As Creative Matters will celebrate its 30th anniversary in November, our management team took the opportunity to look back at our designs - and the process of designing - through the years.
“Carpet couture at its finest. Be it an intricate plush so large it requires finishing in a soccer stadium or a spiral tapestry loomed continuously for the stair of a Manhattan maisonette, Carol and Creative Matters meet each technical and aesthetic challenge with capability, courtesy, grace and aplomb.”
FIRST DECADE 1988-1998
There were no computers in our first decade so all the work was hand drawn and hand painted. “We would offer our clients small (1/4” = 1’ scale) painted concepts, then we would need to translate that to 1” = 1’ scale artworks. For repeat patterns we would only paint the repeat, and leave the rest as a drawn portion. I have always liked these artworks, they show so much of the design process. The piece below - for the Canadian Embassy in Paris - used architectural elements in the plaster work of the room as design inspiration for the rug,” explained Founder and President Carol Sebert.
In this decade leading up to the end of the century, interior design was both traditional and colourful-modern. We were often asked to make patterns that related closely to specific settings and very early pieces leaned towards the classical/transitional style. We also played with textures and shapes. During this period all our rugs were manufactured in the handtufted method. “Although we are talking over 20 years ago, I still remember this rug - how it was shaped with soft gradations of colour and related well to the artwork on the wall and the deco-style furniture,” said Carol.
Without limitless design references online, we generally used the fabrics, finishes and architectural details in client locations for inspiration. “The lobby rug below demonstrates the inspiration the architecture had on the rug - note the sweeps of colour relating to the ceiling detail,” said Carol. At that time gradations of colour were also very new to carpet design, so we worked closely with the mill to develop a strategic method of colour blending.
In 1999, we designed a very lively rug for Corus Entertainment that was inspired by their company logo.
There were five designers in the team in those days - a combination of classically trained design expertise balanced with creative flair anxious to push the design possibilities of carpet patterns and carpet manufacturing techniques.
A defining project for Creative Matters in the nineties was our work for Gucci International. Over sixteen years, we created floorcoverings for all their highest-end international stores. “This job was important because we gained the confidence to work on luxury retail projects, which led us to working on Tom Ford, Louis Vuitton, Holt Renfrew and Dior,” said Carol.
Those first ten years were “certainly a time of exploration,” said Carol. We were truly collaborating with interior designers to work with their vision and bring our design aesthetics to life, as well as pushing the manufacturers to try new techniques. “We had nothing to lose in those first years!”
Second Decade 1998-2008
“We have collaborated with Creative Matters on countless projects over the past 30 years. The level of dedication, passion and quality of work that comes through our relationship with Ana, is the reason why we are long-term partners. She is proactive, knowledgeable and overall, a pleasure to work with, and we’re excited for Creative Matters to hit this milestone.”
GEORGE YABU AND GLENN PUSHELBERG
The beginning of this decade marked the transition from paintbrush to pixel. We purchased our first computer for the design department, thus commencing our move to using Photoshop and Illustrator to create our designs. “It was a slow change for us,” said Ana Cunningham who joined Creative Matters in 1999 and is now Vice President. “First, we used Illustrator to draw our concepts, then hand painted them to ensure we were continuing to meet the level of detail we desired - all while learning the intricacies of the programs until we finally had our full network up and running.”
“I’m actually seeing some trends loop back around as I sift through our archives from this period. The rug below for the Raleigh Hotel in Miami used deep raisin, bold coral and soft blush tones - many of these are being introduced into today’s modern palette,” said Ana.
Shaped rugs were very popular back then and they too are making a comeback as more designers opt to create additional movement in a space utilizing the carpet’s edge. A good example is the Greater Toronto Airports Authority lounge rug shape which is mirrored by the architectural detail in the ceiling just above.
In the second decade of Creative Matters we really focused on the fabrics and finishes provided by the designer for inspiration. “We would often sketch ideas during meetings and have conversations about what the rug’s intention in the space should be. We still do a lot of this, but now with more visuals from endless inspiration sources online,” said Ana.
