The allure and infinite wealth of imagery replete within Egyptian mythology and culture, much like Greek, Indian, Nordic, and many more, lies in its multi-faceted, glorious stories with a pantheon of gods and goddesses, which have transcended time and generations. Stories and beliefs such as the Om symbol, denoting the universe and the ultimate reality in Hinduism, Pandora's box in Greek mythology that when opened, released sickness, death, and many unspecified evils into the world, and the eye of the falcon-headed Horus, a mark of protection and knowledge in ancient Egyptian civilisation, are very much alive today, as iconic symbols rife in today’s modern world, holding relevance and celebrated still, as they were when they were imagined and composed. The enduring power and beauty of narratives birthed aeons ago remain a timeless wellspring of inspiration, especially when channelled in the realm of contemporary product design.
In a debut collaboration, multidisciplinary studio YSG and textile design firm Tappeti have released a charming 12-piece handcrafted rug and carpet collection dubbed Real Majik, 'weaving colourful narratives of Egypt’s faraway lands and pharaonic past with fictional flair.' YSG refers to the full name of the Sydney-based studio’s founding director Yasmine Saleh Ghoniem, who was given free rein to conceive the rug designs, resulting in pieces perfumed with a rich spectrum of pigments, motifs, icons, symbols, and abstract landscapes, that draw copiously from her half Egyptian heritage, recent encounters with exhibits within the Egyptian wing of Berlin’s Neues Museum, and outstandingly, her belief in ‘the power of magic.’
“It was more an instinctual design direction. The inspiration came when I was visiting my brother in Berlin just after the lockdown lifted in 2021. I visited the Egyptian wing of the Neues Museum which inspired the collection. David Chipperfield’s minimalist design approach to the renovation of the museum also really stuck with me. It’s a piece of architectural sorcery as it shows how a modernist can take a major historic building and bring fresh life to it without losing the old fabric, its charm, and its ghosts. That idea and literal manifestation truly struck a chord with me. I wanted to infuse this collection with where I came from, but in a more contemporary way,” Ghoniem shares with STIR in an exclusive interview.
Ghoniem has previously worked with Tappeti for several years to craft custom rugs and carpets for her clients, and the Real Majik collection stands as an evidence of this reciprocal bond shared between the designer and maker. “I’ve worked closely with Tappeti for several years designing custom rugs and carpets for clients, so when Karinna Gobbo (Tappeti’s founder and CEO) asked me to collaborate with her, I jumped at the chance,” the product designer continues.
A 'tangible tale of hand-knotted and hand-tufted artisanship,' the carpet designs reference ancient Egyptian deities (and are also named after them) and related motifs, from hieroglyphics to vernacular landscapes, and offer themselves with unique and modern aesthetics and forms, via rich colourways and idiosyncratic details—a constellation of Seba stars sparkles across a decadent, midnight blue sky in one of her designs, while sarcophagi feet ground cushioned sensations in another, as a solitary cat guards the corner of one more rippled rug. “Combined, they reference ancient deities plus the promise of the afterlife, yet, are infused with a distinctly contemporary feel given their playful nature and punchy palettes, especially as some are compellingly reductive, featuring stripes and colour-blocking, plus watercolour-like forms dolloped upon neutral backdrops,” Ghoniem elaborates.
The landscapes of Egypt inspired many of the designs encompassing the (Real Majik) collection. Bolder elements include a constellation of Seba stars flickering across an inky sky, which adorn the ceilings of tombs. They represent guidance to the souls of the departed on their journey to the afterlife in Egyptian folklore. That journey has always been a huge inspiration for me. To have it forever imbued in a rug, well that’s truly special,” Ghoniem shares with STIR. “Other designs include rippled outlines recalling sand dunes, while checkerboard cut-out borders are a modern take on traditional patterns. Some references are more literal, such as giant sarcophagi feet with twinkling gold toes grounding a rug,” she continues to explain.
