A student-designed rug inspired by native Australian flowers has won the Rug Up 2016 design competition and will be exhibited as part of the Sydney Design Festival.

Kathryn Batista’s vibrant, winning design, Sturt Desert Pea, has been produced by Designer Rugs, Sydney’s leading rug manufacturing company as part of their collection.

“My design was inspired by Australia’s wilderness and nature, specifically its flora,” Batista, a fourth-year Bachelor of Design honours student at UNSW Art & Design, said. “I chose four indigenous and iconic flora from Australia; the waratah, the sturt desert pea, gumnut blossoms and frangipanis. I wanted to focus on the intricate, natural beauty of Australia’s wilderness that has been left undisturbed to evolve for millennia.”

Batista said she chose a patchwork style illustration, inspired by Moroccan tiles and rugs, to make the flowers look more unconventional, and used a colour palette inspired by the Australian landscape.

"All the textiles students that participated in this project did such an amazing job, it was a tough competition – I'm still in a state of shock.” Batista said. “This project has taught me that when you’re designing you need to be honest to yourself and your style because every designer is unique and there are people out there who will love what you do."

The Rug Up Project, which has been running at UNSW Art & Design for more than a decade, is the collaborative brainchild of internationally acclaimed textile artist Associate Professor Liz Williamson, and Yosi Tal, Managing Director of Designer Rugs. Their idea was to present university design students with a professional brief to design a rug, and offer them the possibility of having their rug manufactured.

Associate Professor Williamson said the Rug Up project presents two great learning experiences.

"Students are given the challenge of an industry standard brief and the excitement of seeing A4 designs translated into a 2 x 3 metre rugs. The selected designs capture trends in design as well as the expertise of emerging designers in capturing the essence of a selected location."

Each year, participating students review popular rug designs produced by Designer Rugs in collaboration with international designers such as Akira Isogawa, Anna-Carin, Dinosaur Designs, Easton Pearson, Cloth, and Wedgwood. The students are challenged to explore colour, line, pattern, and texture in developing their own original rug designs.

The student designs are currently on display at the Rug2 exhibition at UNSW Art & Design’s student-led gallery ADspace as part of the Sydney Design Festival.

The exhibition also incorporates designs from Professor Williamson’s Cultural Textiles course, in which students travelled to Gujarat, India to create designs for hand block printed rugs. The course, which integrates international expertise and hand production methods, originated from Williamson’s longstanding relationship with Indian weavers and artisans. 

"The Cultural Textiles fieldwork course gives students the opportunity to understand the cultural, social and environmental issues impacting on production, with the potential for future engagement through major projects, research studies or engaging with local design projects," Professor Williamson said.

Similar to the best designs submitted for the Designer Rugs brief, the most considered and effective designs presented for the Cultural Textiles brief were then professionally produced by renowned textile artisans, Dr Ismail Khatri and Sufiyan Khatri, at their studios in Ajrakhpur, Kutch and Gujarat in India and were then returned to Australia for exhibition.

UNSW involvement in the Sydney Design Festival:

  • UNSW Art & Design will host the Interactive Media Lab when Paddington campus will light up its iconic courtyard with audiovisual performances and interactive works by UNSW researchers and students 
  • Dr Sam Spurr Senior Lecturer at UNSW Art & Design will join a discussion at the Powerhouse Museum, Designing Human Experience: Physical vs. Digital
  • Josh Wodak Associate Lecturer at UNSW Art & Design will take part in a panel discussion, Designing Life with Synthetic Biology at the Powerhouse Museum 
  • The exhibition Designed By at UNSW’s Kudos Gallery will showcase work by undergraduate design students from UNSW Art & Design 
  • UNSW Art & Design graduate and artist Louis Pratt will give a personal tour of his Newtown studio. Pratt experiments with 3D scanning and 3D printing technologies to create surreal figurative sculptures
  • UNSW is supporting an exhibition Digital Crafts by designers Rina Bernabei and Kelly Freeman of bernabeifreeman. Bernabei is a Senior Lecturer in Industrial Design at UNSW Built Environment 
  • UNSW will host the Beautiful Obsolescence exhibition at the Michael Crouch Innovation Centre. The exhibition presents a selection of beautifully designed but ultimately obsolete consumer electronics and gadgets collected over many years by UNSW’s Industrial Design program
  • Dr Laurence Kimmell and Samantha Donnelly from UNSW Built Environment have curated an exhibition Drifting, Driveling, Dribbling at Darlington’s Sheffer Gallery. The works consider architecture in cinema 
  • Claudia Echeverria, architect and PhD candidate at UNSW’s SMaRT Centre will present a talk at the Michael Crouch Innovations Centre about targeting the recovery of local wastes like reclaimed wood and marine wastes as resources for the development of new sustainable materials.