Calle Henzel & Henzel Studio

Henzel Studio designs and manufactures luxury Swedish rugs. Founded in 1999 by the brands namesake, Calle Henzel himself, Henzel Studio has since flourished in the international marketplace. Mr. Wolf sits down with Calle to talk art, inspiration, and design aesthetics

What is your artistic background? Are you professionally trained in textiles?
I don’t have a traditional arts background – I am pretty much self-taught. I have always been driven to experiment and push myself in exploring various media, including textiles, which is basically how Henzel Studio started. My body of work isn’t confined by a particular movement, or school of thought. I see myself more as an autodidact, working within my own independent yet commercially viable structure.

A great deal of your early work was in painting. What was it that attracted you to painting as a medium? Do you still paint today?
Painting has been central to the development of my artistic language. My earlier work captured aspects of youth culture, layered with collage-based images representing the fragile and fluctuating notions of identity, corrupted beauty and symbols. My recent works are more abstract and quite dark, triggered by the idea of vandalism. I love to sabotage my own images with different nuances and depths. Right now, I’m back to the collage-based images again. I have actually just finalised a series of works that will be incorporated into an upcoming Henzel Studio collection.

At what point in your career did you move to designing textiles? What prompted the move?
I turned to rugs early in my artistic career. I was looking for a new surface for my images; experimenting with different textiles and searching for something living and breathing. The minute I decided to turn my paintings into rugs, I was hooked. Today we use centuries-old weaving techniques that make each rug truly unique. One knotted rug takes 6 months to produce. Each stage of this ancient craft is carried out by hand. To me, that is art.

Do you find there is a great artistic difference between painting and designing textiles?
To me, having artwork woven into a rug is no different than painting it onto a white canvas. The only difference lies in the subjective definition of fine versus applied arts.

Where do you find your design inspiration?
My creative influences are intertwined with my everyday life and quotidian aesthetic impulses. This includes art, music, fashion, nature, and current events. My creative process is very much based on the unconscious, in the sense that the best ideas are unplanned, intuitive and come when I least expect them. However, once put on paper, my work always has a purpose and is framed within the scope of my artistic practice.

I’m constantly drawn to things I find interesting from all creative mediums. Right now, I’m immersing myself into the practices of all the great artists we are collaborating with for our first installment of Henzel Studio Collaborations, which is an exclusive collection of art rugs of outstanding quality. All of the artists working on the collaboration share a contemporary dynamism that I relate to a lot.

Do you think the design history of Scandinavia has influenced your design aesthetic?
We have undoubtedly inherited aspects of Gothenburg’s common design principles and ethics, which has led to a very strong dedication to quality. However, it is the contemporary chapter of the city’s design history that drives me the most. Gothenburg has undergone quite a cultural shift, from being labeled as a traditional industrial seaport town, to becoming a melting pot of emerging artists, designers, musicians, and fashion entrepreneurs.

Would you say that you work is a reflection of Swedish nature, particularly the Diamond Dust/Nordic Raw collection?
That collection was quite organically conceived, based on scientific experiments exposing the rugs outside in the harsh Swedish environment to study the effect. The process spanned over several years in Abisko, a town in northern Sweden. The results are unique and free-form shapes with irregular surfaces. One series mirrors how different traces of snow lay on the surface, another the melting and thawing process of snow with elements of grass. The third reflects the meteorological phenomenon, Diamond Dust, which generally forms under clear skies with a temperature well below freezing.

Your manufacturing process is said to be incredibly environmentally friendly. How are you rugs made, and why is the process special?
This is an aspect of our business that we take great pride in, and it is the determining factor of the high quality that signifies the Henzel brand. We only use the purest, most ecological fibres in the world, working solely with biodegradable and renewable resources. Our rugs are handmade in Nepal, using traditional artisan practices. The process includes the separation of fibres, carding, spinning, dyeing, balling and the final step of the actual weaving, which takes up to five months. Once the rug is complete, it is removed from the loom, trimmed, washed, and dried in the sun. It is a very labour intensive process. It should also be noted that we’re certified by Good Weave, which controls and promotes responsible labour practices and provides critical services to our workers.

How have you managed to differentiate yourself in a competitive global market?
It is a combination of an uncompromising dedication to quality, bold design statements, and a hardworking team. We also work in a very independent fashion, in the sense that we don’t seek to appeal to anyone and everyone. Our customers are very discerning and often-times seek us out, regardless of geographical region.

We pretty much do our own thing, and don’t bother with market data or comparing and contrasting within the competitive landscape. We have always stuck to our main objective, which is to design and manufacture rugs of great originality, transcending to borders or art and interior design, and essentially pushing the boundaries of the medium.

What does the future hold for Henzel Studio?
For the past year, we have been working with Joakim Andreasson of cultureEDIT on Henzel Studio Collaborations, a collection of artist-designed rugs that includes designs by Richard Prince, Juergen Teller, Linder, Marilyn Minter and Jack Pierson among others. The designs are beyond our wildest expectation. An edited display featuring Anselm Reyle and Helmut Lang’s rugs will be unveiled in Milan during the design fair in April. The collection will thereafter be officially launched at Barneys New York’s iconic Madison Avenue location during the upcoming Frieze Art fair. It will be followed by a collection of art pillows and the second volume of rugs, which will include an equally strong group of artists. We also created a new signature collection called Reboot, where we revisited designs of antique carpets and infused them with a modern approach by enhancing the contours and the graphic shapes that define them. Going forward, we will continue to do what we’ve always done best, but with a more collaborative scope, operating at the intersection between art and design, and hopefully providing further confusion to the definition of each media.

Images, top to bottom:
- Calle Henzel
-  X module system, 2010 Hand tufted / 3 individual pieces New Zealand wool & silk
-  Ray Ice Mono, 2009 Hand tufted rug New Zealand wool  & silk
- Shanghai Lounge Ice Cut & 745 Frozen Cut, 2013 Hand knotted rugs, 150 knot Himalayan wool & silk
- Untitled, X module system, 2011 Hand tufted / 3 individual pieces New Zealand wool & silk
- Untitled 152, 2011 Oil on Canvas 170 x 170 cm / 67 x 67 inches

All images courtesy of Henzel Art & Design Group