As regular readers will know, Wendy’s inspiration for her designs is wide-ranging. Nature and its many connections, Oriental symbolism, chinoiserie, art history and the power of colour are all deep pools of inspiration.
Wendy’s newest rug – Eternity – is a beautiful hand-tufted design with a wool base and details in Tencel. Inspired by Chinese philosophy and symbolism, Eternity is full of motifs for a long and happy life, including a pair of soaring cranes outlined in gold, which represent happiness, good fortune and longevity. The white backdrop cocooned in a violet, black and gold border allows every motif, including mountains, plum blossom, orchids, waves, pine trees, peony roses and clouds, to stand out in a vibrant combination of pink, gold, aqua, purple and green. It is a vivid picture made up of delicate pieces with hanging branches and trailing wisteria overseen by a pink circular sun, all telling the story of eternal life.
Eternity also takes inspiration from renowned rug maker Walter Nichols, who, in the 1920s, combined traditional Chinese motifs with a much more open style, often using asymmetric designs, teamed with a bolder, brighter colour palette than had been seen before. For anyone who hasn’t come across Nichols’ Art Deco-influenced rugs before, his designs are a delight to discover and still have incredible impact today.
Walter Abner Burns Nichols was an American, who went to Tientsin, northern China, around 1920 to work for a wool merchant. A talented wool grader, he started his own business several years later and his name went on to become synonymous with the Chinese deco rugs manufactured throughout the 1920s and 30s.
Nichols’ designs were hugely influential, inspired by the Art Deco movement and its artists he introduced asymmetrical and geometric shapes with floral designs, always using rich, almost jewel-like colours such as turquoise, ruby, magenta and yellow. It was a time of experimentation with abstract forms and bolder, brighter colours. The results were luxurious and exotic, and caught the imagination of the times.
Walter Nichols’ rugs became world famous and were not only beautiful, but incredibly well made and durable. Now very much collector pieces, they are loved for their use of strong colour and beautiful motifs.
Nichols’ work still inspires today and Wendy has focused on the use of strong colour in the development of Eternity, which is naturally telling a story with its beautiful, life-affirming motifs and symbols.
His work also inspired our much-loved Chinese Garden of Virtue, a hand-tufted wool and Tencel rug, which is influenced by Chinese philosophy and symbolism. The design features the four Chinese flowers of virtue – plum blossom, bamboo, orchid and chrysanthemum – set on a gorgeous grey base with a shimmering gold border.
Nichols’ work was also an influence for our Peace, Love & Joy rug with its bold crimson wool base and shimmering pink Tencel border, which creates a backdrop for swirling orchids, representing love and beauty as well as wealth and fortune, Lotus flowers, which represent perfection and purity of the heart and mind, as well as long life and honour, and chrysanthemums, which symbolise longevity, all in beautiful shades of pink and red with gold highlights.
Ground-breaking in their day, the Walter Nichols Art Deco rugs are still a great source of inspiration and continue to inspire new works today.