DESIGNER CARPET COLLECTION CAPTURES THE SEA

Artist Deirdre Dyson has been designing carpets for the last 12 years out of her studio on London's Kings Road. Her designs have been commissioned by the Victoria & Albert Museum, a myriad of international clients, and most recently were awarded the Domotex 2013 Carpet Design Award for 'Best Studio Artist Design' for her 'Autumn Leaves' carpet.

Dyson's latest collection gravitates around the underwater world of the ocean, using wool and silk yarn to replicate the iridescence of fish scales and seascape alike. Sarah Roberts talks to Deirdre Dyson to find out more.

Educated in Fine Art at the Byam School of Art in London and afterwards in Graphic Design and Illustration at Wimbledon College of Art, Deirdre Dyson's move into the textile industry came about by pure chance. "I've always been a painter," she explains, "I got involved with carpets absolutely by accident."

In the early 1990s, Dyson was out on the Kings Road searching for a carpet to furnish her new home. Walking into the newly opened Chelsea Handmade Carpets on the Kings Road she couldn't find anything she wanted. The owner told Dyson that they could make anything and asked her to design one herself.

"He delivered the rug sometime later and was very complimentary about my paintings and the colours I had used in my home," says Dyson. "The next day he sent me a letter asking me to design a collection of contemporary carpets for his showroom." Dyson went on to design several more collections for the store before becoming a partner and eventually taking the whole place over in 2000. Her carpets are crafted from luxurious wool yarn for use in the home. The bespoke pieces cost on average £3,000 for a 240cm x 140cm carpet, all made to order.

Dyson's design process always begins with hand drawn sketches. "I draw and colour in my designs by hand, or sometimes just pick things out directly from our wool samples. We digitally scan these and then Nichola from the studio draws round the design so that we have an accurate rendition for the makers."

Often described as abstract, the geometric resonance of graphic design is clearly present in Dyson's work. "My design is quite often figurative. It always develops out of what I've designed previously in a current state of evolving. I'm not really influenced by external things, but last year I did a collection based on plant life. It was still figurative and also influenced by nature."

Her latest collection, 'Designs from the Deep' takes inspiration from the ocean and Dyson's various experiences of scuba diving and snorkelling in tropical waters. The textures and symbolism of underwater worlds have been transposed into her designs in a figurative manner using swashes of blues with aquamarine highlights.

"I seem to be spending more time on the sea and looking under the sea. Fish are so exquisitely beautiful, like jewels. We combine silk and wool yarns in the carpets that act as a good medium to represent the light flicker you see on fish scales when the sun catches them."

The carpets often have a depth to them that comes from the shading and texture of the Dyson's designs. "Particularly with figurative ones, I have to describe contour to achieve a 3D look when the carpet is laid out on the floor. I do that with shading which is very successful with the hand knotting. The craftsmen can stitch over 100 stitches onto an area the size of a postage stamp so you get a near perfect effect."

Deirdre Dyson has worked in collaboration with the Victoria & Albert museum, producing rugs for their shop. "They just asked me four times to design a carpet that linked to their current show," says Dyson. "I've done arts & crafts, modernist, Islamic and couture designs. They were inviting designers from all disciplines to create contemporary carpets that reflected those other periods."

The studio uses two different making techniques in the production of the carpets. The hand tufted carpets are produced in Britain for larger commercial use. "We have suppliers in Leeds and Scotland who can produce acres of carpets," she explains.

Nepalese craftsmen in Kathmandu hand-make the knotted designs on traditional looms using Tibetan wool. "You can't find the craftsmanship in the UK or Europe so all hand knotted carpets have to be made in Nepal or India." These free standing art pieces take around 14 weeks to produce, all individually made by hand.

'Designs from the Deep' was launched in February 2013 and is now on display in the Deirdre Dyson gallery. Examples of her work will also be shown at this year's DX show in London (19-21 May) where for the first time Dyson will exhibit both her hand knotted designs and contract ideas.

Sarah Roberts, Features Editor