The best things are often spun from fateful accidents. For Maricor and Maricar Manolo, the chance to work on a music video for Architecture in Helsinki sparked an obsession that would lead them down an offbeat creative path that has since seen the twin sisters elevate their talent for embroidery from the realm of craft to a genuine design language.
“We were working at [Sydney design studio] Mathematics when they were approached to create an animation in needlepoint for Architecture in Helsinki,” recalls Maricor. “The members were living in different parts of the world at the time and we thought getting them together to do a live action shoot would be different and fun – we hadn’t seen anything like that done before. But neither of us had ever done any embroidery,” she laughs.
They bought a sewing manual from Reader’s Digest, learnt the basic stitches and dived in. “We probably bit off more than we could chew, but it somehow worked,” says Maricor.
Such a spontaneous approach has come to define Maricor and Maricar’s career trajectory, with the duo quitting their full-time jobs in 2010 to launch their eponymous design studio – a move that has seen them tackle editorial and commercial assignments for clients such as Wired and Esquire magazines, Hong Kong Airport and US homewares retailer West Elm. And although their hand-sewn typography – which emulates the nuance and texture of watercolour, thanks to a creative process that is as meticulous as it is playful – translate easily to magazine headlines, signage and tote bags, the duo are obsessive about the importance of regular exhibitions and personal projects.
“Our exhibition work lets us experiment and play,” says Maricar, who cites song lyrics and travel as major inspirations. “And that work has always led to good commissions.”
As 2010 winners of the British Council’s Realise Your Dream grant, their work led them to London in 2011, a move that served as validation that they could make a living doing what they loved.
Although the sisters returned to Sydney before the birth of Maricar’s daughter Ava, there’s no getting away from the UK capital’s creative pulse. Opening at Koskela this week, the duo’s solo show, Maps, owes its thematic focus to the city’s colour palette and the way it weaves washed-out shades with acidic brightness.
“The exhibition traces our experience of the city in terms of space and place,” says Maricar. “One of the things we were struck by in London is the colour. We were so expecting it to be really dreary but it’s not… We saw a lot of neon.
“We were…based in London Fields, on the 10th floor and surrounded by panoramas of the city. The colour palettes were just amazing, so we’re creating large patchworks based on these [for the exhibition]. Colour and pattern is what got us into textiles in the first place.”
Outside of their upcoming exhibition, the twins – who currently work from Maricar’s airy Leichhardt home – are excited about creating rugs and soft furnishings. “We keep collecting equipment and Maricar has a couple of looms packed away!” Maricor says. “But really we’re lucky to wake up every day and do what we do. I really don’t want to change it.”
Maps opens at Koskela on July 6 until August 18.