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Growing roots

August 16, 2023

Lucy Upward speaks to Maison Rhizomes about its founding, the present designs and future projects.

The glowing warmth and beauty of France’s lush landscape in summer are captured in the latest rug designs of Maison Rhizomes. Lucy Upward speaks to the new company about its founding, the present designs and future projects.

Pomme dOr and Runner Cobble Stone white by Maison Rhizomes

I wonder how often a Corbusier tapestry inspires the creation of a new company. Perhaps it is more common than I think, but I am aware of only one brand, to which I first spoke online in June. Maison Rhizomes began as a desire back in 2017, when French artist Charlotte Culot fell in love with a Corbusier tapestry, putting the intention out there to make such a piece of work from her own paintings. The world has a way of responding to such requests and it was about one year later that Culot ‘serendipitously’ met colour and fibre specialist Perrine Blaise.

Rhizomes 4 yellow by Maison Rhizomes

Having worked in Paris for numerous Maisons and with many years of experience under her belt, Blaise had the answers that Culot needed. She has strong connections to a family atelier in Nepal who had previously made products for big luxury brands. Culot’s initial dream of making tapestries in France quickly developed into an exciting plan to make rugs in Nepal using only the finest materials. The first design based on Culot’s paintings came to fruition in 2018, before the founding of the Rhizomes brand.

In 2019, the third and last member of the Rhizomes team, Hannah Vagedes, came into the picture while travelling in the mountains of Nepal. She was taking a sabbatical from her job in the world of fashion, with which she had become increasingly disillusioned. The high consumption and fast production rates of the industry were no longer sitting easy with her and she was travelling in Nepal to find inspiration for her next chapter in life. That she did, in the form of artist Culot, who was in the country to visit her production. Another fortuitous meeting of minds.

Maison Rhizomes was formally founded by Culot and Vagedes in April 2022. The name Rhizomes (a subterranean plant stem with multiple offshoots) implies that the company can be a roof to shelter multiple artists—there are more to come. As Culot points out, ‘the motivation of the company is to pass on the message of beauty and create something that can be passed forward for generations’. The aim is also to keep production small and slow. Only twenty-two editions of each rug design will be made, while new collections or artists will only be released when ready.

Milky Way white by Maison Rhizomes

While Culot continues her thirty-five-year career as a full time painter, regularly selecting works to be transformed into rugs by the industrious Blaise, Hannah now takes charge of the rest of the company and is busy making connections within the art and interior design worlds. Buyers of Culot’s paintings are now investing in the rugs and putting them on the wall. Culot says, ‘I am so happy the customers made that decision themselves. For me it creates a link between tapestry and rugs.’

When I discover that 80 per cent of clients hang the rugs on the wall, I discuss with Culot and Vagedes how beneficial they are acoustically. Vagedes points out how an LA gallery bought one large rug for the wall. ‘Buying that size painting would be unthinkable and would not have the same effect,’ she adds.

Vagedes explains that 50 per cent of the sales come from the brand’s carefully selected list of stockists—from Tigmi Trading in Byron Bay and Galerie Perrie in New York to architecture firm and gallery Leonet Hoang in Brussels and the artist’s main gallery Amélie Maison d’art in Paris, where I am fascinated to find out that carpet samples are stored for potential customers. Here art and rugs really do overlap in a new, unexpected way.

Culot describes herself as a ‘colourist’, and for her the move to creating rugs was not so hard. She is keen to mention two other ‘colourist’ artists she has always loved and whose work was made into rugs: Sonia Delaunay and Serge Poliakoff. She works with collage and also gouache to make abstract colour compositions that are transcribed into multi-pile-height, hand-knotted rugs in wool and silk with occasional use of linen and hemp.

The latest rug design—No. 6 for Rhizomes—is Pomme d’Or, in which Culot captures the essence of a sunny Mediterranean garden. The recent photoshoot for the design includes shots of sunflowers and fields of lavender, tapping into our notions of a sunlit Provence landscape. A summer design with rich colours, it carries Culot’s signature on the bottom right corner.

Pomme dOr by Maison Rhizomes

Taken on the Pomme dOr photoshoot

Previous designs have been rendered either in white and grey tones or striking hues. The varying shades of yellow in Rhizomes 4 yellow are pure sunshine, while Milky Way blue, hand knotted predominantly in silk, is a shimmering design of blues and whites. The structural compositions of shapes remind us that Culot often works with collage and that, when thinking of a rug, she sees it as part of a space’s architecture. The early rugs were direct copies of the paintings, but now they develop their own identity. The designs can be tweaked for custom orders, although generally Rhizomes is not keen to ‘water down’ the artwork concepts.

Taken on the Pomme dOr photoshoot

Next on the agenda is the arrival of a new artist, an abstract painter who belongs to the same Parisian gallery as Culot. The launch of his work will be later in 2023, perhaps to coincide with Galerie Amélie Maison d’art opening in New York. There are further plans, but Maison Rhizomes is in no rush, wanting to give each design and each artist time to be appreciated.

‘The best way to do business is for everyone to feel satisfied,’ says Culot. ‘It is good to feel part of a chain or a family with links with other people. It is the reason for the name Rhizomes.’ 

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