Design Collaborative: A Fresh Eye

May 19, 2009

Electric Lotus by Durkan brings to market a different way of looking at carpet—Tracy Stum’s way.

Individuals often use the talents forged in one career path to create success in another; and the work of artist Tracy Lee Stum exemplifies a similar, notable transition. Stum achieved her first round of success creating street paintings, drawings and decorative projects … becoming known for trompe l’oeil murals and paintings for high-end hospitality and entertainment markets. The lessons Stum learned in those settings and her fresh eye attracted officials at Durkan. The rest, as they say, is history.

“We have collaborated with several individuals over the years as part of our commitment to providing the hospitality industry with carpets that are innovative and inspiring,” explains Lee Blair, the company’s senior vice president. “Our first partnership with Tracy, which involved the Mandalas line, was very successful. It was a natural step to collaborate with her again.”

That collaboration led to the birth of Electric Lotus, a collection that features disconnected yet recognizable images that were taken from numerous sources.

“Tracy continually pushes the envelope, and we believe she has successfully done that with Electric Lotus,” adds Blair. “Her approach is very refreshing.”

In the past, Blair notes that corridor carpets, as one example, traditionally featured a border down both sides of the product. Instead of this more formal approach, Stum uses a free-flowing design that features abstract images to create visual interest.

“Tracy invested a great amount of time educating herself about our company’s processes and what the industry offered relative to the design of carpet for hospitality projects,” says Blair. “She understands how we approach our lines and the need for formats that read on textiles. Equally important, she works very well with our staff to successfully translate her ideas into designs that work with our standards.”

Stum found her inspiration for Electric Lotus through a blending of sources, including origami, Zhezhi paper folding, lotus flowers, 18th century Indian Yantra and kimono designs, spirographs and microcircuits.

“Inspiration comes from many places,” explains Stum. “In the case of Electric Lotus, I was drawn toward visuals that represented math [and] science … [as well as] ancient spiritual and decorative traditions.”

In particular, the art of origami served as the basis for Stum’s initial designs. She notes that this art form is very intriguing and that it resonated with her. For the design of the origami door drop, origami birds are organized in a jumble on one side to represent “the cacophony of a delightful yet overwhelming presence, winging its way through the pulsing noise of colliding imagery.”

The collection features 19 patterns—two 6-by-9 rugs, one corridor runner, 11 broadlooms, one 5-foot medallion, and four borders. Stum notes that the patterns are not symmetrical in composition and that they are unpredictable. The elements in each composition—weight, balance, color and scale—are not formulaic, which is a dramatic departure from the design of many carpets found in hospitality projects years ago. There is, however, a connection to more traditional carpet designs. Stum looked at old, traditional patterns and evaluated how she could change the color and scale—with new disjointed elements thrown in—to make them more current.

The color palette is a distinct departure from the Mandalas line Stum previously developed with Durkan. Purples, tans, reds, grays, mauve, bright periwinkle, and cream blend to create striking images when combined with the patterns in the line. Stum evaluated trends in many markets, including fashion, as she developed the colors for Electric Lotus. Clients can also select colors to their own specification, which opens the door to numerous variations on the original designs.

Electric Lotus is manufactured using Durkan’s Synthesis process, which allows patterns and textures to be layered on the carpet. This proprietary process involves layering a secondary pattern over a multi-level, cut-loop base grade pattern. The Synthesis base grade is tufted with the first pattern and the pattern can then be directly applied on the designed multi-level, cut-loop base grade.

Electric Lotus premiered at HD Expo in May. The line was reviewed by Durkan’s Sales Force Council and the reception has been very positive. Both Blair and Stum firmly believe the marketplace will respond in a similar fashion.

Janet Wiens is a freelance writer based in Memphis, TN. She was formerly marketing manager for HNTB and now works with industry clients to address their marketing and public relations needs. She can be reached at jwiens@ bellsouth.net.

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