Studio Mary Lennox, founded by Ruby Barber, is a creative studio specialising in flower styling, botanical design, and botanical consultancy. The studio's name pays homage to the protagonist of The Secret Garden, a novel by British-American novelist and playwright Frances Hodgson Burnett, which celebrates nature's beauty and its rejuvenating qualities. Although located in Germany, Studio Mary Lennox operates globally, engaging in diverse projects across various disciplines including botanical brand image consultancy, creative and artistic direction, concept creation, creative strategy, content development, scenography, set design, and large-scale installations.
The Australia-born designer collaborated with Belgian company JOV, who specialise in making handmade rugs, to design the M-SHWY collection, which was first unveiled during Milan Design Week 2023. Journey Of Visions (JOV) was founded by Gilles Vandenbussche, as an attempt to blend modern techniques with traditional craftsmanship, which resulted in the practice of producing hand-tufted, colourful, high-quality rugs that are one of a kind and truly mesmerising.
The Berlin-based studio and the Belgium-based company found inspiration for their collection, M-SHWY (read as MS Highway), from the qualities of mushrooms, and their interconnectedness through an intelligent communication system called the Mycorrhizal Network. This intricate communication system also facilitates a symbiotic relationship between the mushrooms and different living species in an ecosystem. This larger system is known as the 'Mycelium Superhighway,' which the moniker and design of the rugs' collection manifests.
Studio Mary Lennox explores and draws from organic compositions, natural textures, and the immense diversity present in the natural and botanical world. Consistent with their approach, the source of inspiration for this collection includes the organic textures and distinctive characteristics of oyster mushrooms. The collection features three rugs, accompanied by a unique and artistic installation that exhibits its organic inspiration.
The first rug named 'MSHWY01' replicates the top view of an oyster mushroom using the Chloe quality, a blend of soft New Zealand wool and glossy Tencel Lyocell, which lends the product design a subtle shine. Extra depth and texture were added to the rug, by incorporating a colour gradient from the centre to the ends and adding thickness to the edges for a three-dimensional effect, resulting in a plush and visually striking appearance, made possible by the unique craftsmanship employed in the hand-tufting process.
For the second one, 'MSHWY02,' the studio sought to create a flatter rug, representing the inner texture of the oyster mushroom. To maintain a depth similar to the first rug's design, the product designer incorporated a subtle 3D effect in the white lines to replicate the organic ones found in the species. The rug design has been finished with a fluffy thick border. Made from Surmer quality, it combines Merino wool with mercerised Egyptian cotton. The choice of fresher Merino wool ensures a beautiful translation of the oyster mushroom's colour, as it appears more white and vibrant compared to New Zealand wool.
'MSHWY03' presents a distinct and zoomed-out perspective compared to 'MSHWY02.' Ruby Barber envisioned this design as a cluster of pink oyster mushrooms growing together. Pink oyster mushrooms are delicate and rare, and the designer aimed to capture this in the third carpet's design. The rugs exhibit a unique soft tone of natural pink colour. Similar to 'MSHWY02,' JOV utilised the Surmer quality, blending Merino wool with mercerised Egyptian cotton, resulting in a luxuriously soft and tactile rug.
(Text by Aatmi Chitalia, Intern at STIR)