Fashion takes to the floor as Helen Cody collaborates with Ceadogán

The Irish fashion designer has come up with Vessels, a collection of rugs that use a delicate palette

A rug can be art and the carpet a canvas, some ending up displayed on walls rather than floors. In Ireland, modernist artist Mainie Jellett was a pioneer in this area and exhibited her first carpet designs in 1928. Her abstract Cubism translated into wool was later revived by Ceadogán Rugs in Wexford at a special exhibition in the RDS in 2008 and are still made to order.

Now, in another first for Denis Kenny and Fiona Gilboy of Ceadogán, who have supported Irish design for the past 25 years, the couple have collaborated with Irish fashion designer Helen Cody to create "Vessels," a limited-edition collection of five rug designs.

Amazing craftsmanship

One was featured last month Maison et Objet 2016 in Paris as part of the Irish pavilion curated by the Design &

Crafts Council of Ireland

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while the rest were launched at the

Solomon Gallery

in Balfe Street on February 11th. “We started talking a year ago,” recalls Cody in her home-cum-studio in Harold’s Cross, Dublin.

“I assumed there would be factories in India making all these rugs and then discovered the amazing craftsmanship in Wexford when I went to visit them for the first time. Their approach [to fashion] is like mine; it is about making individual pieces that are handtufted, and it is a slow process. That, and rugs displayed in a gallery, was a real eye opener. To see . . . what happens when they are tufted was amazing,” she says.

Tufting involves using a gun that shoots yarn into fabric until the entire surface forms a dense pile which is then carefully shorn for a smooth finish.

Scandinavian influence

Her vision for the project was informed by her love of mid-century modernism, particularly Scandinavian furniture and ceramics of the 1960s, and her background. Her late father, Desmond, was a furniture consultant so the Codys grew up familiar with all sorts of furniture and ceramics. “My approach to interiors is that you shouldn’t have elements in them that detract from others. Many of the other rugs have strong colours and are very imposing, so every other element in the environment would have to recede from them. I decided to do something very different, to create impact with something very delicately coloured.”

The result reflects her aesthetic approach to interiors, a contrast to the elaborately detailed confections she creates in clothing with vintage materials and trimmings. “I wanted a gentle palette that unites other elements in the room so that you can still have your paintings, your furniture and furnishings – and all the things that make people feel at home.”

The shapes and forms in the rugs are simple, organic and abstract, incorporating her favourite colour schemes for interiors “warm, neutral, soft greys but with a subtle pop of colour like citrine, peacock, cobalt and steel blue.”

During seven years spent in the UK when her fashion design career went on hold, Cody went back to painting, completing a course at Central St Martin’s in London and later exhibiting at the RHA.

She also had a solo show in France where nearly everything sold. “Fashion is a language I know but where my heart lies is in making art. I am obsessed with art and painting. There are no deadlines [as in fashion] and I used to spend nine hours painting every day from seven in the morning. It released my frustrations,” she says.

She also started to work on small domestic interiors projects, the first a house in Kent that had been on the market for a year and hadn’t sold. “I spent £20,000 tarting it up and we sold it for £100,000 more than its original price,” she says.

Making to order

After returning to Ireland in 2013, “commerce took over and Create in Brown Thomas took off like a whirlwind. I am now making to order for women who want a dress for an event, for a party or for a wedding. Working with Ceadogán has been a lovely outlet because I was not actually making the work.”

The rugs are made from New Zealand wool and cost from €2,625 to €3,375. “They can be recoloured and resized and made more personal to suit the room. They are not too aggressive, and these images show how they will sit in a domestic space,” she says. Her own well-organised home is cool and uncluttered with carefully chosen paintings and objets d’art, though she admits to being a hoarder.

"I source materials for interiors from skips, brocantes, eBay and closing-down sales. I like finding things that you can reinvent. I can't bear untidiness. I really want these rugs to reflect and enhance most contemporary spaces," she says.

The rugs exhibition is at the Solomon Gallery, Dublin, until Wednesday, February 24th, and then at the Listening Suite (upstairs, 10 Wicklow Street).

For more information about Helen Cody’s rugs, see ceadogan.ie, tel. 051-561349 or email info@ceadogan.ie