15 mins with…luxury rug designer Wendy of Wendy Morrison

designer rugs detail shot of Wendy Morrison rugs

If you love designer rugs as much as I do, you’re in for a treat. Wendy Morrison (of Wendy Morrison Rugs) welcomes me into her world of colourful textiles, and shares her inspirations, her aspirations – and her career highlights so far.

I am in awe of your colourful rugs – they are stunning! Where do you get your inspiration from?

Thank you very much! I’m inspired by anything beautiful. I love nature and have also been very much inspired by Asia: the exoticism and symbolism associated with nature there. Animals, florals, colour, fashion, history, life – everything contributes!

Can you describe the manufacturing process for your luxury rugs? For example where are the rugs made and how long does it take to hand tuft each rug? 

Our colourful rugs are hand tufted in northern India, a two-hour crazy drive from Delhi. The first process is yarn dying. I do have a tendency to work with many colours, so this can be a lengthy process. First, the yarns are dyed and then dried in the sun, so during the rainy season, delays are unavoidable. While this is happening, the design is traced onto the canvas and framed. Once the yarn is ready, tufting will begin. The tufter starts with the details. Depending on the level of intricacy and size of the rug, this is likely to take around 10 to 15 days. Once the tufting has been completed, the rug is latexed to secure the yarn. This takes a day and is also required to dry in the sun. Then the piece will go to finishing. This too is a lengthy process. Depending on the detail and level of definition and carving that’s required, it could be in finishing for seven days. All in all, this might not seem long. However, we generally allow eight to 19 weeks for a rug to be created and delivered to our studio.

I love the Leopard Palms rug design, it is so bright and eclectic. How long does it take to design a new collection like this and what does it involve? 

Yes, I love Leopard Palms too. It was inspired by the work of Tony Duquette. Frankly, it’s hard not to be inspired by him, his work is incredible. It’s lovely to have time to research and immerse yourself a little, and then start drawing. It is very much an evolution, which in turn depends on how much studio time you have. To be honest, when you start feeling things come together it’s hard not to draw and work away until you are happy. However, I do need to give myself deadlines and ideally lock myself away. It’s quite difficult to specify any length of time, as inspiration can take you down many paths. Some might not be relevant at that particular time, but will undoubtedly pop up at a later date. A couple of years ago I was excited to work on ‘Dreams of the Jungle’. It never really materialised at the time, for one reason and another. But since returning from India and spending time in the jungle, it’s all coming to fruition. While it’s hard to give a duration, if I have a specific commission, I would ideally like a week for research. This would be followed by a week to draw, and a week to play with my drawings, plus more time for colour selection. I’d then arrange a meeting  with the client to formalise design ideas with colour specs. So we’re probably talking four weeks.

You are based in Scotland, has this always been your home?

No, we are a little nomadic and do like change. I have lived all over the UK, mostly in the name of work. However, we did choose to settle in Scotland to have our babies. Since then we have lived in France/Switzerland and are currently back in Scotland. Admittedly, a little consistency has been good! We have been in our current home for almost three-and-a-half years, which has allowed us to focus a lot on business. That said, I do feel the time is coming for a change again….

Was it a natural progression to leave the world of fashion and move into interior design?

Yes, it did happen quite naturally, and I suppose it all came about from my personal interests. When I was younger, it was all about the clothes – I thoroughly enjoy clothes. I love finding gorgeous fabrics and nice pieces, old and new. Plus I love wondering what to wear; it’s one of life’s little pleasures, for sure. As as I grew older, my interests naturally turned to the home. Yet I do remember from an early age having fun moving furniture around and making my surroundings pleasing to my eye. However, I still like fashion and think the two go hand in hand.

What has been your proudest moment to date?

I can’t really recall such a moment, to be honest. However, I do feel very happy when my work is recognised, which is why I like to exhibit. I consider it an opportunity to showcase my work and meet like-minded people. Actually, it did feel special to get Zebra Leopard Palms recognised as a top new rug by the carpet trade publication Cover. I have also had a rug order from an artist I have admired for many years. I was rather proud to take that call!

I see you have worked with John Lewis over the last five years to develop some amazing collections, have there been any career highlights from this collaboration? 

Yes, being part of the John Lewis Design collective was very much a career highlight. It’s so lovely to get recognition for the work you do from a large  commercial high street store. It was a real pleasure to work with their buyers. They were very good at allowing me a free rein. I also gained a lot of (home wares) market knowledge. It has been an incredible opportunity.

How would you describe your own interior design style?

I’m not entirely sure. Perhaps eclectic? I love to fill my surroundings with beautiful things and find using colour is a good way to make you happy. In fact, I also love pattern and texture. I thoroughly enjoy layering colour, patterns and texture to create depth. Yes, I think eclectic is accurate, but I do like harmony amongst beauty.

What is the most rewarding aspect of your job?

I love the people who make my rugs. There are only a few master tufters that are skilled enough to achieve the level of detail my rugs require. It makes me happy that I provide work for these people. They are skilled artisans who enjoy what they do and are very grateful for the work we provide.

Can you describe your typical week? Do you have to travel extensively?

It’s fair to say no two weeks are the same. My studio is a half-hour walk or cycle along the coastline, which is rather pleasant when the weather is fine. I do travel frequently to London for clients, exhibition & museums. Travel is required for exhibitions a couple of times of year. Plus it’s good to go to the workshop in India as often as I can. I do thoroughly enjoy travel and struggle to be at the studio for a full week, as it is very solitary. I like to discover new places and very much enjoy meeting new people.

Do you have any international clients, or are they all UK-based? 

We have clients all over the world, thanks to the power of the internet and social media. I think most of our custom is probably UK-based but we ship internationally most weeks.

What’s the most exciting project you’ve worked on so far?

To be honest custom projects are all very exciting. I am working on a couple of interesting ones at the moment. One of these is a bespoke stair runner, something I’ve never done before, so I’m learning something new. I’m also working on a large penthouse project, which is going to be rather spectacular, I think.

Do you have any tips for women who want to establish their own interior business?

Do what you love, be true to yourself always – and work hard!

What’s your work motto?

Be true to yourself always. Previously, I have been asked to do jobs where I didn’t like what I was creating, but the money was good. These jobs never go to plan, and generally the hassle isn’t worth the cash! I do very much think that if you work hard at what you believe in, you will be successful.

Can you describe yourself in three words? 

Friendly, creative and kind.

Where did you last go on holiday and where do you plan to go next? 

India. I’m about to go to Palma for a few days. I do enjoy soaking up new cities, museums and galleries. Japan and Nepal are currently at the top of my wish-list, but they require a good bit of saving first.

What’s your favourite rug design? 

As a rule it’s usually my newest. I’m currently loving Herringbone Florals Shanghai Blossom – the colours are tremendous. But in all honesty, I do really love them all, for one reason or another. I’m always very happy with Chinese Garden of Virtue. I consider this to be the ultimate neutral with a good amount of interest.

What’s your next career goal?

I would love to create fabric and wallpaper at some point. However, I don’t want to dilute my rug work, so the time is not right yet. That said, I would certainly consider collaborating with someone who has this level of expertise.

Do you have a famous client base or do you have a mix of clientele? 

A mix. There are a few celebrities, but it’s mostly regular people. This was always my plan when I started in the world of rugs: to make good design accessible to all.

Are they any plans to extend your product line? 

I think textiles and wallpapers would be a natural progression.

What’s been the best thing about 2019? 

I was rather chuffed to have been asked to feature our home in a book, which will be released in November.

Interested in interiors? Click here to read my interview with Jane Rockett, the co-founder and co-director of online homeware emporium Rockett St George.