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Date published: April 04 2017

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From lens to loom: the intricate designs in Tania Johnson's hand knotted rugs start lift with the click of a camera

Since 2010, London-based Tania Johnson has been quietly making a name for herself in the interiors world, designing exquisite hand knotted rugs inspired by fleeting moments captured in photography. The way the light creates shadow and reflections, or the beautiful microscopic details found in nature are made permanent through Tania’s clever translation into warp and weft, using Himalayan wool and Chinese silk.

The impermanence of nature is a subject that has always fascinated Tania and the interesting images she has gathered in both natural and urban environments over time from the basis of her collections. ‘Reflected Trees is based on a photo of reflection in a lake,’ says Tania. ‘Seconds later, the wind blew and that beautiful image was gone. I find the way patterns form and change very inspiring.’

Having graduated from the Royal College of Art with an MA in woven textiles, Tania began her career in New York as a designer at Calvin Klein Home, where she worked for five years.

After brand’s first rug collection, which launched in 2002. Stints on textile design projects at Vera Wang and Martha Stewart followed but Tania realised her love was designing rugs.

Compared with the technical illustrations involved in machine woven fabrics, it was like creating art,’ she says. ‘I’d trained as a weaver and I missed seeing the processes and weaving techniques first hand.’

Tania’s designs are highly detailed, often using close tonal colours, and as such are extremely difficult to weave. Finding the best artisans was of the upmost importance, so she looked to Nepal, working with Good Weave (an organisation that certifies the ethical production of hand knotted rugs) to source the right manufacturer. ‘Having seen the craftsmanship and quality of the weaving from Nepal, I felt it was the best place to realise my designs,’ she says. ‘The Tibetan style of hand knotting was introduced to Nepal by the Tibetan refugees in 1959. ‘It’s
a centuries old technique but the weavers there also understand the contemporary western aesthetic.’

From her London studio, Tania creates an intricate weaving graph for her designs and it’s this part of the process that she loves most. ‘The challenge of retaining the subtle transience of a photo whilst creating something permanent, beautiful and technically possible to weave is something I really enjoy,’ she says. ‘It’s amazing to be able to work with artisans from this ancient weaving culture, who not only understand my designs but share my enthusiasm in creating something new.’

Designer: Tania Johnson

Company: Tania Johnson Design

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