Made in Massachusetts: The Merida Collection of Modern Natural Fiber Rugs Designed by Sylvie Johnson

Several of us at Remodelista grew up in Massachusetts and remember seeing the many-windowed abandoned factory buildings in the mill town of Fall River. So we were heartened to hear that the collection of natural fiber rugs we were admiring is produced in a revived Fall River textile mill.

Merida, we learned, is a company with a conscience and a mandate to celebrate craft and ingenuity. Under CEO Catherine Connolly and art director Sylvie Johnson, Merida has been creating top-of-the-line, artisanal designs made only of rapidly replenishable materials, such as wool, linen, and jute. Each is woven to order on looms that are bonafide heirlooms. And each is conceived by Sylvie, who has emerged in recent years as a rock star innovator of the rug world. Join us for a look.

Art director Sylvie Johnson of Merida rugs. Above: Sylvie works out of her own atelier in Paris’s Saint-Germain-des-Prés, but has daily digital meetings with the Merida think tank (pre-pandemic, she was in Fall River every seven weeks).

Sylvie grew up in West Africa and Marseille; she has a degree in economics, but made her way to her metier by working in Paris’s art world. Inspired by a textile exhibit while on vacation in Brittany, she spent a year learning to weave on her own, and then apprenticed to a couturier who had worked for Chanel. That was 17 years ago, and Sylvie has since received textile commissions from a Who’s Who of designers, including Annabelle Selldorf  and Axel Vervoordt. ““What she does is very rare and difficult to explain. It’s like she puts her soul onto the fabric,” Jacques Grange told W.

Merida Atelier rugs art director Sylvie Johnson sketching Above: Sketching a design for Merida’s new Portfolio collection for which Sylvie looked to Renaissance and Ottoman architecture and Mediterranean colors.

Sylvie’s designs are highly technical: she spent two years developing Merida’s crimped yarn in Belgium, and what she calls “unstructured stripes” combine three different yarn weights for a nuanced softness.

Merida Atelier rugs, New Mexico 389. Above: The wool Heywood rug in Parchment.

Merida gets its wool from New Zealand and UK sources that adhere to strict animal treatment regulations. The company avoids synthetic and oil-based fibers in all stages of the manufacturing process. And it donates scrap yarns to local knitting groups as well as to the textile programs at nearby RISD and UMass Dartmouth.

Merida Atelier rugs, Cupola in Opal. Above: The Cupolo design is another from Merida’s Portfolio 2020 collection, all of which can be customized in terms of color, yarns used, and, in this case, even the shape and width of the herringbone stripes.
Merida rugs, New Mexico Coil Border in Saffron. Above: Coil Border in Saffron makes use of Sylvie’s crimped yarn.

Featured images: Sylvie with a textural array of her latest designs. Go to Merida to see more.

Rethinking your own rugs?  Browse the Remodelista rug archive, including:

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