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Off the Loom

Our Design Journal

The Artisan and the Artiste: An Inspired Collaboration

“No one is creating textiles like these, anywhere,” says Merida Artistic Director, Sylvie Johnson. “John has a knowledge of weaving and technique that is all but lost.”

When talking about John Carvalho, Merida’s Master Weaver, Sylvie Johnson has referred to him as a “national treasure.” When Sylvie joined Merida in 2017 she immediately recognized the value of John’s experience as a weaver and his knowledge of heritage and modern looms. “He’s been doing this since he was 14 yet he still enjoys trying new things and pushing boundaries.”

The feeling is mutual. John credits Sylvie for her vision and tenacity, and for encouraging him to try new ways of weaving that defy the limitations of the looms. “I like a challenge… and Sylvie likes to challenge you, to get the best of you.”

That deep and abiding respect between Sylvie and John is part of a deep tradition of artist and artisan working in close collaboration that dates back to the Renaissance. The resulting creative spark is the secret sauce behind the original designs and inventive techniques featured in Merida’s newest collection, Atelier 2020.

“We both have a passion that pushes us to find creative solutions,” says Sylvie.

“She might not have the knowledge to make it work,” says John, “but she has the vision for what it should look like. If you give me a vision, that’s what I love.”

One such challenge led John to develop a breakthrough handweaving technique for Merida’s new Atelier Collection, which requires stopping the dobby loom at timed intervals to create a hand-stitched brocade.

“It’s a marriage of handweaving and loom that is truly unique and the effect is exquisite,” says Sylvie.

“Marriage” might well describe the creative dynamic between her and John, although John bristles at the word. “The collaboration we have is very close but we aren’t afraid to push each other,” he says, with a smile. “If we were married she would have divorced me by now.”

For samples of Atelier 2020, launching in December, connect with our sales team.

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