Textile/Surface Design students’ rugs impress the industry—and benefit charity

Right now, people might be standing on artworks by two recent FIT students. And that’s a good thing.
In the Art on the Floor contest, an annual class project for seventh-semester Textile/Surface Design students, each of the two winning designs is turned into a luxury hand-knotted rug in Nepal and auctioned off for charity. The contest is run by Adjunct Assistant Professor Deborah Hernandez, Illustration ’88, Fine Arts ’84, design director of the rug company Patterson Flynn Martin, a division of the fabrics and furnishings firm Schumacher. Adjunct Instructor David Setlow, art director of Stark Carpet, taught one section of the course.

Honey Jernquist took a painterly approach to create his design, Anemone.

Honey Jernquist took a painterly approach
to create his design, Anemone.

This year’s assignment was to create a design for an imaginary client (likes indigo, Japanese repeating patterns, the ocean; dislikes central medallions, open expanses of solid color). The panel of judges, including Schumacher creative director Dara Caponigro, Michael Boodro, editor in chief of Elle Décor, and interior designers Alexa Hampton and Miles Redd, based their decisions on the quality and commercial appeal of the art and a mood board.
“The project is about listening to what a client wants,” Hernandez says. “It’s a challenge to bring someone else’s desires to life.”
Vanessa Bonilla ’15 and Honey Jernquist won first prize of $2,500 each, courtesy of Noreen Seabrook Marketing. Bonilla’s Drift has a blaze of indigo through textured white wool and silk. Jernquist’s Anemone uses organic shapes and varied blues to suggest underwater creatures.

“As soon as I saw it, I thought, ‘I wish I had designed that.’”
—Matthew Patrick Smyth, Interior Design

Noreen Seabrook Marketing’s weavers in Nepal meticulously hand-knotted the rugs on a vertical loom, a process that can take six months. The finished rugs made it to the airport but not onto a plane before Nepal was rocked by a devastating earthquake. When the country began to recover from the chaos that followed the catastrophe, the rugs were flown to New York. They were auctioned off on June 16 at the flagship showroom of Patterson Flynn Martin in the Decoration and Design Building in Manhattan.
Noted interior designer and FIT alumnus Matthew Patrick Smyth ’80, placed the winning bid for Drift, at $5,200. Anemone sold for $3,200. Proceeds were donated to the Alpha Workshops, a charity that trains HIV-positive designers in the decorative arts. Donations of cash and dry goods were also collected for the weavers in Nepal.
Smyth is putting Drift in his Connecticut bedroom. “As soon as I saw it, I thought, ‘I wish I had designed that,’” he says. “There’s a looseness to it, but there’s still order. There’s structure, but it’s not self-conscious and it’s not repetitive. It’s classic but totally new.”

The rug-making process, step by step