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Maryland
USA

Knotwe is an emerging hub focused on the intersection of craft, art, design, technology and tradition in fibers, textiles and surface design. 

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Quirk & Rescue

Q: Where does the name ‘Quirk & Rescue’ come from?

 A: The name comes from several things. My partner and I wanted to use ‘&’ in the name of our company, we wanted a word each either side! We originally started making bespoke hand painted furniture, taking mid-century modern pieces and ‘reloving’ them for the 21st century. So there was a play on the phrase ‘Search & Rescue’. We were rescuing furniture and making it quirky. We also had this idea of anonymous personas behind our company that we wanted to use because we wanted the designs to speak for themselves rather than them being about who we were/are. So we came up with Ms. Pink and Mr. Black (I’ve had Pink hair for over 20 years and my partner, well, he has black hair!), which we’ve carried through into our logo. My partner and I were driving, discussing what to name our company, when he said jokingly “ What about Quirk & Rescue?” and so there we are! Also, my partner said he liked the word ‘quirky’ because a University tutor of his had once used the word ‘semi-accusingly’ to describe his textile work – “You’re quirky aren’t you?” Yes. Yes we are. We wouldn’t have it any other way.

Quirk & Rescue Tea Towels

Q: It is clear from your textile line, wallpaper and tea towels that Quirk & Rescue has a deep love for the history of design i.e. the Bauhaus tea towel. Can you describe a little bit about the history that directly inspires Quirk and Rescue? Your collection definitely gives a nod and smile to  the 1970's and 80's.

A: Well, we’ve both always loved music and popular culture, I’ve been into the Punk scene since it started and Mr. Black has an almost encyclopaedic knowledge of Art & Design because he has both studied it and taught it. We love typography. We love things that are ‘classic’. We love quirky things. Our design ethos, if we can call it that, is really just based on things that we are passionate about or interested in. Often we look at something that has been done decades in the past that people have forgotten and lost interest in and say to ourselves “That was cool then, how can we make it cool now?”. That’s when the fun begins! Mr. Black calls us ‘Design Archaeologists’, mining the past for those buried treasures that we can be inspired by, not copy. Treasures the rest of the world has forgotten or didn’t think were important the first time around, but we do. It’s important to dive into this vast history, else how can you move on from it? How can you create anything new?

Q: I really love the geometrical graphics of your designs specifically reminding me of original analog graphics. Is this at all a source for your ideas for your patterns?

A:  That’s a tricky one to answer. Our Wundt wallpaper was inspired by the psychological work of Wilhelm Wundt in the 19th century, his original optical illusion was to test the way the human brain perceives things. I guess that’s about as analog as it gets! Our HexaGone wallpaper was us remembering an old hexagon wallpaper from the sixties/seventies. We thought there had to be another way of doing a Hexagonal design that hadn't been done before, so we had been toying with Isometric Optical illusions since our Isosine fabric and cushions and it went from there. There are other influences of course such as Victor Vasarely, Raoul DufyPatrick Caulfield and Gilbert & George, but mainly on colour and line. Mr. Black loves Saul Bass too, but says he’s almost impossible to emulate without looking like you’re copying him badly or flattening the life out of that style and making it too smooth. The analog statement is quite ironic though, as all our work is digital apart from a few scribbled designs on paper.

Q: You participated in the International Contemporary Furniture Fair in NYC (ICFF 2014). Was there anything about your ICFF experience that surprised you?

 A: I’m not sure that we were surprised, we were probably much to excited/nervous/busy to be surprised, but we both think that it reaffirmed our belief in the design work that we do and our love colour. We made some fantastic friends in our part of the show with the BEDG (British European Design Group),somewhat weirdly most of us live in the same area of London, but had never actually met before so it was lovely to have our own little ‘community’, especially when you are in New York. Mr. Black would go outside every now and again while we were putting up our stand and get culture shock every time he saw the Manhattan skyline, “We’re in New York! We’re showing our work in New York!”. The response from visitors to our stand was phenomenal, we never seemed to stop talking to people who really wanted to know what our work was about. It was also a great opportunity to see other designers work from around the world, which was really inspiring, knowing that you’re not the only ones taking risks and bringing something new into the world. It’s easy to fall into that trap of thinking you’re the only ones doing that when you work for yourself because you don’t see other designers actually at work. Oh, there was one thing that we did think was amazing, a fashion designer, Heidi Lee (www.heidi337.com) visited our stand with a fantastic 3D printed ‘hat’. We managed to get a picture, she looked like she had landed from space! That was pretty surprising.

Quirk & Rescue

Q: Color is clearly very important to your design decisions. Can you describe your creative process as a team when it comes to color?

 A:  Whenever anyone asks us this question we laugh knowingly. Color is our biggest sticking point. I love colour passionately. Bright and bold colour. Mr. Black loves it too, of course (Well, I have pink hair, so he must!), but we do have our arguments about color more than anything else. He often says he’s Jackson Pollock and I’m Clement Greenberg. He’s painting away and I’m saying “Nah, that doesn’t work!” We decided that we had to agree faster on colour decisions though after we printed off 47 different colourways of our Isosine design. We only needed four. Perhaps that says all you need to know about how important colour is to us! In the end you have to make a decision. We try and build a collection that connects as a whole, so that different colourways don’t look ‘unconvincing’ against each other, but ultimately we just make sure that we like it. That we can live with it. if we wouldn’t buy it, why would anyone else?

Quirk & Rescue

Quirk & Rescue Cushions

Q: What advice would you give designers just starting out?

 A: Go to trade shows relevant to what you want to do.

Talk to other designers (They are surprisingly friendly and forthcoming).

Tell them what kind of things you want to do, they can help you so much.

Ask lots of questions.

Be prepared to be disappointed a lot!

Don’t take failure as a sign to quit, take it as a reason to try harder.

Be prepared to adapt and change your business and products until you find who and what you are as a designer.

Find your market, it’s out there somewhere, waiting for you.

Be influenced by others, but don’t copy other designers, bring something from you into the world.

Be prepared to say yes, but sometimes, even if you need an opportunity badly, be prepared to say no.

Don’t expect to be rich and famous, most independent designers we know have ‘day jobs’ as well as this.

Work VERY hard.

NEVER. GIVE. UP.

Q: Lastly, do you feel that technology is changing your business model or design process? If, so how?

A: Mr. Black has the line on this one, he studied printed textile design in the late eighties/early nineties. The entire printed textile industry in terms of manufacturing went into recession just as he left. Back then it would have probably cost hundreds of thousands just to do one design, in terms of the manufacturing techniques used. Now, with digital printing and digital technology, that has dropped by a factor of a thousand! It also enables us to make ‘products’ rather than ‘craft’ items. We’re not saying craft is bad by the way, it’s just that we want our designs to be out there with as many people as possible enjoying them! You know when you see people walking down the street and they are incredibly stylish and colourful, vivacious people, yet when you go to their homes, it’s white walls and a badly hung Ikea picture? Why? We want to bring colour, interest and good design to the home. If the best way for this to happen is to use digital technology, then we’ll use it! It can also mean that as small, independent designers you can react faster and with less ‘red tape’ to market changes or tastes. Though having said that we try desperately not to follow ‘trends’, though from all the attention we’ve been getting, we often seem to be in the middle of one, which is great, but not our aim.

Quirk & Rescue

Visit www.quirkandrescue.com to see more of Ms. Pink & Mr. Black's work.