Originally managed by its three founders, today Creative Matters is led by President and sole-owner Carol Sebert. Now in her 27th year of running a boutique studio with an international and often high profile clientele, we asked Carol for her insight on the art and business of rug design.
What do you think are the strongest influences on floorcovering design and production today?
From a design perspective, I see a move away from complex broken down rusting walls/metals/organics which have inspired imagery in recent years.There now seems to be a need for more recognizable motifs, from obviously floral compositions to crisper geometrics and colour!
For inspiration, we always look at what is happening with other textiles and on the fashion runway. And of course, the natural world continues to be an endless source of inspiration.
Production-wise, the movement towards ethical production continues to gain momentum. In the carpet industry, the initial concern was child labour but now clients ask about fair trade and environmental practices in all aspects of manufacturing. Before long, someone is going to ask me about the recreational facilities available to the Tibetan sheep … just joking. It gives me great pleasure to be working with clients and mill owners who are so committed to finding better ways of trading and producing.
What interesting developments do you predict for rug design in the hospitality, corporate and residential sectors in the next five years?
In the past decade, digital printing has revolutionized many industries, including of course machine-made floorcoverings. The possibilities for pattern, colour, scale, and texture increase every year. We were delighted with what we were able to achieve with the printed carpet below.
We are also seeing innovation in classic production methods, for example it is now possible to add handtufted elements to Axminster. For Axminster carpets, the pile and backing materials are woven together on a mechanical loom in a single operation, so traditionally we were unable to add special effects. Now with new technology, we were able to handtuft 100% silk "gold veins" on to the 80% wool/20% nylon Axminster base.
For expansive spaces in the hospitality sector, printed carpet is often the best choice. Until recently, this technology required a repeat pattern. However, newfound design freedom with infinity weave means even for large spaces, the total design can now be of any size and without a repeat.
In residential carpets, we are now embracing more delicate textures such as this special bedroom carpet we recently created for a home in Florida. This new technique is a flat warp and weft with raised cut pile silk, and the border with the fringe adds a detail that we are also seeing coming back to modern carpets (usually reserved for traditional rugs).
Creative Matters' clients are interior designers and architects - from your perspective, how does the perfect collaboration work?
I love to start with a discussion of the feeling the designer is trying to evoke. We can get to methods of production, timing and budget later, but what makes a collaboration truly special is when the ethereal aspect of design leads the discussion. I recall one client who said, “Send me something Jackie O.” Heck, what’s that? But actually, when I went to our library, I had a feeling rather than a description of a style, so much fun that way.
How much do you lead your clients and how much do they lead you?
Ideally it’s a perfect balance of both. Our clients lead us with the design vision they have for the space but we take the lead when it comes to manufacturing methods appropriate to the project and detailed colour selection.
What are some common myths about rug design and production?
That a carpet can be made really quickly! This is particularly true of handknotted rugs where some end users erroneously believe there is a large machine component to the making of a hand made rug … However, we do have tools at our disposal to speed up process for handtufted and machine-made carpets when necessary. This spring, the designers at Karim Rashid Inc. came to us looking for speedy production of a carpet feature they conceived for their display at the Wanted Design show in New York. We're proud to say we were able - with the cooperation of U.S. mill Milliken - to deliver a custom printed carpet backdrop in five weeks!
Creative Matters has always been committed to quality products, so how do you manage clients who hope to cut corners?
Because we’ve been in business for over 25 years, we have extensive knowledge of the range of manufacturing techniques in many different countries, so we usually come up with a solution that fits the budget. Naturally, there is a limit to how far we can go, so occasionally we do have to turn down a project rather than compromise our standards.
Five years ago Creative Matters started to work with the lesser-known Label STEP - what does this NGO bring to a Creative Matters Rug?
I had met with the local representative more than eight years ago in Kathmandu. I really liked the way the method they use to have mills meet their fair trade designation - they weren’t punitive, rather they guided the mills to make alterations. I trust Label STEP in all their initiatives. They have a special understanding of the Nepali weavers and mill owners. To a Creative Matters rug, they bring a security that the rug woven under their watch has been made ethically. This is important to me, to my staff in Toronto, and to all the owners of a Creative Matters rug.
Creative Matters works with a select group of mills in different countries. What do you look for in your suppliers?
Communication is critical. Of course, high quality construction, good interpretation of our artwork, good colour match and a creative outlook. Nothing worse than a mill saying they can’t do something … much more fun to work through a project and come up with a creative answer to a manufacturing challenge. For example, in 2014, we designed a carpet for Rainbow Room in New York. Although the palette was fairly neutral, the grey tones were critical to the design and the mill had to send us many different samples. Collaborating with a mill that has the patience to work through such challenges makes it all the more rewarding when the project is complete and surpasses the designer’s vision for the space.
How do you encourage creative thinking within your firm?
We have our signature Art Day process which has now generated over 2,000 designs (read more: link), and on projects where we have parameters and limitations, I encourage the designer to also submit further concepts that might not exactly fit with the interior designer’s initial request. We find the interior designers and architects really appreciate these additional ideas.
Passionate about? My grandchildren, music, painting, food, travel, Italy, Asia, skiing, friends, design, colour, and dancing to really loud music. London or New York? Arghhhhh, both? Dine with? David Bowie. Favourite work of art? I have always loved View of Toledo in a Storm by El Greco.