Last year, the ever-energetic Kinder Modern founder, Lora Appleton, invited renowned American ceramicist Cody Hoyt to translate his distinctively patterned ceramics into a new line of luxury carpets for family-friendly homes. The result is Artist Collection (2017), four stunningly vibrant rug designs, hand-tufted and lightly carved in highly durable, 100% New Zealand wool.
Fascinated by the unlikely process of transposing Hoyt’s marbled and faceted aesthetic from ceramics to plush and pliable textiles, we reached out to these two dynamic creatives to try to unpick the knotted and convoluted line between art, craft, and design.
Gretta Louw: I am interested in what inspired you to collaborate with an artist on a collection, and whether you knew from the get-go that it would be a rug collection or whether that developed through the collaboration?
Lora Appleton: Typically my creative ideas come to me in an instant. For this project, I knew immediately I wanted to work with Cody on turning his ceramic work into rugs. I was a big fan and wanted to work with him to transform his vision into a new medium. The conversion from clay to wool was a very interesting challenge. Most rugs use silks, hemp, bamboo, and other softer shinier textiles to create dimension and a luxurious feeling. I wanted to accomplish these goals with the singularly durable material of wool.
Cody Hoyt: Kinder Modern always had the best booth at Collective Design Fair—until 2015 when I did a solo booth with Patrick Parrish Gallery. That’s when Lora and I met. I think we started talking about a collaboration right away. I had wanted to explore textiles but had found them to be kind of abstruse. Kinder Modern was doing amazing things, so when Lora suggested we do rugs it felt perfect. I think the twist in translating a small rigid stoneware object to an expansive plush sensory experience excited us more than doing some kind of furniture or objet.
GL: Kinder Modern is known for its work with child design, and the Artist Collection pieces are fun and dynamic—but also effortlessly chic and with a very broad appeal. Where do you see the rugs primarily fitting in a home environment?
LA: I look at all projects we work on at Kinder Modern as pieces for the family home. I live in a sophisticated way with my family; meaning I live with collectible art and design, vintage pieces, highly valuable design works all mixed with heritage pieces, typical furniture brands, my great-grandmother's chair, and the odd piece of Ikea; I think this is how people tend to live—with a mix of things. For me as a designer, making work that fits within a "luxury life aesthetic" is my goal. When I say luxury, I don't mean expensive as much as I mean handcrafted, exceptionally made, and artistically inclined.
GL: I like that way of putting it—artistically inclined. One certainly gets that sense from looking at the collection; everything from the irregular shapes of the rugs to the painterly quality of some of the patterns. What was it like for each of you, collaborating in this cross-disciplinary way?
LA: Working with Cody was a fun challenge. When two people with different points of view work together, the [mutual] influence is exciting and engaging. My main goal with this small series was to ensure that what we saw in the rugs was what one walked away with visually after viewing a Cody Hoyt ceramic piece. So it was less directly literal and more about a color feeling; a texture. We also needed to consider the floor coverage and how certain patterns feel in a home. I believe we succeeded in a line of rugs that are truely art for the floor but with function as a strong undertone.
CH: I make almost all of my work in my own studio, mostly by hand, so my process is very personal. The rugs are made by craftspeople in a different country; we rely on them to faithfully replicate our vision. Communication and understanding become crucial. The collaborative aspect of working with Lora is legitimately fun, but after that point there are a lot of gnarly logistics.
GL: We are living in a moment when the wall between "art" and "design" is collapsing, to an extent. But then there are always situations in which the differentiation gets reinforced, or insisted upon, by one side or the other. How do you look at this intersection and the blurring of the distinction between art and design? Are the categories still functional, or are you observing more hybrid forms cropping up between these two behemoth disciplines?
LA: This is a great question and certainly a hot topic. I see the divide occurring mostly on the art side. Designers these days are crossing disciplines, showing in different contexts, and seeing their work in very different capacities. I am much less worried about the labels and outcomes and much more about the materials and the handmade processes that define individual practices. People, creatives especially, can always learn from one another. We must grow in our practices.
CH: I believe most people strive to create the work they want to regardless of those categories. There’s definitely a distinction between art and design, but I think at this point differences exist primarily as abstract concepts to understand and appreciate someone’s work through a critical lens. That conversation doesn’t happen in the studio. I think craft needs to be tossed in there too to make it a romantic three-way. If there was any hierarchy in the past, we can ignore that now.
GL: What’s next for Kinder Modern; are there plans to continue your collaboration?
LA: We do intend to expand on this collection with neutrals and black and whites next. Since I launched my first rug collection in 2014—which was one of if not the first luxury modular rug collection—there has been so much to flood the market in this category. We are working on creating a new tone in this oversaturated rug landscape, and we are taking our time as we continue to work on this amazing body of work.
Gretta LouwA South-African born Australian currently based in Germany, Gretta is a globetrotting multi-disciplinary artist and language lover. She holds a degree in Psychology, and has seriously avant garde leanings.