The shapes of the carpets and rugs enjoy a subtle range, from rectangular to organic configurations with tassels, fringe movements, pom-poms, and cut-out checkered borders (acknowledging the orderly pattern of hieroglyphics) accentuating their edges, while some unite 'exaggerated undulating pile heights that melt underfoot,' in tandem with daedal raised details 'that tempt fingers to brush their velvety surface.' Each piece in the contemporary designcollection can be customised in size (and colour) to suit its intended client and location.
“Rugs tend to either have short, fringed tassels at either end or a neat finish, so I played with alternatives—from rounded edges and corner baubles and tassels to cut-out checkerboard reliefs, so you have a wonderful, dappled effect between rug and floor finish,” Ghoniem tells STIR, elaborating on the employed materiality and colour palette, as well as the details defining the handcrafted rugs, which come alive in an interplay of vibrant colours, intricate patterns, and symbolic imagery, bringing legendary tales and lands to life, and transforming a mere floor covering into a work of art.
Described as ‘timeless and ecologically sensitive,’ the Real Majik collection encompasses a mix of fibres—amalgamations of art silk, hemp, Tibetan highland wool, and nettle articulate the intricacies of the hand-knotted rugs, unveiling an exquisite level of pattern detail, while New Zealand wool and art silk define the hand-tufted pieces to achieve various lustrous textures through a mix of loop and cut piles. “Their rich hues—from amethyst and garnet to shimmering toffee—are created through traditional batch-dying for each rug to minimise chemical waste and provide limitless opportunities for unique colouration,” adds Ghoniem, who leads the multi-disciplinary practice, trailblazing architectural builds and renovations across the residential, commercial and hospitality sectors globally.
Elaborating on her design process as well as details of being inspired by Egyptian culture and landscapes, the Australia-based designer shares with STIR, "Some are compellingly reductive like the monochromatic red carpet with undulating pile heights inspired by the Red Sea, while classic bright Lapis Egyptian blue hues feature on some rugs; you’ll also find lilacs, pinks, and eggplant shades too. After creating initial pencil sketches, I started playing with water-coloured versions with my team to determine tonal combinations. That is why, several pieces in the collection have a particularly expressionistic quality to them that Tappeti’s incredible weavers could translate so exquisitely by hand. Others feature colour-blocking elements plus watercolour-like forms dolloped upon neutral backdrops, weaving tales by themselves. Tappeti’s toxin-free dyes are created from small batch pot-dying techniques which provide stronger colours and higher lustres than mass batch-dying methods.”
“I’m equally impressed with the way Tappeti weaves ethics and environmental sustainability into their business. Traditional makers in India and Nepal produced each piece using time-honoured looming and tufting techniques and craftsmanship. They are paid fair wages, enabling them to work efficiently in their traditional community. Also, every rug can be customised in terms of size and even colour preferences if desired,” Ghoniem tells STIR. The Real Majik collection is available now from Tappeti, a world-class textile design firm based in Sydney and Singapore, that handcrafts statements in luxury and creative expression. Gobbo launched the brand with a visionary approach, enabling designers and architects to create unique rugs and carpets for clients, in addition to collaborating with artists and designers to conceive bespoke collections that align colour, pattern, and texture into tactile perfection. “For almost two decades, it has provided pieces for prestigious hotels, hospitality venues, corporate headquarters, cultural institutions, airports, and sought-after homes across the globe including Cartier, Marriot hotels and resorts, the Art Gallery of NSW and Qantas, among others, weaving ethics and environmental sustainability into the business,” the brand relays.
Elaborating on her creative process, Ghoniem shares with STIR, "My approach is always instinctual, combining polished and raw surfaces and mixing discordant colours, textures and patterns as there’s something viscerally potent about infusing unexpected elements into creative arrangements." "Charging spaces with atmospheric potency, staging and storytelling narrate strong visual outcomes within all. Given the abundance of custom elements in every project, the studio has built indelible ties with artists and skilled artisans to celebrate the maker’s touch including myriad collaborations with Tappeti to create individual rugs for projects. The provocative chords of Yasmine’s imagination (fuelled by living her formative years between Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Australia) have garnered countless design accolades over almost twenty years experience,” relays YSG, busy working on myriad projects across Australia, Indonesia, the Middle East and Europe, in both residential and hospitality.