Art-inspired rugs, wallhangings, and GoodWeave


When Decorex first invited me to write a guest post for them, I knew immediately that I wanted to write about art and design-led rugs. Decorex is a great showcase for luxury items, both for industry professionals and for the individual buyer, and so I thought here’s my chance to be really self-indulgent and put together a piece about some of my favourite things, namely; art, cutting-edge design and first-rate craftsmanship. For me, one of the most exciting areas in interiors right now is that increasingly broad middleground between what is considered art and what is considered design; and nowhere is this trend more pronounced than with contemporary rug making.

Art and design-led rugs are increasingly becoming an alternative to traditional artforms such as paint on canvas and sculpture - both in terms of beauty and investment. Within the rug-making community there are two rug designers - Sonya Winner and Tania Johnson - who are constantly turning up on my design radar! Both Tania and Sonya create unique rugs combining exquisite design with innovative new ways of working with the medium.

Sonya Winner

The After Matisse rug, by Sonya Winner

They also share a strong sense of commitment to the skilled workforces that produce their beautiful designs within traditional rug making communities in Asia, and both belong to GoodWeave - a fantastic organisation which campaigns for better working conditions – especially against child labour in the rug making industry; as Sonya herself says: “I think it’s a wonderful way of supporting the communities in Asia who create such wonderful rugs”. She goes on to say, “and in addition to being a GoodWeave member, we also support The Helpless Children's School and Orphanage Chovar, Kirtipur, Kathmandu which I visit when in Nepal. We donate a percentage of every rug commissioned from Nepal directly to this orphanage to help cover the day-to-day running costs of this home and school for nine incredibly happy children who have no parents or family funds to rely on.” 

Sonya Winner

Sonya Winner's Bubbles rug

I interviewed Sonya for my blog last year, when there was a huge buzz around the launch of her extremely popular “After Matisse” rug. She explained to me that she was initially from a graphic design background, and got into rug making after Aram (one of the many exhibitors at Decorex), commissioned her to make a rug for them. Since then she has established herself as a major design force within the industry. I particularly love the new “Bubble” rug and “Holey Bubbles” wallhanging that she’s launching at London Design Festival this year. Sonya explains that they are, “...a development of my colour-mixing experiments which started with the After Matisse rug…these two pieces - one a wallhanging and the other a rug - are designed to create luminosity and light through the careful selection of colours which give the effect of colour mixing. Each piece has 50 colours!”

Tania Johnson

The Rainstorm rug, by Tania Johnson 

Tania Johnson’s Water collection of rugs, are to be launched at LDF, here at Decorex. Her designs couldn’t be more different to Sonya’s. She uses much less colour, and usually her starting point is nature. Tania works from photographs taken herself, and this does lend a photographic quality to the rugs themselves. Tania explains to me:

"Every rug is based on my own photography. I am constantly inspired by the patterns that form and change around us, whether it is a detail in nature or the way light creates shadows and reflections. Rather than take a photo of a flower, it is inevitably the shadow of that flower that I will be drawn to. The whole idea of transience and capturing a fleeting moment in time fascinates me. The process of translating this ‘moment’ into a woven piece of art that will last generations is equally exciting. Using my photography and combining it with my background in weaving allows me to reconstruct nature in a completely new and original way.”

Tania Johnson

Tania Johnson's Splash rug

Tania’s just come back from the States, where she’s lived for many years, and with this new collection of rugs, I’m sure she will make her presence felt here too!

I’ll leave the last few words to Tania herself, explaining why she joined GoodWeave,  and then all that’s left for you to worry about is what exquisite designs you like best!

"GoodWeave is an amazing organisation that works to end child labour in the carpet industry. When I first started my own business, I felt they could provide me with the best assurance that my designs would be woven in an ethically responsible manner. As soon as I decided I wanted to launch my own collection, I contacted GoodWeave and obtained their list of certified factories.  It is important to me as I strongly believe educating children, as well as empowering women, is critical to achieving a more stable balance in our world and if I can use my passion and skills for designing to help achieve this in any small way, that at least is a start. "

Michaela Mildenhall (AKA PopArtRockGirlYeah!) is the author of "The PARGY Design Blog", which hunts down the very best in bold and daring design.