Behind the carpet

WE MAKE CARPETS does not make carpets. At least, not the kind of carpet you can walk on. Still, one of the visitors of the Dutch Design Week 2010 stepped all over Fork Carpet.

The carpets are not meant to be touched either. But it sometimes happens anyway. ‘Muisjes’ Carpet suddenly had an imprint of a finger. A visitor nibbled on Candybar Carpet.

But to glue everything down or put an art barrier around it? No. That doesn’t fit with the work. From a distance it may look like a carpet but you have to come close to see it is actually made of clothes pegs. Or some other everyday product.


It is Friday afternoon. Bob, Marcia and Stijn are working on their latest carpet – LED Carpet – in their Amsterdam studio. There is beer. Bob holds a soldering iron. Marcia and Stijn are bending iron wires.

The trio made their first carpet in 2009. They were collaborating in the ‘Instant Nature’ exhibition during that year’s Dutch Design Week. In the forest they collected pine cones and needles. These became Forest Carpet. The shape appealed to them and they developed their collaboration making six more carpets. ‘There never was a preconceived plan, like “from now on the three of us will make carpets”. It just happened. At the same time we had the feeling it might lead somewhere.’

The carpets come about in the same way: naturally. There is no design. The material, location and size are set but other than that they work intuitively. Anyone can begin. In the centre. Follow long days on their knees or in other uncomfortable positions. Often till deep at night. ‘It’s a bit like meditating. We work in unity, always with the three of us, hardly taking any breaks.’


This method can also take its toll. Brick Carpet was their first paid assignment. It was a large outdoor piece of twenty by thirty meters. Two lorries full of bricks arrived. ‘Watching them dump their load was awesome.’ But the six days of sorting and laying that followed, gave Marcia a severe case of tendonitis. ‘My wrists were squeaking. Literally.’

‘That physical aspect is quite something,’ they say. Those large pieces are heavy, but perhaps the smaller ones are even worse. Marcia: ‘It puts your whole body under strain. I was working on ‘Muisjes’ Carpet, a tiny carpet. We had already been at it for a few days. I can’t recall exactly what happened, I probably knocked something over. That just did it. I shouted “I can’t take it anymore”, and then my legs gave out on me.’

Hard labour is part of it. It is even a prerequisite, they explain. ‘Each carpet is symmetrical. It has a certain pattern. You have to lay it and that takes time.’ Moreover it is exactly this labour and the works’ vulnerability that raise questions with the visitor. Did you lay all of that? How long does something like this take you? Just how many parts is it actually made of? Can you walk on it?

This amazement concerns the material. And that is what it is all about for WE MAKE CARPETS. ‘We want people to take a fresh look at those products. We want them to become aware of their beauty. You don’t buy a paperclip because it’s beautiful, but it is.’

The collective shares this fascination for everyday archetypical products. ‘We love form. We love simplicity. None of us three works in an expressionistic style. Maybe that is what unites us.’


Tinkering at LED Carpet they are standing close together, without hindering each other for a single moment. There is a natural casualness about their collaboration. Almost without communication Stijn and Marcia move the jumble of lights and wires. Bob connects the electricity. The carpet is working.

WE MAKE CARPETS is more than the sum of its parts. The trio’s synergy is remarkable. They talk the same way they work. Sentences are completed halfway by someone else. If Bob digresses during conversation, Stijn will return to the original topic. Together they formulate their answers.

Bob: ‘Our work is about super elementary design. It is about objects everybody uses, like clothes pegs and LEDs, but that no one would give a second thought. Why do they look the way they do?’ Stijn adds: ‘It is essentially a revaluation of materials that have been produced to be discarded after use.’ Later, Marcia says: ‘We are purely interested in forms. It is very minimalistic.’

In the hands of the collective, objects of use take on a new value. Pasta is no longer pasta. ‘It is our material,’ they emphasise. That is leading. Do you work with clothes pegs? Then you get a diamond shape. Are there more yellow French fries forks than green ones? Then that determines the pattern.

It leads to strange conversations between the trio and their suppliers. Could you supply those party hats in silver, rather than in blue? Is the inside of those serpentines coloured too? ‘You can hear that man think “what difference does it make? What kind of party are these people having?”’

WE MAKE CARPETS loves those materials. ‘We want to celebrate these products’ existence.’ And that is what they do. With dazzling installations in the form of carpets.

Wiesje Kuijpers

For our jubileumbook journalist and tv-maker Wiesje Kuijpers wrote this article about our work.