer. Her grandfather’s use of the most unusual colors in the rugs he designed, and his own sense of wildness, inspired her to create a series of rugs called, “Strange Legacy”, in 2019 in honor of what would have been his 100th birthday.

Janna Watson also works with a woman, Ifrah Ansari, who operates a weaving mill in India that she too inherited from her grandfather. Janna Watson recently completed a rug that Ifrah Ansari hand-tufted for her for the lobby of the Drake Hotel in Toronto as well as an impressive hand-knotted rug for the boardroom of the Hyatt Hotel which is also based on one of her abstract paintings.

What’s next for Janna Watson?

Janna Watson lives, paints and designs rugs in Toronto. Currently she is presenting her latest solo exhibition, Finding Joy, inspired by the wild spirit of her niece, Joy, at the Bau-Xi Gallery in Vancouver from the 9th-23rd January 2021. She has also very recently been commissioned for a piece for ASPAC developments, also in Vancouver.

As for her rug designs, Janna Watson was set to start a collaboration project with various Inuit artists at the West Baffin Eskimo Cooperative at Cape Dorset in Nunavut for some rug tufting. However unfortunately due to the COVID-19 pandemic these plans were temporarily put on hold.

Janna Watson has pulled the rug out from under the art world by successfully maneuvering two very distinct art modalities in very interconnected ways. Her abstract painting and compositions feed her rug designs as she continues to find the wildness in her life, her paintings and her rug designs.

Story by Virginia Sagal

augusta free press
augusta free press