Ana said that these 10 years marked a real shift in our style. In this time period we moved to more organic textures and contemporary designs. “One of my favourites is this residential rug with its soft linen background and what appears to look like bright brushstrokes dragged across the front edge. So simple, yet beautiful.”
One of the defining rugs for this decade was for a mid-century residence in Virginia Beach. Its rich wood interiors and breathtaking views allowed us to undertake what was our first oversized handknotted runner, made in Nepal. It spanned the full length of the house, 72 feet (22 metres long).
“The design spoke to the transition from a pond at one end of the house to grass land at the other. This matched the landscape features outside the house,” said Ana.
It was also created during the time we were still hand painting artworks. We all took turns painting a fairly large scale version of this, so that the mill would have all the details they needed to produce the runner accurately.
Another of Ana’s favourites for this period is a design we created for Blue Hat Studios. The inspiration was taken from a photo of the Ganges river in Varanasi, India. There was a group of women along the water’s edge doing their laundry as the sun was rising which was captured in the water’s reflection. The interesting lines, textures and pops of colour in the reflection became the basis for this design.
Designing for hotels increased during this decade. Ana particularly recalls the St. Regis Mexico City where we translated bold, large scale rose designs for several of the public areas.
Creative Matters experienced a substantial amount of growth during this period. Our design team expanded as did our roster of mills, quality options and techniques.
As we approached the end of the decade, we started dreaming up our Aerial Collection - a series of timeless designs that are still sought out by today’s consumer. “Who knew that the next decade would have found us designing numerous collections that would eventually become the backbone of the Creative Matters brand,” said Ana.
Third Decade 2008-2018
Vice President Ali McMurter joined Creative Matters as a designer in 2006. “Our Art Day process was introduced at the beginning of this period and it opened the doors to a lot of fresh, new, wonderful designs,” said Ali. “The free-flowing mark-making exercises that underpin Art Day have given us an unlimited library of designs to work from and have opened up our creative process overall. This has been empowering for our team and gratifying for clients who are looking for fresh new ideas to distinguish their spaces.”
This third decade has seen an influx of designs in shades of greys and silver, with hits of colour when our clients are feeling particularly bold. Ali said that nature, organic forms, painterly washes and intricate blends of colour continue to be important sources of inspiration. “These were offset by a number of projects where geometry was explored in variations in texture. The Andaz project below sums this up very nicely,” she said.
When asked what she feels has been the design exploration of this decade, Ali offered: “Versatile, creative, with strong attention to detail. The ability to work in a wide variety of qualities on both very small and vary large scales: handknotted, handtufted, handwoven, dye injected broadloom, woven Axminster, solution dyed nylon broadloom, and even felted wall covering.”
Two of her favourite designs of the period are the massive handtufted carpet for the Jewelry Salons at Bergdorf Goodman in New York and a piece for the Courtyard lounge at the Park Hyatt New York.
This decade at Creative Matters has also been marked by the launch of our relationship with the fair trade non-profit organization Label STEP. Our team has grown to 15 people and we continue to work on projects all around the globe.
Ali said that Orchestra from the XXV Collection has emerged as the quintessential design for this period. “It is versatile and free-flowing, and adds elegance to any space it adorns.”
The Next Decade
As we move forward, Ali predicts we will continue nurturing our relationships with our clients and working closely with our manufacturers to exceed client expectations and industry standards. “We are currently developing new production techniques in a number of qualities and are working on a new colour bank to help make the production process even more accessible and streamlined for our clients and manufacturers.”
We will be keeping our eyes on the world at large and continuously experimenting to design in ever-refreshing directions.
Since the inception of our magazine in 2005, Creative Matters has continued to be one of the handmade rug companies to watch on the international stage. We enjoy following the brand as its sophisticated styles and techniques evolve. The company’s Art Day concept and the creative rug collections that have emerged from it, have offered us inspiring stories to report on. The Creative Matters inventory is replete with impressive designs that marry artistry with market know-how, one of our favourite carpet designs being ‘Fragment’ from the Arctic Collection.
Lucy Upward, Editor - COVER Magazine