Venice Shone named as Winner of Broadway Gallery x Digswell Arts ‘Design Your Own Rug’ competition

Written by Digswell Arts

On January 2, 2020

Back in April 2019 the Digswell Arts Trust in partnership with the Broadway Gallery in Letchworth and carpet manufacturer Rug Maker, launched the ‘Design Your Own Rug’ public design competition to support Digswell Arts Alumni Allistair Covell’s solo exhibition Canvas To Carpet, which ran from February to May 2019. The winner of the ‘Design Your Own Rug’ competition was named as Venice Shone whose design, reminiscent of a paper cut-out, was chosen by a team of six judges from over 50 entries. Hand-kotted by Rug Maker’s weavers in Nepal, Venice’s design has been made into a 1m x 1m wool carpet and as part of the prize, it is currently on public display for a limited time at the new Discover Letchworth centre in the town. The competition, organised by Allistair and curator Laura Dennis, who commissioned his exhibition at the Broadway Gallery, was inspired by Allistair’s own experience of winning a Carpet Design Award in Germany in 2014. Winning the award influenced Allistair’s decision to work with carpets as part of his creative practice and so both he and Laura felt that such a competition, tied in with the gallery’s exhibition, might inspire someone else to experiment with designing for a new medium as opportunities like this are quite rare. As part of Digswell Arts ongoing outreach programme and developing links with local institutions, the competition was the perfect initiative for Digswell Arts to get involved with and in partnership with the Letchworth Heritage Foundation they part funded the competition. Owing to Allistair’s links with the carpet and creative industries, he was able to ask for external assistance from COVER magazine and ARTS THREAD. Allistair was greatful for their support and having them on board as media partners greatly improved the promotion of the competition and his exhibition. Alongside Allistair, the judging panel was Judy Glasman who represented Digswell Arts; Lucy Upward, the Editor of COVER magazine; Julian Blair, Director of Rug Maker; Kris Day, the new curator at the Broadway Gallery and Victoria Axell, the Letchworth Garden City Collections curator. The judges met over two days in May 2019 and eventually the long-list of entries was shortlisted to ten and then reduced down to the final four. The judging criteria included topics such as what made a good design; what would translate effectively into a hand-woven carpet and suit the scale of the finished size but also what was trending at the time in regards to art, interiors and design. The final four designs chosen were Frances Barry, Frederick Hiedel, Chris Moore and the eventual overall winner Venice Shone. Venice’s winning artwork and carpet have featured in both the Autumn and Winter 2019 issues of COVER, the worlds leading magazine for carpet and art textiles for modern interiors and since early November has been on public display at Discover Letchworth. Allistair Covell Canvas To Carpet was Allistair’s first major solo exhibition and opened at Letchworth’s Broadway Gallery in February 2019. The exhibition presented a series of hand-knotted carpets as the centrepiece to a display which not only surveyed the artist’s creative practice over his five years at Digswell Arts but also referenced and showed earlier works in his artistic career. The carpets, woven interpretations of Allistair’s vibrant and rhythmic abstract paintings, were handcrafted in Afghanistan by Turquoise Mountain and Nepal by Rug Maker. Allistair’s artwork takes inspiration from his own synaesthesic responses to music and sound. Synaesthesia is a neurological phenomenon, a condition best described as a ‘union of the senses’ where one sensory experience prompts another. For Allistair, synaesthesia grants him the ability to see colour upon hearing musical notes. Music is an ever-changing audiovisual landscape, with sounds appearing as different shapes, tones and textures. Allistair mixes his synaesthetic experiences with traditional art subjects such as abstract depictions of people, places, events or memories.

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