Flourishes, combs, crowns, knots, daisies, butterflies, bows and hearts… A new wave of artists and designers are toying with the idea of what a pillow could be. The result is imaginative pieces that are simultaneously soothing and visually stimulating, or as the late designer Rose Greenberg described her cushions: “Half home accessory, half entertaining friend”.
Greenberg, who died in 2020, was an early pioneer of the new pillow style; Her whimsical comb pillow quickly gained popularity. Her mother, Zoe Friedlander, says Greenberg was inspired to create other “new and different shapes” — like her ornate cow-print faux-fur pillow, an oversized pink velvet comb with missing teeth, and a long, hanging heart in a dusky-pink linen — after seeing how “people interact with them”.
Monique Chiari, the Melbourne-based designer behind Clumsy, creates her bouclé comb and donut pillows using locally sourced designer leftovers and recycled water bottle fiber, but her eco-conscious production practices don’t come at the expense of style and fun.
Cush Coma, another Melbourne-based brand, is similarly eco-friendly, producing cushions that are locally handcrafted from sustainable materials. The catalog of shapes and designs includes single flowers in cow print; “bouquets” of two linked flowers in a checkerboard pattern; interconnected denim cushions printed with a bleached floral design; plus sundials, arches, nebulae and more.
Thinking and creating locally is also a top priority for Jeanette Reza, founder and creative director of Jiu Jie, the brand behind the original knot pillow. Reza started making her pieces in 2016 before officially launching Jiu Jie in 2018. The pieces are made in New York’s East Village and offer a decidedly fashionable look.
Reza studied at the London College of Fashion and then worked at an interior design studio before the pandemic. “I’ve always been interested in beautiful things and fabrics,” she says. “I think when you see my products you can tell that they come from an artistic and fashion background rather than traditional home decor.”
A large part of the experience is the therapeutic element. “The pillow has a long tubular shape so you can tie knots and then tie them together,” explains Reza. “You can do pigtails if you have three. It distracts you from other things. It’s a transitional object, like a child holding a teddy bear that gives them a sense of security. The cushions should inspire something like that.”