Have no fear and don't hold back

We spoke to Kara Rose Marshall about all things art and fashion for our latest issue of AMBITION. The founder and artist behind Tuftluck Studio has become the go-to for earthy hand-tufted rugs and fuzzy watercolours, all of which are inspired by cowboys and the wild west, seventies pop culture and beyond. Kara shares her journey from model to mum to business owner, and highlights the importance of just going for it.

Where does your AMBITION come from?

I’d say my ambition comes from my mum. My mum was such an inspiration. She ran a business - she was a fashion designer - and I was basically brought up on a sewing machine. She was a single mum and just worked and worked and worked. Her ambition has definitely passed on to me.

Tell us about your journey from model to artist.

It was a crazy ride. I fell pregnant in 2019 after modelling for 10 years, so that had to stop because obviously my body changed and everything slowed down for me. I needed to figure out a way of not only making money but also made me happy and fulfilled me. My partner Elliott is a tattoo artist and encouraged me to start drawing. He put me on a tufting course because I was always interested in rug making and textiles, but then lockdown happened and I had to figure out how to do it on my own as the course shut down. I started tufting, put it on my social media and it just took off.

Were you always quite creative or is it a passion you found later on?

I’d say I’ve always been creative because my mum was creative and I was brought up in that world. I actually studied fashion design at university and that lasted two weeks because I got scouted to model. You founded Tuftluck Studios in 2021. What’s been the biggest challenge or setting up this business and following your creative passions full throttle? The biggest challenge was not having any business experience. How to just run a business in general is pretty intense when you’ve had no experience. Your rug art and watercolours are inspired by Old Western films, ’70s pop culture, vintage pornography, galloping horses, wanton women & cowboys. How did you settle into this niche, and how important has having such a specific niche been to the success of the business? I have no idea! I feel like it just naturally happened. I don’t even ride horses or anything. I just think they’re aesthetically pleasing. I feel very blessed that I fell into this niche because all my buyers are actual, living cowboys who are loving my work. Most of my commissions come from Texas.

As either an artist or a model, what’s the biggest risk you’ve taken and what did you learn from it?

I think just doing it! I remember the day I thought I needed to just put my art out there. I was so terrified for people to see my art, but it was the best thing I’ve ever done. I’ve never been so scared in my life.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

Have no fear and don’t hold back.

How have you been able to garner such a loyal and engaged community, both online and offline?

I think having that background of being in modelling and fashion has given me the key contacts. It’s all about getting out there, going to events and keeping up with what’s happening.

What’s been the biggest ‘pinch me’ moment in your career so far?

Doing the clothing line collaboration with Warehouse. It was such a weird experience for me. I’m a really big believer in manifestation and the idea that if you write things down they will happen. The day before I got asked to do the Warehouse collaboration, I literally wrote down in my little manifestation book that I want to do a knitwear collection, and the next day I got an email from Warehouse wanting to do a knitwear collection. It was just the craziest moment. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do, clothes with my own are and designs. It’s such an amazing thing to see. It felt so good.

What’s the secret to balancing your own creative ventures with motherhood?

It’s very difficult, but you just have to get on with it and find time in between being a mum and having a creative space. If anything, my life’s got better since I’ve had my son Duke because it just gives me more of a drive.

What words of wisdom would you give to your younger self?

Go for it and do what you want to do. And like I said, have no fear!

Where will your AMBITION take you next?

I’ve got lots of exciting things happening. I’ve got my first solo show in November at a gallery called Have a Butchers in Dalston. And then I’m definitely planning on doing my own clothing brand. Knitwear. After the success of Warehouse, I feel like I’m ready to do my own knitwear now.