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Q+A with Nani Marquina of nanimarquina

About to celebrate its 30th year in business, Nanimarquina was founded in Barcelona in 1987 with one clear idea: to design modern rugs. And design was the operative word. The eponymous founder, Nani Marquina, wanted to marry the innovation and emotion of contemporary design with the practices of traditional artisanship. Along the way, Nanimarquina designs have been presented in museums such as the NY MOMA and the Centre Pompidou, and collected more design awards than you can count, showing that works of art do not necessarily just hang on the wall. She took some time to catch up with me recently.

Nani Marquina founder of Nanimarquina Rugs | YLiving
Nani Marquina

Darren Falls: Hello Nani, thank you for taking the time to answer questions for YLiving. We are so happy to have Nanimarquina as one of our featured brands, and look forward to letting our readers get to know you better.

Back in 1987, what first inspired you to focus on rugs, and to revive traditional high-quality construction techniques, but in contemporary designs?

Nani Marquina: My father Rafael Marquina played a huge part in where I am today. He was one of the first industrial designers in Spain, (and) he was a pioneer, although the profession was not called that at the time. Every day when he got home with new designs he had created, I was totally captivated, and he passed on to me his great passion – designing.

After studying at the Escola Massana of Barcelona and realizing the success of my first made-to-order textile design, I embarked on the at the time unknown career of industrial design.

Designing carpets wasn’t a decision that was made overnight. I started out by designing prints for interior décor after studying product design. (But) when I started in the 1980s, I realized that there were no rugs in accordance with the new aesthetics of design. I invested special attention and effort in finding the right raw materials and manufacturing processes from the very beginning; factors that enrich the aesthetics of the designs.

Nanimarquina Melange Collection Nani Marquina | YLiving
Pieces from the Melange Collection hang outside to dry at the workshop in Northern India.

DF: You have worked with an amazing roster of talented International designers, as well as designing rugs yourself – would you say that nanimarquina rugs have a particular style, or is that too narrow?

NM: Hmmm, yes, I would say that the Nanimarquina style is characterized by a balance between tradition and contemporary designs. We are always challenging design through innovation; the application of colour and textures… all of this translates into bold new things.

DF: How do you work with your designer partners – many of them have not worked with textiles before, so there must be some education on their part of the logistics of working with textiles, or do you let them go wild and interpret their designs after?

NM: Initially I designed all the rugs with (my) internal team, but in time I naturally developed an interest in editing the work of other creators. Collaboration(s) brings freshness, inspiration, experimentation, and guarantees the diversity of styles in our catalog.

Usually the designers contact us directly with a design, and then we work together, starting a creative process looking for the perfect design and the best way to produce it. The techniques, the fibers, etc.

When different creative minds work together, so many new ideas grow, which is so enriching. The new views that a designer can have of a rug are very useful because they don’t know the difficulties of making a rug and they are sometimes more creative and more innovative because they are not restrained by thinking “this cannot be done”.

Nanimarquina Lattice 1 Rug and Lattice 2 Rugby Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec Nani Marquina | YLiving
The New Lattice collection rugs designed by Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec for Nanimarquina

DF: Next year will be Nanimarquina’s 30th anniversary – how has your aesthetic evolved over the years?

NM: The biggest change has been the design approach. Initially rug design was mainly based on an applied pattern. In fact, our collaborators back in the day were illustrators and graphic designers. However, over time, our rugs have evolved in techniques, materials, volumes. Today; the initial pattern design has become (just one of the) complementary elements.

DF: You have certainly explored many, many different styles and techniques, but after 30 years how have you kept yourself inspired year after year to keep creating and innovating?

NM: Craftsmanship is my main source of inspiration; all its aspects fascinate me. (I take inspiration from) basketry, ceramics, textiles. I believe that my passion for art and admiration of nature define the essence of my work.

Most of the times, my inspiration comes from my travels. The intrinsic beauty of the natural fibres also captivates! It connects me with the natural world. Usually, the ideas just emerge without warning. I am someone who always has eyes wide open and any little detail I see during the day can inspire a new design.

evolution nanimarquina nani marquina ylving
The Evolution of nanimarquina’s style since the 1980s.

DF: Do you have any favorite of your rug designs from the past or design partners you have especially enjoyed working with?

NM: Ah, it is very difficult to choose just one of the models… But I especially remember the process of creating the Little Field of Flowers collection. It was magical! We worked directly with Tord Boontje’s sketches and gradually created proposals that increasingly moved away from simply applying his drawings to a rug. It was very exciting to transform a drawing into a volumetric creation, and to also discover that it attracted so much interest and attention, leading to several awards.

DF: I love that one too: So much texture and variation.

Nani Marquina Little Field of Flowers Rug By Studio Tord Boontje, from Nanimarquina Rugs | YLiving
The Little Field of Dreams Rug, one of Nani’s favorite projects.

DF: Spain seems to be having a creative revival and increased presence on the international design scene. What do you think is leading that energy?

NM: Spain has historically enjoyed a great creative culture but during the dictatorship years, we were severed from the world. Starting in the ‘80s and following in the country’s economic crisis, we have been forced to look overseas.

DF: I always ask if there is any one piece of furniture or décor in your home that is your favorite. And why does it inspire such a passion in you?

NM: I am very passionate about objects, so unavoidably I love my living room shelves filled with Chinese toys, seeds, desert sand and fabric, among other peculiar objects that capture my attention when I travel. They are memories that accompany me in my daily life.

DF: We sound very similar in that. Thank you Nani, it has been a pleasure!

For More Inspiration:

Darren Falls

Darren Falls

Darren is one of the Merchandise Managers for YLiving, and has had a long career in the Home Furnishings industry with companies like RH, Gumps and ABC Carpet & Home. He has a passion for art and design inspired by his time at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn. He spends his free time in his garden picking lemons and avoiding mowing the lawn, while playing with his long-haired dachshund.

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