From beginning to thread

This month, the interior designer turned rug-making prodigy Karen Michelle Evans revealed her secrets to scaling imaginative designs to actual carpet sizes with Commercial Interior Design.

Evans’ rug designs fall under her new company Ayka, and now a year has passed since the start and the designer seems to have the process well under control, so this month CID asked her just exactly how her beautiful rugs come to fruition.

“At first, I have these images in my head and it’s about getting them down on a sketchbook. So it’s not like I’m consciously thinking of something I have to design. I just have an image and I need to get it down on sketch paper.

I’m thinking of how I’m going to proportionate it scale-wise on the rug, so I do the rough scale first so I can do the pattern and see how big it’s going to be. Then when I’ve done the initial sketches and I’ve got the ideas, I scan them onto the computer,” Evans said.

After the initial sketches are completed and Evans’ ideas are more honed, she transfers the images onto her computer where she can access a wide set of tools to further develop the infant rug designs. Once on the computer, Evans can work with the colours in a more extensive way. She’s adamant about not choosing the colours, but rather having the colours choose her.

She said: “I don’t consciously design a rug to be a certain colour, the rug tells me what colour it has to be and it gets developed that way.”

After properly scaling the artwork, Evans heads to the artisans that transport the designs onto a more technical computer, where the sketches are digitised and each of her colours are turned into knots. Ayka’s products are exclusively Persian and Tibetan knotted rugs with 120 knots per square inch.

After choosing the colours, Evans and her specialised team print the rug onto an A2 sized sheet and further check for elements that don’t work together. The computer identifies colours from light to dark, which requires Evans to pick the colour yarns that match these tones. Once she chooses the poms of yarn, she moves on to choosing the textures as her rugs also consist of mixtures of wool and silk.

“I pick all the wool first,” she said. “And then when I look at the artwork, I check each number next to each pom to check the placement on the overall graph, then I highlight it. I have to note the placement.

Then when that’s done, I look at the raw rug and decide where to add the silk because I add 20% silk to the rugs. I try to spread the silk evenly around the rug so it’s not only in one place. I’m finding that lighter colours work better than darker colours [for silk]. They told me that at the beginning but I wanted to see for myself.”

One of the secrets to the glowing beauty of Evans’ rugs comes from the very fact that she not only mixes wool with silk, but she dyes the two textiles the same colour, which inevitably look different when placed next to each other as the materials respond differently to the dye.

For example, by placing blue wool and silk next to each other, the rugs bear a glimmering effect, as edges of abstract designs tend to stand out more powerfully.

This particular rug as seen here is from Akya’s recent Floral collection. Inspired by memories of strolling through forests with her grandmother in Wales, the blueness comes from the duo’s old tradition of picking wild blackberries.

Evans concluded: “The silk is really just in that square in the middle, because I wanted it to be that precious memory with all the silk on the inside. I grew up in Wales and we have forests all around, so we walked a lot with wild blackberries and things growing and I have all these memories of walking from my grandmother’s house to my house.

“This is a Tibetan weave that’s 80% wool and 20% silk. And the silk is really in the centre of the frame because I was trying to recreate a memory of walking in the forest with my grandmother and trying to frame that memory.”

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