Most people study industrial design, go on to become an industrial designer - creating lamps, furniture . . . all the hard stuff. But not Nani Marquina. The industrial design graduate from the Escuela Massana of Barcelona found her niche as a rug designer. "There was no demand for industrial designers in Spain when I had finished school in 1970," says Ms Marquina, who was in Singapore recently for the Maison&Objet Asia show.
"There were people who designed furniture, but no one was designing contemporary rugs," she goes on. Seeing a gap in the market, Ms Marquina says: "I knew that if I wanted to design new rugs, I had to start my own company." Back then, contemporary rugs were unheard of in Spain.
In 1987, she founded her eponymous company. In Singapore, her rugs are available at Space at Bencoolen Street. Asked to describe her rug-making style, the 62-year-old says: "My rugs try to connect with people through colours, sometimes texture, and volume. People connect with the rug the same way they do with a piece of art."
The nanimarquina mantra is "we like to make people fall in love with our rugs. When people say they want this rug in their home now, this is when we know that we have succeeded", says Ms Marquina.
But while a well-designed furniture or product can be easily defined, a well-designed rug may seem harder to appreciate. But Ms Marquina says simply: "A rug that looks good, that looks like a piece of art, that is a well-designed piece".
Ms Marquina designs some of the rugs herself, but she also works with fellow designers. They include well-known names such as Tord Boontje, Ron Arad, Marti Guixe and Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec. "I work with designers that have similar thoughts as me - designers who respect craftsmanship and who are interested in transforming the world of rugs," says Ms Marquina. No brief is given to the designers, who instead come back to her with proposals.
One of the key pieces in the collection is Losanges by the French Bouroullec brothers. The technically complex piece is handmade using the ancient kilim technique and requires great skill as it involves combining 13 colours through the geometrical rhombus shape.
Another new piece in the collection is Ghost by Spanish designer Guixe. His black and white Ghost rug recreates the mythical pictorial motifs of birds, flowers, horses and deer that appear and disappear like ghosts. ninamarquina rugs are made from wool, jute, nettle, silk, recycled polyester and even recycled rubber from the inner tubes of bicycle tyres.
"I wanted to use a new material that wasn't used before, so I thought about latex," says Ms Marquina. The tubes are cut into strips and used like threads to form the Bicicleta rug.