Having studied interior design and interior architecture in both Sydney and Toronto, Canada, Kelly MacPherson has been involved in art and design her entire career. After working as an interior designer and custom furniture designer in Canada, Kelly has found her happy medium between design and art and is now making waves on the local Perth scene as Managing Director and textile designer with the Korda Design brand.
“I’ve found WA to be exactly what I was hoping for,” says Kelly. “It’s approachable, original and more down to earth.”
We caught up with Kelly to learn about the process of carpet and rug design from inception to creation, and what makes Korda Design truly unique.
How did you become involved with Korda Design, and how long have you been with the company?
I started my role at Korda Design in sales when it was Korda Bros, and it was a company that worked with standard designs and collections. After being with Korda for 6 months, I began creating my own designs and this proved a very popular process with clients. It was at this point that I was approached by the directors and asked to develop this way of working, and as a result I evolved the business into a design studio working with only bespoke designs. I have now been with the company for 6 years.
Well established for more than 60 years in Sydney, what led to Korda Design launching a Perth studio?
The design world of the 1950’s is so different to where we are today. Korda Design is at a place now where we have a strong business model that has a definite process, and this can be replicated in any state. From our Sydney studio we work on projects along the East Coast, and this is completely manageable from one studio. However, we were seeing projects in WA that we would love to be a part of. As much as we rely on remote relationships for so many things that we do, design is just so much more pure if you can be on site and be talking design face-to-face with clients. It was time to expand Korda as the demand was there, and we felt that WA was the right place for us. It gives us the opportunity to be a part of the West Coast design scene and to really know what’s happening on the ground here. It’s certainly got a different feel to Sydney and it’s so good to see that WA is developing its own identity and really standing strong in the design world.
What is involved in your work process?
We start by obtaining a brief from the client and often visit the intended space. We then propose pricing options, as we can make the rugs and carpets in a variety of materials and techniques. Once we have a brief and cost established, we propose 3 designs. We usually hone in on one design and sample this. Following sample approval we move to full production. This whole process can be really exciting as we are creating something new every time. We use custom colours and hand draw a lot of our designs. Each Korda Designer gets quite involved in their project and we unroll the rugs with as much anticipation as the client.
What is it that makes a Korda Design rug unique?
Each design is bespoke and created in studio by one of our designers. We hand draw, paint and use all sorts of material as a starting point for our designs. The designs are sent off and hand tufted by our mills in China and we are kept in the loop throughout the entire production. It really is about creating something very special for the client and is a thoroughly enjoyable process. We use beautiful quality yarns and love to be a part of creating something so special.
With each of your rugs made by hand, can you tell us what was behind the decision to have them created in China as opposed to India? Is there anything you’d like to add to dispel any preconceptions about China-made products?
The process of having bespoke goods produced in China is equally challenging and satisfying. China has really become the manufacturing hub for carpets, and it is not price that drives this. Chinese craftsman are incredibly skilled, and you don’t need to go too far into history to see proof of this. It’s often thought that China is a place for cheap and fast production. But for bespoke carpets and rugs this is not the case. If we wanted to have cheap and fast products there are many other countries we could work with, but this is not what we are about as a company. We hold incredibly high standards for quality, and the relationship we have with our mills is vital to this.
We were previously working with India, but the environments in which the rugs are produced in are not as controlled as China. We found that working with India could be somewhat unpredictable, and working in an industry where lead-times are critical we couldn’t afford to have projects created with no confirmed shipping date. We have visited both countries to see the process hands on, and we have always been impressed with China. The mills provide a great atmosphere for their staff, are sustainably aware and are as proud of their quality as we are. The skill involved in creating a rug is not to be taken for granted. It takes years to be able to do and our mills train their staff with great pride. A craftsman must have several years of experience before tufting a rug for Korda and it really is an art form. They deserve the title craftsman and are so excited to be able to experiment with new techniques with us. It is this collaboration that makes working with China exciting. The challenge in communication is there, but we have worked with the same people in the mills for years now, and personally I have known the staff for 6 years and we have a mutual respect for each other and always try and make sure we understand each other. Visual aids are a huge help.
What has been one of your most challenging projects to date?
I think for me the most challenging project has been the Sheraton Noosa Hotel. We worked on this with Woods Bagot and we aimed high! Our designs are completely unique and hand drawn for over 4,000sqm of carpet. It was a massive feet and one that I am personally in awe of in retrospect.
What has your experience been with the WA market so far?
It feels like a small design community, but it’s capable of standing on the same podium as Sydney and Mebourne. I’m still developing the business here, but I can see that this is an ideal place for Korda. I find that the design scene is very open here and there are so many great minds at work. The market is ready and willing for new creatives and I think this attitude is going to allow WA to push past the glass ceiling of design that I’ve felt in other areas. I feel that WA is making its design identity now and I’m incredibly excited to be a part of this.