Adam Blencowe & Marine Duroselle talk about their ‘Frankenstein machine’
‘Marine doesn’t really give up easily and there were times when it was kind of hard. There was a bit of friction and I do think that’s quite important. Having spoken to other designers about it, if you don’t have friction that possibly means you’re not pushing each other.’
Designer Adam Blencowe is holding court on the nature of collaboration generally and his most recent project, a collection of rugs with graphic designer Marine Duroselle, in particular. ‘We didn’t really know each other so we had no idea what was going to come up,’ agrees Duroselle. ‘I didn’t know how Adam was used to working or how much he wanted to push things.’
The Motley Rug Collection of three felted rugs, which launched at Clerkenwell London’s Design Undefined during last year’s London Design Festival, is genuinely intriguing. Partly this is because of the tool used to produce the pieces that Blencowe began to develop when he was studying at the Royal College of Art, from where he graduated 2015. He describes Fuzzy Logic, accurately enough, as a ‘Frankenstein machine’ – essentially he hacked a conventional jigsaw so that it could hold seven felting needles, and this was then mounted onto a CNC machine, more often used for small routing jobs, that moves the jigsaw up and down as well as left and right.
To create their new products the pair took a white rug as a base layer, then created patterns of pre-dyed wool and held the whole assembly together with some netting; subsequently, the machine is programmed to run over it. Changing the speed of the needles means it’s possible to create more depth of colour. It’s very smart and a bit high-tech, while still retaining a distinctly DIY sensibility. ‘There is the potential to develop it into a much more refined version of itself,’ says Blencowe, ‘but in a way I think there’s something quite important about the fact it’s so honest.’
Blencowe graduated from Central Saint Martins in 2003 and has worked for big design practices such as Fitch and Imagination as well as with Nick Crosbie at Inflate. It was while working in India that his interest in craft was piqued. ‘In India you’re exposed to all this hand-work. Making is there on your doorstep,’ he recalls. ‘That got me interested in being involved in the process of stuff. Up until that point I’d been a designer, but I hadn’t been interested in making so much.’
However, while the journey was hugely important, he also knew it was vital that it delivered a viable product. ‘Process is a great area for exploration,’ he explains. ‘I think one of the challenges is ending up with something that looks stunning and amazing and beautiful.’
Which is where Duroselle came in. While Blencowe had the machine, he was very aware that he wasn’t a textile artist. The pair had stumbled across each other briefly at the RCA, after the graphic designer was commissioned to create a leaflet for the platform on which Blencowe was studying. And it turned out Duroselle, who spent a significant portion of her childhood in Peru and New York as well as her native France, had a sharp eye for colour as well as an interest in textiles and applying pattern to a variety of surfaces. ‘I always felt very comfortable with having a palette and assembling colours,’ she tells me. ‘We discussed the idea of having a palette that was more for autumn, but I also wanted it to have a vibrancy because it was going to be mounted on a white rug.’
Intriguingly, their perception of colour changed through the process. ‘There were some colours that we didn’t like,’ Duroselle confirms. ‘There was a pink, but once it’s felted it reveals a totally different shade that’s surprisingly interesting.’
Both are keen to emphasise that this collaboration was never simply a question of one person providing the tool and another the pattern; instead, the process was rather more organic and, at times, ever so slightly troublesome. ‘We were trying to think of what to do, but we weren’t really doing anything,’ Blencowe recalls. ‘At first, we were kind of sitting and talking and I think you have to go through that phase. But then we realised we made proper progress when we were both there, trying things and playing.’ Importantly, too, they decided that the rugs needed to look as beautiful on the back as they did on the front.
At the moment the pair are selling the pieces directly, but are also in conversation with retailers including Clerkenwell London. In addition, they are planning to show at Milan’s Salone later in the year. However, they are keen to keep the making at a micro scale, shying away from volume manufacture. ‘That’s a whole different story, and it’s one I’m not sure Marine and I personally want to tell,’ says Blencowe. ‘We’re designers. We don’t want to become factory owners.’