Pippa Elliot is one of Portland Works’ newest tenants: A luxury holiday tour manager for four to five months of the year and now, a self-teaching rug maker for the rest. She is not only establishing her business in Portland Works but also teaching herself.
After spending a lot of her time as a tour manager in Egypt and Turkey, she developed a love of rugs and decided that if she wanted nice rugs, why didn’t she just make them herself. And so, it began, she was going to become a hand-tufting rug maker, one of the most rare trades in the UK, as now most artists simply design and then ship them off to be made elsewhere.
She did a two-day training course and learnt some basics, although discovered she would be much better teaching herself and learning as she went on. Now her unit is a test lab, where she trials different wools, techniques, thicknesses and patterns. As you walk in, you’ll see a huge wooden rig standing in the middle of the unit, stretching out a large piece of fabric, spools of wool climbing up the walls and various machinery by the side of the door – and of course, her tiny dog running around. Her heavy gun, supported by a balance attached to her rig, is of German engineering. She feeds wool through an eyelet and guides the gun along the fabric, a compressor attached to the gun screams out air to force the wool into the fabric and then neatly snips off to create tiny individuals threads. If she isn’t happy with her design, the threads can be simply pulled out and she can start all over again. You can of course buy a robot gun, which does all of the hard work for you – but where would the fun in that be?
Once her design is complete, she seals the back of the fabric with latex and adds another piece of fabric. After leaving it to dry for a couple of days, she then takes a lawn mower style contraption to the rug and cuts all of the threads to the same level and there you have your completed rug.
To find out more about Pippa’s rugs, please visit her makers page on the website.