I realize it’s been awhile since I’ve talked about a BlogTour, New York “find” but I’ve been excited to write about Amy Hughes for some time. I met Amy, the product designer for SHIIR rugs, while walking through the Architectural Digest Design Show. Her resume, and the rugs she brings to life, blew me away.
SHIIR is headquartered in Chicago, where the team dreams up the most jaw dropping rugs using ancient weaving techniques from Nepal and India with modern day luxury in mind.
SHIIR got its start as a collaboration between interior designers, Shea Soucie and Martin Horner of Soucie Horner, Ltd. and the executives of Oscar Isberian Rugs – Oscar Tatosian, Sarkis Tatosian and Brian Rojansumaphong. Like many interior designers, Soucie Horner at times found it difficult to source the “ideal” rug for a particular project, so they would reach out to Oscar Isberian Rugs to create amazing one-off pieces. As that relationship developed, the path to SHIIR was paved.
What really stopped me in my tracks was SHIIR’s Cashmere rug, can you imagine your feet waking up to a luscious cashmere rug under your bed every morning…?
Okay, enough daydreaming and back to Amy. After I found SHIIR rugs at the Architectural Digest Design show, Amy and I plopped down on the rugs and started chatting. I love her story and her passion for her craft. I hope you enjoy a look at SHIIR rugs and what Amy had to say.
How did you get your start in product design?
I’m very blessed to have a father who taught woodworking and construction at a university in Missouri, where I grew up. I had access to every tool and material I could dream of and I learned how to use a band saw, melt acrylic, and solder metal before I learned to drive. My father taught me to appreciate well-made, thoughtful and enduring objects. There is a certain satisfaction that comes from designing something and then actually building it – something that product design allows me to do.
Tell me about the inspiration for some of these amazing rug designs.
Thank you for the compliment. I am personally inspired by antique textiles, architecture and objects I see during my walks around Chicago. The idea for Passage, one of my most successful designs, emerged from peeling paint I pass by every day on my morning walk to work. My design for SHIIR’s Narcissus rug is based off of a mirror that was found in an antique store. I thought the sheen of our cashmere was ideal to embody the reflective nature of the mirror.
Can we talk a little about the materials used and the process used to make SHIIR rugs?
This is my favorite subject to talk about! As a Product Designer, I look at the rugs as three-dimensional objects rather than flat surfaces. When I create a design, I need to consider the weaving techniques and materials as much as the design itself because they all inform each other.
I encourage the weavers to create and highlight many of the features that can only be achieved from hand-weaving rugs. This ranges from showcasing the natural abrash that is beautifully evident in our wool and silk Indian rugs to the uneven trim lines in our Nepalese designs.
I’m also thrilled about SHIIR’s use of cashmere, a material that is extremely rare in rug production today. In fact, I’ve been told by several people that they’d rather wear our cashmere rugs than walk on them.
How would you describe your personal style?
Bright, personal, and enduring. I love hand-made items with a great story. Hanging on my walls are some oil paintings from a local artist, photos from my trips to India and blueprints from the 1940’s of car engine parts. Living in the Midwest all of my life has embedded me with a sense of practicality that is evident in my style as well. I choose timeless pieces that can last for years.
Is your dream house a beach house or fabulous urban apartment?
Both sound lovely but ultimately I’d love to live in the country. My idea of heaven would be having a large woodshop in the middle of nowhere with close access to a major airport for when adventure calls.
Walk me though your work day…
As SHIIR is still a small company, I do everything from design work and quality control to creating estimates and invoices. I start out the day by checking in with our manufacturers on the status of orders and expected ship dates. The afternoon is typically reserved for creating custom renderings and proposals for clients.
For at least an hour each day, I’ll search for design inspiration or educate myself on production techniques. I’ve started sewing designs onto fabric and am experimenting with unexpected materials in my design work.
My favorite weekend activity is to meet friends for brunch followed by a walk around the Chicago’s north side with my husband. I also use this time to physically create my own designs for my company MadeByMeter. I’m currently working on some small-batch home furnishings and will soon be installing my first retail window installation for a local dress shop.
What are you inspired by?
I am inspired most by people who create things. From starting a business to baking cookies, I have immense respect for anyone who has a vision and can then make it come to life.
Thank you Amy for letting me write about your story. Another special thanks to Julia and the entire SHIIR team for sharing with us.