Hella Jongerius is regarded as a colour expert. Her designs come into being by sketching and by working with materials ... the computer comes in later. Photo © Markus Jans
The cut-outs in the "Cross Collection" were a major challenge in the developement process. Photo © Danskina
Small knots are characteristic for the surface of „Cocoon“. They arise because the yarn is longer and forms small loops. Photo © Danskina
Two-thirds of „Cross Cut“ are peppered square, one-third with diamonds. Photo © Danskina
The special appearance of „Landscape“ is created not only by the mix of linen and wool, but by the different heights of the yarns. Photo © Danskina
„Colour is like a material for me,“ says Hella Jongerius. This "Cross" rug combines a closed surface with blocky fringes. Photo © Danskina
Woven, not tufted
Hella Jongerius is well known for her love of experimentation and her skilled and bold use of color. Her often unusual designs for Vitra, Kvadrat, Belux and the porcelain manufacturer Nymphenburg are not only centered on the topic of material, they also place a particular color composition center stage. Jongerius, who hails from Holland, has designed five new carpets for Danskina. Uta Abendroth spoke to her about the importance of color in the design process, about innovative yarns, and the possibility of grounding oneself with a carpet.
Uta Abendroth: Years ago your work was all about materials, now colors seem more important. Is that part of your personal development?
Hella Jongerius: I don’t see it like that, it’s still about materials. Although I’m responsible for developing the color range for various companies, the starting point is still the material. And the core topic is always the same, namely designing a product that is interesting or innovative. Color is one of the aspects that makes an object.
A symbiosis of color and material then?
Jongerius: Yes, if you look at a carpet, it’s the material that is the deciding factor; then comes the color. At Danskina it’s all very much about the yarns. We design new yarns and textile fibers, in this respect invent new techniques or, for example, bring together two techniques in a new way, such that they produce an unexpected combination. I’m conducting a sort of material research for Danskina in this sense. And not just at the development stage. Developing a nice little piece of a fabric that you could imagine one day being a carpet is easy. In reality though, things are quite different. Progressing from the idea of a carpet to the final product is really difficult.
Because of the quality a carpet has to have?
Jongerius: No, it’s the manufacturers, who come from a very conservative sector, that are actually the problem. For years now they’ve been making what their machines are capable of, and nothing else. We need to exert pressure on the industry and together with those in positions of responsibility develop new ways for them to use their machines, regardless of whether for weaving or tufting. And we need to work even more on developing yarns, because there aren’t many that meet our requirements and that are just as suitable for use in the public domain as they are in the private sphere. It goes without saying that we’re not always able to achieve those standards, but we want high quality, which not only makes the carpet look interesting, but good for a lengthy period of time as well. And for a good price – there are so many factors that have to be dealt with correctly.
So how long did it take to develop, for example, the Cross Collection?
Jongerius: We needed a good four years. To begin we had at least 20 ideas. Then we got going, continually having to alter our approach, because the outer surface perforation presented quite a few challenges. The gaps need to be well finished and the loops, when used, have to remain upright and not lie flat, because then the top does not look good at all. We initially used wool, but that didn’t work. So we developed a combination with viscose, which has a slight shimmer and makes the surface look more vibrant. And then we had to design the back, because we wanted “holes” in the carpet, and normally you’d be able to see the backing through those. We chose a felt as the base material and also developed a special anti-slip spray. What we’re doing is micro engineering. Even for us, the number of times we have a design on the drawing board before it really becomes a product is simply unbelievable.
It sounds like an awful lot of work …
Jongerius: Yes, but then I don’t do it alone. I have an entire team of people at Danskina, specialists in an extremely wide range of fields.
There are already a broad selection of carpets. How easy is it to come up with something that really is new?
Jongerius: What I see being sold are first and foremost lots of patterns. But that’s not how we work. We develop new constructions, restructure the carpet. Beginning with the yarn, which is of the highest quality, and we pay great attention to details, for example to the fringes. Personally I don’t think that what is otherwise available on the market is that cutting-edge. I have a great deal of experience with weaving, which counts for something in the production process. All in all it’s incredible how difficult making a carpet is. But if you’re patient and believe in a project, you eventually see results. We have this patience and only make carpets that make sense, that really do provide the market with something new.
Why are carpets currently experiencing a comeback?
Jongerius: A carpet has acoustic qualities that can make a building more pleasant. And we have these open spaces, in which we live and work. But even in those, people want a certain amount of privacy, a certain degree of comfort. Believing that living in totally open spaces would be nice is utopian. A space needs various areas, which a carpet can create. And then there are the tactile aspects. We are so busy in the digital world, totally detached from our original sense of touch. A carpet helps you ground yourself at home.
Many thanks for talking to us!
Unfinished and yet complete: "Misfit" is the title of the current monograph on Hella Jongerius. The publication illustrates the available design options when the medium book is re-thought.