Spanish rug design maven Nani Marquina is known for her emphasis on handcrafted wares, commitment to fair trade practices and sustainable development, and for bringing a distinctive and imaginative twist to floor coverings. This year, her company, nanimarquina, celebrates its 25th anniversary. We caught up with Marquina on the ICFF show floor and—with the help of her translator—found out more about her design philosophy, how she approaches collaborations, and which of her numerous pieces has stuck with her the most throughout the years.
What is your general approach to rug design?
The scope is innovation—innovation by giving rugs a contemporary focus and trying to establish a rug within a contemporary environment. This means trying to transform what is normally thought of as a traditional, antique work into something that can cope with our modern style of living: the style of the moment and the uses of the present day.
When I started 25 years ago, there were no modern rugs. Contemporary design was focused on objects, but there was no conceptual design applied to rugs. I began because there was a need and I continue to try to reinvent the rug.
What techniques do you use to reinvent rugs? We'd love to hear about an example.
You use things like a color, organic shapes, different concepts, and different uses for a carpet. Like the Flying Carpet; it's a carpet but also a sofa.
One quality that is most recognizable about your body of work is the bright, saturated color. How do you choose your palette?
It's not just about "choosing colors"; it's an intuitive sense and internal feeling. In Barcelona, we are in contact with a lot of bright colors. You have the yellow of the sun, the blue of the sea and the sky, the colors of the fruit markets. All of these saturated colors are really the color of Barcelona.
For the Digit rug, Christian Zuzunaga was working on different light palettes. For him, this is the light palette of Barcelona [points to the Digit 1 rug], and this is the light palette of London [points to the Digit 2 rug]. You can easily see that those aren't nanimarquina colors.
We work with those who share our philosophy of design. There's a basic underlying concept at nanimarquina: we work with handmade products. Collaborators have to understand these things from the start because that influences the end result. There has to be an understanding and a love of the handmade.
How involved are the outside designers with the end product? Do they give input, or once they give you the idea, is it up to you to execute?
It depends on the designer...We transform their conceptual idea into a rug. There are first-time designers that come with a grand concept that might be difficult to make, so we adapt it to embody the spirit. It requires a lot of work sometimes, but we come very close.
You have the Losanges rug by Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec on display here. How did that collaboration begin?
It came about mutually. The Bouroullecs were looking to make a rug and they had us in mind. And we are always looking for the best designers on earth. So that's how it started. It's very, very important that the external designer have the will to work with us because it's an emotional process and one that will last many years. I don't speak French [like the Bouroullecs], I don't speak English, but we all three speak the same language of design.