247 – Space Dyed Rugs

Space Dyed Rugs
Space dyed hand-tufted wool
Various dimensions

My Space Dyed Rugs project was conceived to transform the interior of the squash court and swimming pool at Villa Noailles, designed by Robert Mallet Stevens, for my Exercises in Seating exhibition, 2016.

I didn’t like the suspended glass floor covering the original white-tiled swimming pool, despite the fact without the glass floor there would be no space for an exhibition in the first place. So I decided to cover the floor, create a new floor, and use this new floor as the scenography for my exhibition. Another thing I don’t like is scenography; plinths, pedestals, facades, curtains, even paint…… ephemera. At first I thought of using carpet, to literally soften the literally hard architecture, create a sense of domesticity (British at least), and dampen the acoustics, but carpet costs money and needs to be fitted which renders it unusable afterwards. I needed a takeaway floor…….. rugs. So I launched a campaign to design a rug, or rugs, with which to cover the floor of the swimming pool and, afterwards, could still be used as rugs elsewhere.

100m2 of rugs is a lot of rugs. I immersed myself in the woollen industry of Yorkshire, one of the great British industries that speaks of history, place, geography, climate, culture, hard work. I visited the scourers, the spinners, the dyers and the tufters. Quantity became evidently critical. A good density of rug uses 3kg of yarn per square meter, so 100m2 of rugs requires at least 300kg of woollen yarn, which I thought was a lot of yarn but for the spinners and the dyers is less than their minimum.

I commissioned 420kg of especially thick 6/18 woollen yarn (six spun yarns twisted together measuring 18 yards in length per ounce) which was spun and reeled onto 1.5kg hanks by Edward Kneens & Sons. Ltd. I divided the yarn into 54 hank (84kg) batches and space-dyed each batch in a different colour arrangement with Harrison & Gardner Dyers & Winders Ltd. who also wound the dyed yarn onto cones. The cones of space-dyed yarn were then delivered to Michael Smith at Trendy Tuft to tuft into twenty-seven rugs using their Hitex robotic tufting machine. The thick yarn meant only one ‘end’ was needed to tuft the rug and the multi-coloured space-dyed yarn, fed into the tufting machine one cone at a time, generated a self-striping pattern which varied according to the width of the rug and the direction I had laid each hank of wool on the space-dyeing machine – widthways (mottled), lengthways (fine-patterned), or diagonally (large/broad-patterned).

Film by Sebastian Ziegler