The Art of Rugs: Designer Sonya Winner

A rug is a rug is a rug, right? I felt the same way until I went to visit the home and workshop of rug designer Sonya Winner. After spending the morning in her studio, I will never look at floor coverings in quite the same way again.

Sonya began her career by accident. Literally. A graphic designer in a previous life, she decided to take up riding. One morning she was thrown from her horse while learning to jump. She landed on her back; that moment changed her life. Confined to bed for many months, she drew. Encouraged to enter an art contest in which the best pieces would be made into rugs, she played with color and pattern. Inspired by one of her favorite artists, her entry, still a bestseller, was the After Matisse rug. The irregularly shaped rug uses pile, hand carved to various heights, and layered color, hand dyed in twenty-six shades, to create a breathtaking piece that redefines the word rug. Five years later, she's become known for her vibrant, contemporary pieces, the graphic simplicity of the design belying their visual complexity and ability to work in both modern and traditional settings. She is an artist whose medium happens to be floor coverings. Working in the subtle variations and endless combinations made possible by pile height, color, material and technique, she designs the rugs in her studio and then works with craftsmen who hand make each rug — hand dyeing the wool, hand knotting or tufting the threads, drying the finished rugs on roofs in the sun — using age old techniques, eco-friendly dyes and spring water to create a finished product that is not only beautiful, unique, well-made and long-lasting but sustainably and ethically manufactured as well. It's no wonder that many of her fans don't know whether to lay them on the floor or hang them on the wall.

For a look at her entire collection as well as fascinating photos of the artisans at work, click here.

Images: Sonya Winner, featuring her rugs: After Matisse, Tree Trunk, Rivulets, After The Rainbow, Circles

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