THE CREATION OF A LUKE IRWIN RUG
Every Luke Irwin rug is the result of vivid imagination and incredible creative skill – the product of a colourful and fascinating journey that renders each piece unique. A new collection begins to form in little pockets of inspiration: from crops circles to stellar constellations; from the silk of a much-loved sari to a forgotten tale in a Dickensian bookshop. From that point on, the design of a Luke Irwin rug is as much an exploration as it is a creation.
Here’s how a Luke Irwin rug moves from concept to loom, and from loom to showroom, eventually finding its way home.
The initial ideas that go into a Luke Irwin rug could come from almost anywhere – whatever it takes to fire the designer’s intellect. In the case of his Tarantella collection, inspiration grew from his interest in Italian peasant design of the 18th and 19th centuries; Ikat grew out of an interest in pan-global design. From such percolations, the beginnings of a new collection begin to form.
Hand Carding and Spinning
With the designs in hand, the materials are carefully selected. Any wool put into use needs to be hand-carded – a time-honoured process that sees the wool refined into something workable. The weavers are looking to untangle the fibre, wash it and then intertwine it so that the natural tones are well-balanced. This is a process that we undertake by hand, as the woollen strands are literally combed together, ready to be hand-spun. It is both the hand-spinning and the carding that gives each rug its own personality, and ensures uniqueness throughout the collection. Just as hand-carding pulls together variation in natural colour tones, hand-spinning results in a variety of textures and thicknesses. From this moment on, no two rugs can ever be the same.
If the rugs weren’t varied enough already, the dyeing process only adds to the individuality. Again, the seemingly random, hand crafted nature of this work ensures that each knot is different, as the hand-spun yarns are attached to a wheel and boiled, dyed and then exposed to a binding agent.
And so to the loom. Once the yarns are in place, several weavers work together to hand-knot the entire rug to the intricate specifications of the design. Knot by knot the design emerges against a graph-paper print-out, each binding the equivalent of a pixel on the designers’ screens. This process is a labour of love, long and incredibly intricate, and it can take between three and eight months depending on the design.
Washing and Drying
Once knotted, the rugs are splashed with mild soap and water, and the washers move across them with paddles. This brings a suppleness and lustre to the creation, which mature further as they are hung out to dry in the sunlight.
Cutting and Shaving
Cutting the rug to the appropriate pile height is an extremely precise craft, and it is commonly completed using shearing scissors. The craftsmen at work are masters at their trade, and the weight of responsibility hangs heavy in the air as any mistakes made will result in the loss of what may already amount to over half a year's work.
As the rugs near completion, they are stretched for several days over wooden frames. This molds them into to a more precise shape, ensuring that the lines are straight and the sizes are to order.
Carving and Finishing
Finally, the rugs are carved to create the levelled effect that makes them so visually intriguing. As you have seen, the whole process is done by hand, and the finishing of each rug is no exception. It's a journey of craft and imagination, imbuing each rug with a story of its own.
Delivery and Installation
The rugs that arrive in the Luke Irwin showroom are largely examples, although they are all available for purchase. While each collection has its principles and its guidelines, we are wholly devoted to ensuring that your rug is bespoke to you. Pay us a visit to begin a story of your own.