French designer Jonathan Bréchignac makes some of the most intricately designed carpets you have ever seen, but there is nothing woven or loomed about them. In fact, Bréchignac’s carpets are not made of textiles at all. Instead, they’re made with Bic pens: gigantic illustrations of carpets on sheets of paper, accomplished with a meticulous attention to detail that makes them look almost three-dimensional.
“A few years ago, I was working at an ad agency, and I was struck by how much of the design being done had a very limited life span,” Bréchignac tells Co.Design. “We would make hundreds of mockups for an ad that would be seen for, what, five seconds? I felt like it was all going by so fast.” Bréchignac’s Bic carpets were created as a response to this modern idea of art as a commodity. “I wanted to work every day on the same drawing, to make each and every day a little part of a bigger thing.”
This idea of waking up every day and contributing a small part of yourself to something bigger than yourself found a natural metaphor in the medium of Muslim prayer carpets, the style of rug that Bréchignac decided to begin illustrating. Because of the nonfigurative, geometric purity of Islamic design, Bréchignac felt as if they would make a “noble” subject for a series of large illustrations meant, by their very nature, to be meditative. “Repeating the same pattern over and over again works for me like a mantra,” he says. “It’s my technique of meditation. It’s how I empty my mind.”
As for Bics, to Bréchignac, they represent the universality of art itself. “Every one has doodled with a Bic during a phone call,” asserts Bréchignac. “I have chosen them because nothing can be more universal than a Bic pen.”
Although Bréchignac’s designs are extremely elaborate, they are amazingly not sketched out beforehand. Instead, Bréchignac draws each line and pattern directly on his sheet of paper, taking a step back at every point to examine the whole and plot what he wants to do next. His process can be extremely time consuming. “It can take me up to six or eight months to complete a single carpet,” says Bréchignac. “The first one, though, took me a year and a half.”
But the results are exquisite. Intricately detailed, they look extremely realistic from a distance; only when you draw close to them do you become aware of the technique involved. Each finished carpet looks as if it has been somehow drawn, not onto paper but onto life.
If you would like to see one of Bréchignac’s Bic carpets in person, his Blue carpet will debut at the Villa Empain in Brussels on September 27 and be on display until February 9.