In May 2017, Creative Matters President and Founder Carol Sebert announced the appointment of Ali McMurter and Ana Cunningham as partners. For those who have not had the fortune to work with her, this blog post is an opportunity to get to know Ali in her own words.
What was your journey to partnership at Creative Matters?
I started working at Creative Matters in 2006 as a designer. Soon after I began to manage my own projects and found it really satisfying to work with clients in this way. As I grew more comfortable with these new challenges, I was able to take on some of the management responsibilities with our company as well. When Carol invited Ana and me to help run the company, it felt like a natural next step.
How has your role changed within the company since you became a partner?
I now have more responsibility for the well-being of our company overall, rather than just for the specific projects that I am working on. It’s a different approach and one I find exciting and quite dynamic.
You project-managed Creative Matters' largest ever handmade carpet in 2015 for the Bergdorf Goodman Jewelry Salons; what other high profile projects have you handled?
I am currently completing an assignment for the Canadian Government Conference Centre in Ottawa. Collaborating with Diamond Schmitt Architects, we have created a spectacular red woven Axminster carpet for the Senate Chamber no less.
Obviously a proud Canadian, last year I managed another government project where we interpreted and scaled up (massively) small precious pieces of hanging Inuit art for the larger public space of an airport. I enjoy my role in telling our national story.
What project are you most proud of?
Back to the international scene, I'm particularly enthusiastic about a new hotel project we are working on with New York-based Gachot Studios. All of the guest rooms have at least one handmade rug (so special!) and the corridors also have lovely carpet inserts within wood planks. We have selected crafters in India, Thailand and Afghanistan to add a natural human touch to the beautifully curated space. It’s an honour to be a part of this global cooperation effort.
How do you see your role when you are working with clients?
First it's my responsibility to ask a lot of questions so I can fully understand what the interior designers want to achieve. Then, not only do I help them to realize that vision, but I also aim to create pieces that complement and elevate the special spaces they have developed beyond their expectations.
Our expertise is to choose the right techniques and production teams, and to develop designs that take the entire project into consideration. It’s great to have so many options to work with, and to have the ability within our design and production teams to continually innovate.
What current trends in carpet design are meaningful to you?
Fair trade and responsible manufacturing of course! At Creative Matters, we don't consider a floor or wallcovering to meet our high standards unless it has been produced with the upmost care and consideration for people and the planet. Consequently, I'm thrilled when clients ask about this and value the work we do with our suppliers.
Where have you travelled to see carpets created; how did that change your design process?
I have been to the mills in the USA where we produce many of our printed carpets; to Thailand which is our first choice for handtufted pieces; and to Bhadohi in India to see the handknotting of our rugs directly.
Knowing each different type of production method helps me to develop designs based on the type of tools, equipment and skill sets that we're working with. Seeing production first hand helps to highlight any limitations while at the same time drawing attention to new possibilities and ways to adapt our designs to take advantage of specific techniques.
Within Creative Matters you have a reputation for mentoring the newer designers – how do you help them develop their potential?
When new designers arrive at Creative Matters, they are asked to dive right in. I like to help them feel more comfortable by letting them know that we're all part of a team and no question is a silly one. Each team member brings their own special talents to a project, so when we have a chance to explore those, it becomes really satisfying and rewarding for all of us. I hope that I'm helping to encourage our designers and partners to bring their very best to the game. We all want to grow and shine.
What would be your dream project?
One of the most rewarding projects I worked on recently was with the Gensler team in Toronto for the TD Bank Conference Centre. Our role was to develop a carpet that will share a lounge area with a large painting from the TD Bank art archives. We wanted to select our yarn colours in good context, so the TD Bank and Gensler design teams showed us some key finishes and booked us a visit with the artwork. Later when we all saw a large sample together with the artwork and finishes, we knew that the extra effort was well worth it. The colours of all the different components sang beautifully together. I can’t wait to see the finished space!
I love having a strong understanding of the area we are looking to accentuate with our carpets. This helps us pull out all of our stops and explore the balance of colour, texture and design freely. The result is exhilarating for us as well as for the client.
How do you see Creative Matters growing in 2018?
Creative Matters is currently involved in more hospitality projects than ever before. We look forward to growing from this experience - within our own studio as well as with our clients and suppliers. As you can imagine, the volume of carpet that is produced for a hotel is very different from that of a single home or office, so we are increasing production capabilities among our trusted suppliers and new possibilities are opening up. This experience provides us with yet more options for non-hospitality projects too. It's all very exciting!