A piece of furniture with a story brings a room to life beyond the aesthetic. Perhaps it induces a moment of meditation in a frenetic day – straightening a beautiful cowhide rug and remembering its provenance in an exotic land. Resting your tired feet on a gaucho ottoman and knowing that all the material was sourced ethically; that the designer truly cares about the product and the process. We propose that not all ottomans are created equal – these things really do matter.
In particular, they matter to the creative duo behind Art Hide. Art Hide is a creative collaboration between two Australian sisters, Kura Perkins and Bree Hay-Hendry. Inspired by Kura’s travels in South America – and one particularly incredible rug in Argentina – Bree’s skills as a textile and fashion designer helped bring the vision to life. Art Hide will be exhibiting as part of DESIGN: Bazaar at Decor + Design 2016, 21 – 24 July in Melbourne. We were lucky enough to sit down with Kura in the lead up to the event and talk about the process of making lust-worthy soft furnishings the right way.
Kura, can you tell us a little bit about Art Hide and what products you currently offer to the interior design market?
Art Hide creates beautiful and unique products for both residential and commercial interiors, using only the highest quality, sustainable sourced cowhide leather from Argentina, Brazil and Italy. Every product is designed in Australia. We collaborate with traditionally trained leather craftspeople who create every piece by hand. While many techniques are time honoured, our production methods integrate up-to-date technologies, including our signature laser burning technique, modern pantone dyeing and commercial grade finishes. Our extensive range now includes ready-made rugs, cushions and furniture; although around 60% of our work is creating custom pieces. We’re now in our seventh year of business and have grown internationally, with a UK arm and business operations in the USA, Switzerland and New Zealand.
I understand that part of the inspiration for founding the company were your travels in South America. Can you remember where you were when you first had the idea? Was there a eureka moment of sorts?
I travelled Argentina and Uruguay in 2009 with my family for an extended holiday. I have always loved cowhide and of course, Argentina has a long gaucho tradition with ranches and cattle rearing being a big part of their history and culture. While there, and despite extensive searching, I struggled to find something that really caught my eye. One day, in a local town, I came across a stunning tiled rug formed from natural hides and its beauty and simplicity really blew my mind. I met with the maker and this seeded the inspiration for Art Hide as it is today.
What were the next steps in bringing the idea to life?
I was incredibly inspired by the possibilities and potential of the raw product, due to its amazing quality, both aesthetically and its longevity. However I could see that we could take it to a whole new level with Bree’s modern textile design skills and the techniques and technologies we wanted to make use of. That fusion is really where the magic happens. Time and time again we’ve seen this in the creation of most extraordinary, breathtaking pieces – much to the delight of our clients.
Your sister, Bree, is your collaborator and also a textiles and fashion designer. How do you two approach the business together?
We have such different strengths so it has been an easy and a very natural partnership! There are daily logistical challenges due to the fact we are based on opposite sides of the country, however we also work that to our advantage.
You also offer bespoke design services. How does that process work and what kind of pieces are your most popular in this regard?
We’ve undertaken some truly spectacular projects; including striking wrapped panels in restaurants, giant boardroom rugs and works of art in international five star hotels.
Most of our week-to-week customised work is residential. We’ve done everything from small bedside rugs to grand floor fillers. Our specifying kit for our designers includes a cowhide folio with samples of our range. Combined with our catalogue and in-house rendering services; it makes specifying super easy. We love creating unique masterpieces for our clients!
All of your cowhide is sourced sustainably. What kind of due diligence do you do to ensure that each step of the process is environmentally friendly?
You only need to look to cheap cowhide rugs sourced from India and Bangladesh to know that there must be a price to pay somewhere along the line, whether that be human or animal welfare or environmental.
The tanneries that Art Hide’s manufacturers work with are all approved by the local environment agency and comply with strict laws to ensure the environment is not harmed while processing the product. In addition, Argentina, Brazil and Italy have first world standards and practices relating to safety and protection of workers.
Finally, in these countries there are strict standards of animal welfare in cattle farming for meat production. The quality of Art Hide’s leather products equates to humane treatment of animals during their life. Things like wire spikes, parasites, fire marks, or goad marks do not feature on our hides.
Do you have any particular favourites in your current range?
The Angulo has been hugely popular, along with our stunning Arlequin metallic topped hides. Designs such as the laser burn Exotico are so opulent and elegant. And of course, you can’t go wrong with a timeless style from our Classic Collection.
Finally, why did you decide to exhibit as part of Design Bazaar at the Décor + Design show in Melbourne?
Our bespoke service has become such an integral and enjoyable part of our business so we’re keen for more designers to get the chance to see and touch the product. We’ve heard increasingly fabulous things about the Decor & Design show and we’re looking forward to exhibiting!
Art Hide will be at DB5 on Design Bazaar at Decor + Design. Trade visitors can register for a free exhibition pass now.