As you read through Lauren and Coles’ inspirations in the below blog post, you instantly, or I do anyway, want to be their friend. From Anni Albers to recent theories on the big bang, these inspirations aren’t on all your usual go-to mood boards and that makes me happy and comforted- like a big warm aesthetically pleasing and historically engaging hug.
Ugly Rugly (named after the first rug Lauren made) is a melting pot of handmade goods, in all my favourite colours. From coasters that look like the word ‘splat!’; massive, beautifully made graphic rugs; to awesome interchangeable bags. It’s all fun but with good design practices and sturdy materials throughout their collections. With that in mind, I love to see what is happening currently in New York with so many creative small business emerging and gaining recognition, moving beyond Instagram and looking at expansion: Ugly Rugly is very much a part of this movement. With their sights set on expanding their product archive and opening a space to share their vision and broaden their community.
The funny thing about Instagram is that its this humongous global app with millions of people on it. However, so far, many of the businesses I chat to that begin there are so centred on community, focussing on locality as well as honing and nurturing their craft. It’s refreshing…and that is what Ugly Rugly (and so many of these businesses are) is, refreshing. Good quality products, considered and well made with a wonderful ethos behind it.
Here is what Lauren and Cole had to say…
- Tell us about yourself and your brand.
Hi there! I’m Lauren and I am the co-founder of Ugly Rugly. My husband, Cole, and I began Ugly Rugly in 2018 as a side project making funky rugs and other textile-y homegoods. The name Ugly Rugly comes from the first rug I made, it was a very wonky uneven rag rug (that still lives in my kitchen!) and I called it my little Ugly Rugly it is imperfect but it brings so much joy to me that I just wanted to keep making more rugs!
My background is in Fashion Design and Retail. I started Ugly Rugly as a side project while I was working at a corporate job. I wasn’t miserable there but I just felt like I wanted to do more. So I started playing around with making rag rugs and rope rugs, from there Cole came on board and we taught ourselves how to use a tufting gun and began creating bright and unusual rugs and home goods. We love to push our mediums, using rope in new ways, playing with unconventional silhouettes and abstract motifs. Our whole purpose with Ugly Rugly is to have fun with it and make objects for your home that make you laugh and lighten up a space. We do most of our production in-house and that’s one of the best parts for me. I love to sew and make things, but I especially love production and manufacturing. The covid crisis has really messed up our production schedule and made timing things very difficult but we just moved into a little studio in Brooklyn NY and are working on releasing some new rugs and other items in (hopefully!) November that we’re really excited about.
- What are your Inspirations?
Cole and I are both inspired by early 20th century art movements like abstract expressionism, for example Helen Frankenthaller and Hans Hoffman. We also are inspired by the Suprematist movement Lissitzky and Malevich – both in the spirit of revolution and the work that accompanies it. Along with the Bauhaus movement and modern design movement, Josef and Anni Albers and Charles and Ray Eames. I believe that the core of our design philosophy is heavily influenced by those movements.
Beyond that, I often draw inspiration from Science Fiction. I’m endlessly fascinated by our natural world and space as an extension of it. Lately I’ve read nearly all of Octavia Butler’s books, Hyperion from Dan Simmons, and Adrian Tchaikovsky. The recent news of a new map being designed similar to the Voyager Golden Record using pulsar stars as guideposts for the galaxy and Penrose’s new theory about the big bang are just a few of many fascinating and inspiring space developments.
I’m always checking out books from the library (pre-covid!) and learning new techniques or researching historical textiles/fibers/etc. I love researching the American arts and craft and textile manufacturing processes of earlier eras. Cole and I both grew up on farms in Central California and are the descendants of Dust Bowl migrants (think Grapes of Wrath) and I’m inspired by the do-it-yourself and inherently sustainable nature of the textiles from that era. Nothing went to waste and people problem solved as they went along, I like to think both Cole and I both draw on that spirit when designing and making.
- Lets chat about social media- a hindrance or help?
Social Media is a huge help. Marketing is the part of this business that I’m newest to and having a tool like instagram has been a huge help in getting the word out about Ugly Rugly! I think it works best if we don’t take it too seriously and just use it as a tool for sharing. I try not to get too wrapped up in engagement or how many likes we get. I’m happiest when we keep things authentic and sometimes that means ignoring the algorithm!
- Where would you like your business to be in a few years and do you have any advice?
In the near future we want to begin expanding into new products categories and trying out some different mediums and methods of construction for rugs, and ultimately to move into using more recycled materials if possible. I used to teach sewing and that’s something I would like to continue doing in the future. Ultimately, we would like Ugly Rugly to expand into a workshop storefront. I would love to have a space where we can showcase our work and our friend’s work, teach classes, take on production jobs, and have a design studio. I envision it as an equitable space where people openly share skills and talk about ways to bring their ideas to life.
5. Who are your favourite small businesses or creatives doing interesting things?
There are so many friends doing amazing projects! You’ve already interviewed our bud Marissa of Off Beat Sweet but some other faves are:
@myfawnwy – does amazing stuff with marbling
@bodylanguageshop – plant hangers
@Chunksshop – makes the coolest hair clips
@travissswinford – making clocks and blobby tables@rosegreenberg – wacky pillows
@shopberriez – best vintage