We continue to surprise our clients, and even ourselves, with the range and beauty of effects that can be created in floorcoverings. We were particularly reminded of this when two of the artists from the Canada House project visited our studio in May. They wanted to understand how we turned their artwork into rugs.
Usually interior designers come to us with a clear idea of the main colours they wish to see in their clients' rugs. And then, more often than not, they look to us to suggest designs and textures. However, for the Canada House project, the designs were already established (artists’ original artwork) and it was up to us to make them work in the medium of handtufted wool.
Ever since her circular artwork of cicadas had been accepted for Ontario Room, Elizabeth D'Agostino had been asking herself how it would be possible to create a gossamer wing in wool. As a printmaker, her original artwork was a complex process including drawings, Japanese paper and much blending and layering in Photoshop. Our process was equally as complex with 29 blends of wool colours specified for the wings alone.
In addition to using colour blends (also called stipples), we also have many pile techniques at our disposal to create special effects. Once Carol Sebert saw the carpet sample she had ordered from the mill where the cicada was in loop pile, she knew immediately the wings needed to be soft and added cut pile to the specifications.
At first glance, the background of this rug might appear to be a single teal colour. Elizabeth's art comprised transparent wings floatings above a background which represented the dog days of summer. Recognizing the depth and saturation in the original art, we selected a combination of eight blue, green and grey colours woven into an irregular pattern.
While Elizabeth's rug interpreted an Ontario summer, our second artist visitor was consumed with the colours of Saskatchewan. Sean William Randall's painting was selected for the magnificent MacDonald room and four other spaces. Sean explained to us that spatially it represents the area from Manitoba to Banff in Alberta.
Having just moved back to Saskatchewan himself, one of Sean's inspirations was the skies which he described as huge but flat. Sean had spent too many hours hunched over his painting creating details with O and OO-size paint brushes, so he was delighted to see it had been possible to transfer this detail to rug design. The Creative Matters designers said it was particularly fun to select the colours for this rug because it was so rich.
We also explained how different pile techniques were used to amplify the effects. Cut pile absorbs light while loop pile reflects it. Tip shearing (a combination of cut and uncut tips for a textured appearance) gives a different effect again. And we also consider how foot traffic will produce a sheen as the fibres are brushed in different directions.
Even when we are presented with a design where the colour choices have seemingly already been made, deciding which shades of wool to use is nonetheless a significant process. At Creative Matters, part of this process is to order a sample from the mill to see exactly how all the elements are coming together. In the case of Sean's design, Carol realized the pink was too "bubblegum" and specified a less vibrant shade.
Among the reasons for handtufting the Canada House rugs was durability (the public rooms receive heavy traffic) and "rollability" (the offices have chairs with casters). These cicada and prairie-themed rugs are just two examples of the incredible detail - in design, colour and texture - we can create with the handtufted quality.