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Rankin Rugs’ new collection AfterParty

September 25, 2020

Denna Jones catches up with UK-based rug designer Amber Rankin to discover how humour and design help her cope during COVID-19

Are some of the emotions we feel during the pandemic the equivalent of the morning after an all-too-short party? If 2020 has become something akin to a never-ending hangover, maybe we need to take a cue from a recent report in The New York Times that declared pandemic memes provide ‘a strange and darkly comedic form of self-care’. UK-based Rankin Rugs adapts this concept of humorous, self-care in the designs of a new hand-knotted rug collection, appropriately named AfterParty. 

The humour in the AfterParty collection is ‘understated and elegant, but no less effective,’ says Rankin who’s sheltering in her home city of Oxford, England. ‘All the rugs I design have their own character, but each one has to stand alone,’ she says, a comment that also reflects the solitude and stoic attitude many of us have had to adopt during lockdown. 

Afterparty, Rankin Rugs

Rankin’s ‘cinematic’ design for her AfterParty rug (which has the same name as the collection) is a scene of quiet chaos after a Bacchanalian celebration. Comedically combining two competing perspectives, the first perspective is a top-down view where the body belonging to the splayed legs of a Louboutin-shod guest lies unseen ‘off camera’. The shiny, red-lacquered soles of her stilettos echo the foil tops of discarded wine bottles. The rug’s second perspective or ‘bottom up’ view (a clever play on the cheery drinking toast ‘bottoms up!’) allows us to see the view through the bleary eyes of the prone Louboutin guest: the faceted mirrored surface of two disco balls. Discarded heels, a wine ring stain on the carpet, empty wine glasses, corks, and a sprinkle of confetti complete the scene. 

Fruit Bowl, Rankin Rugs

Rankin is quick to declare none of her collections are ever static. ‘When I create a rug I have an idea or concept. Maybe halfway through I think “Oh it fits this collection,” so the collections grow over time. It’s a fluid never-ending journey, and that’s what’s really nice. I don’t need to end a collection.’ Fruit Bowl and Champagne round out the AfterParty collection’s initial rugs. Fruit Bowl looks like a classically-inspired motif. A black field hosts a white circle within a white square decorated with garlands of fruit. Or are they fruit? A closer look reveals the melon-like fruits are really party balloons—inflated and deflated—scattered amongst bunches of grapes. ‘I really like little hidden elements,’ says Rankin, referring to the viewer’s need for a double-take to spot the fact the balloons aren’t fruit, or that the fruit is limited to wine-making grapes. 

The third rug of the collection—Champagne—reveals the trail left by a champagne bottle confetti popper where compressed air hurls confetti and streamers into the air. The rug also demonstrates how Rankin occasionally holds back a design until a collection emerges into which it fits. ‘It’s actually quite an old design,’ she says of Champagne, ‘and now it’s ready to join the party.’

Champagne, Rankin Rugs

The designs in the AfterParty collection echo ideas of humour in dark times as reported in the COVER 59 article ‘Don’t Touch My Stuff My Face or My Hair,’ published at the beginning of global lockdown. Pandemic ‘survival stratagems’ include learning how to see your situation from a dispassionate third-party or cinematic point of view, and diminishing threats with humour. Rankin has done just that. ‘It’s meant to be a little kitsch,’ she acknowledges of AfterParty, ‘and to show the messy humour that always accompanies the glamour.’

Fruit Bowl, Rankin Rugs

Rankin is ‘working on a few more’ designs to add to AfterParty while she self-isolates in Oxford. ‘I’m missing the party, the afterparty and the hangover!’ she says with a laugh that indicates she’s adept at viewing her pandemic situation with a measure of self-deprecating humour. Rankin is a graduate of the Ruskin School of Art, University of Oxford. A famed fellow graduate of Oxford University, Oscar Wilde, summed up what we hope is the attitude of the Louboutin-wearing woman Rankin portrayed in AfterParty. ‘We are all in the gutter,’ said Wilde, ‘but some of us are looking at the stars’. Or in the case of the AfterParty merrymaker, some of us are looking at disco balls. 

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