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The clas­sic area rug be­comes mod­ern art­work in the hands of Span­ish de­signer Nani Mar­quina. Edi­tor-in-chief Anicka Quin chats with the iconic de­signer about fair trade, mod­ern de­sign and her new­found love for the West Coast.

Western Living - - CONTENTS -

The clas­sic area rug be­comes mod­ern art­work in the hands of Span­ish de­signer Nani Mar­quina.

When you started your com­pany in 1987, you were work­ing with a highly mech­a­nized process. But you later tran­si­tioned to us­ing more tra­di­tional tech­niques from In­dia and Pak­istan for mak­ing your mod­ern de­signs. Why?

Nani Mar­quina The ma­chines in Spain were re­ally limited with tech­nique and fab­ric. The only op­tion to cre­ate what I had in mind—the de­sign, the colours and tex­tures—was to find an­other way. The dif­fer­ent shapes we de­sign, the dif­fer­ent in­no­va­tions: it’s im­pos­si­ble to in­no­vate with a ma­chine.

Your weavers are of­ten based in In­dia, and you have pro­grams in In­dia for school and ed­u­ca­tion. Can you tell me more about the Kala project?

NM Since the be­gin­ning, we’ve col­lab­o­rated with the Care and Fair or­ga­ni­za­tion, which spe­cial­izes in help­ing chil­dren in In­dia by giv­ing them a per­cent­age of our prof­its—for build­ing schools and man­ag­ing schools and fi­nanc­ing them. In­dia is part of our com­pany. Af­ter many years work­ing there, I thought I had to do some­thing more for the In­dian people and the chil­dren. That’s why I de­cided to start the Kala project. I de­cided to build a school— ev­ery trip I was meet­ing chil­dren who were not go­ing to school.

Through Care and Fair, we picked a school and or­ga­nized a con­test with the chil­dren, ask­ing them to draw their own rug. One draw­ing was cho­sen as the win­ning one, and we did a rug from it. That’s the

Kala project. From ev­ery sin­gle Kala rug sold, 150 eu­ros go to fi­nance a school. There was one school that was closed be­cause of the fi­nan­cial cri­sis—it was a school for 450 chil­dren. [Care and Fair] chose that school to re­open.

You re­cently un­veiled a de­signer col­lab­o­ra­tion at the In­ter­na­tional Con­tem­po­rary Fur­ni­ture Fair (ICFF) with Mil­ton Glaser.

NM Mil­ton Glaser was a ref­er­ence for me as a de­signer in the ’80s, so it was a big sur­prise for me that such a fa­mous de­signer would come to me to do rugs. It was an in­ter­est­ing col­lab­o­ra­tion be­cause Mil­ton opened all his art­work to me to choose what I liked. The se­lec­tion was easy, but the pro­duc­tion and the con­ver­sion from art­work into rugs was chal­leng­ing. I chose Shake­speare in Africa, the most iconic work from this collection—it’s a beau­ti­ful and in­ter­est­ing draw­ing, but to trans­late it into a rug is re­ally dif­fi­cult, be­cause you have to make Shake­speare’s face ap­pear in the rug, play­ing with a few colours and us­ing dif­fer­ent hand-milled tech­niques. Depend­ing on the colours and the plates, the face of Shake­speare was re­ally prim­i­tive. In one pro­to­type, it wasn’t pos­si­ble to see the face, and in an­other, it was too strong. The idea was to try to find the right bal­ance.

What’s im­por­tant to you as a de­signer? What in­spires you?

NM The most im­por­tant thing is that I ob­serve—it’s my most im­por­tant source of in­spi­ra­tion. My in­spi­ra­tion is to learn from dif­fer­ent cul­tures and what they are do­ing. Beauty you can find in na­ture and travel. In­spi­ra­tion is a kind of ex­pe­ri­ence you get when you add all of that to­gether. And when you need to de­sign and cre­ate, you get back to the big ex­pe­ri­ence, you com­bine all of these things.

This is your first time in Western Canada. What have you ob­served from your trav­els here?

NM It’s all very dif­fer­ent from where I live. I was re­ally sur­prised by the na­ture here, the trees and the colours, es­pe­cially in the win­ter. I was re­ally sur­prised by the wa­ter—we came by train this morn­ing, and the wa­ter, the colour, is so dif­fer­ent than what we have in Barcelona. I was also sur­prised by the old trees, the dead trees that lay on the beach—they’re old, but they al­most seem to be alive. The great colour of the trees, the sand, it’s so dif­fer­ent for me—it’s a to­tally beau­ti­ful pal­ette.

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Global De­sign The de­signer Nani Mar­quina on a re­cent trip to In­form In­te­ri­ors in Van­cou­ver. Mar­quina works with lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties in In­dia to craft her rugs, like Me­d­ina (in­set).

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