A collection of ten beautiful hand-knotted rugs designed by OCAD U students has been launched at the Weavers Art showroom, Designers Walk, 162 Bedford Rd. in Toronto. The rugs were developed in collaboration between the Material Art & Design (MAAD) program and Weavers Art led by Assistant Professor Lynne Heller. Designed by students (now alumni) Rachel Babineau, Mariam Ben Belfadhel, Allie Gregory, Mudassir Mohammed, Domenic Sgamelluri and Hatley Walker, the rugs were hand-knotted in Nepal and India.
At the launch, designers from across the city remarked on the creativity of the rug designs. In developing designs, the students worked with Weavers Art owner Michael Pourvakil and designer Wan Ki An (MAAD, 2002) to develop a palette of colours and consider the placement of wool and silk fibres. Each designer approached his or her rug design in a different way. Allie Gregory (MAAD, 2017), considered “the juxtaposition of nature within the urban context of the city of Toronto” as seen in Petals, which was inspired by a trip to High Park during cherry blossom season. Hatley Walker’s (MAAD, 2017) Rock Formations began as a photo she took of the “aged walls” of Katra Mosque in Murshidabad, West Bengal, India that she then digitally manipulated into an abstracted design.
The designs were sent to mills in Kathmandu, Nepal and Bhadohi, India where the process of translating the image to a workable pattern begins. “Once we send them the designs, their artist hand paints them on graph papers. Each square on the graph represents one knot in the carpet,” said Pourvakil. “The average knot count for each 8’ x 10’ rug is around 800,000 individually tied knots.”
Several weavers work together at the loom simultaneously. While the students are taught weaving and surface design in the MAAD program, their focus is often on small-scale production. With this incredible project, they are able to see how they can work in the commercial market. In addition to collaborating with the students to develop this collection, Weavers Art also generously donated a student-designed rug to Project 31, OCAD U’s fundraising auction in March 2017.