The Swedish Institute (S.I) in Paris is the only Swedish cultural institute outside of Sweden, and offers a wide range of activities and events. Aside from the usual suspects one can expect – language classes, conferences and an (excellent) cafe, the S.I also has a small exhibition space, which is currently hosting Re Rag Rug, an experimental design project centered on rugs, their materials and sustainability.
Created by Studio Brieditis & Evans in 2012, Re Rag Rug showcases twelve rugs, made over twelve months and using twelve different types of materials. Designers Katarina Brieditis and Katarina Evans both specialize in textiles and share an interest in exploring materials – and in placing materiality at the centre of their design process. Their choice of working on the rug – a highly symbolic object in many cultures – is of course not random. In their own words they explain that “The rug is the ultimate textile furnishing” and that their project was “started as an experimental design project which explores the social and ecological sustainability of the rug.”
The rugs presented were made from different types of materials, all of which were leftovers and waste produced by the textile industry. Ranging from scraps of t-shirts, to wool jumpers, and wool selvedges, each material was fashioned into a workable material using traditional craft techniques and then used to make a rug. For example the “Kasuri” rug is made of waste t-shirts donated by the Salvation Army, which were braided as a rug. Braiding to create a rug is a traditional technique for making rag rugs, however, the use of t-shirts meant variations in thickness, density, color and wear allowed for very bright and unusual patterns. The design process is well documented throughout the exhibition, givings us a glimpse at the designers’ experiment with materials and techniques.
The experimental nature of the materials used means the designers were also faced with questioning what the limits of the rug – as an object – were. In “Squeeze”, the use of excess jersey and t-shirts from the textile industry in India, as well as the use of knitting, means that the fabric of the rug is heavy and very fluid. The rug seems to spill onto the surface it is placed on, shaping itself to follow its support. The way in which “Squeeze” is presented only highlights the ambiguous nature of the object.
The exhibition itself is highly enjoyable, the lightning of the space showcasing the different fabrics’ textures and colors. A small video explains the design process, and the accompanying leaflet is very concise, although the labelling can be quite sparse. It is, more importantly, a very timely choice for the S.I, as the themes of Re Rag Rug run in parallel to those of the COP 21, the climate change and sustainability conference currently taking place in Paris. While there are large scale cultural events attached to the conference, with temporary exhibitions at the Palais de Tokyo or at the Grand Palais, a range of smaller cultural institutions have also aligned their programming on the conference. Re Rag Rug is one of the only design-centered shows taking place in the capital during COP 21, which is surprising considering the innovations coming from designers looking at using and creating sustainable materials. The show is a wonderful example of such a process, while showcasing that crafting techniques can offer a parallel avenue to technological advances in researching sustainability in design.
Re Rag Rug, at the Swedish Institute
11 Rue Payenne, 75003 Paris
6.11.2015 – 10.4.2016
© Soersha Dyon, 2015