Design as identity

Claire McGovern pictured with one of Rhyme Studio’s rug designs.

By Peter McDermott

It’s ICFF NYC week in the Big Apple, which means that over four days architects, interior designers and developers gather at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center, alongside retailers, representatives, distributors, facility managers, developers, manufacturers, store designers and visual merchandisers.

An estimated 35,000 of them, indeed, are expected to show up to view the work of 800 exhibitors by tomorrow evening. And also tomorrow the general public will be admitted to what is the 30th edition of the ICFF (International Contemporary Furniture Fair) NYC.

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The Dublin-born, New York-based interior designer Claire McGovern has been a participant in one way or another for the last 12 years, and during some of that time she was mostly based in San Francisco. This year she is representing her own Rhyme Studio ( and is also involved with other exhibitors in her role as business director of RUX Studios.

But 2018 will be memorable for another reason – it marks the launch of Rhyme’s series of rugs inspired by 7th century Irish design.

“This particular rug design initiative has turned into a design as identity project,” McGovern told the Echo this week.

The official handout explains it thus: “Composed of the finest hand spun pure Irish wool, the debut collection of rugs by design studio Rhyme draws upon the history of ancient art forms and symbols while incorporating traditional techniques of master artisans.

“Inspired by Insula Art, an artistic movement that emerged during early Irish monasticism,” it continues, “the designs offer a minimalist interpretation of swirling motifs and spiral forms associated with this era of creativity. Each rug evolves from a hand drawn artwork and is fabricated by a master rug maker using only the highest quality woolen yarns.”

McGovern, a graduate of both Trinity College and University College Dublin, said the project promotes Irish wool and the “excellence in Irish craftsmanship using locally sourced Irish materials.”

It’s also, she said, a way of “reaffirming my connection to my own identity and my nationality.”

McGovern, the mother of a 5-year-old son, suggested that all of this might “relate to a feeling of displacement that never goes away for an emigrant.”

She said: “In my own humble way, I’m channeling my 7th century Irish art. It was a pure artistic time before the arrival of the Vikings.”

If only coincidentally, the interior designer has noticed that some of the furniture coming out of Ireland in recent years could have been designed in Scandinavia. “It could be Danish,” McGovern said. She would like to develop conceptual lines that are “recognizably Irish and very contemporary.”

In a 2016 profile about her in the Echo, the Dubliner said: “When I finish my own design collection, when I launch that, when I see it selling – I think I’ll have achieved my goal.”

McGovern is hopeful that the launch of Rhyme’s rug collection will prove to be an important stage in the achievement of that goal.