It's Not the Knots... Sort of. 'Mameluka V A' by Rica Basagoiti. The Ruggist.

It’s Not the Knots. Sort of…!

Of all the technical details one could discuss regarding the craft of handknotted rug and carpet making, one stands apart as perhaps the most easily misconstrued, misrepresented, and misunderstood: knot count. This confusion arises for a variety of reasons too numerous to list, but suffice it to say knot count has tended  – rightly, wrongly, or otherwise – to be used as an indicator of rug quality due to its easily discernible and quantifiable value: the number of knots per square unit of measure. As such there is an expedience in saying a higher number of knots equates to a ‘better’ quality rug. Hmmm…. Yes, but that is not the full story.

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Materials Matter, Bailed hanks of undyed wool at Khantze & Co. in Kathmandu await dying and then knotting into fine handmade Nepali-Tibetan carpets. | Photograph by The Ruggist.

Materials Matter | Wool, et alia.

For rug and carpet traditionalists, hmm, fundamentalists, umm, aficionados, umm… …for those who adhere to the use of time honoured materials, there can be but only one material – perhaps we should say fibre – that stands proud: wool. However, as illustrated herein by the photograph of bailed hanks of undyed wool yarn awaiting processing, the crafting of carpet does start as a plain amorphous white-ish hued mass of materials; not all of which are created equal. This is true for wool – the types numerous – just as it is for the myriad fibres utilized in rug making, each with their own unique properties providing features – and the associated benefits – appropriate to equally varied uses and situations. When purchasing a rug or carpet endeavour to understand the fibres utilized and moreover whether they are appropriate or not for the intended use of the rug, be it hardworking at the front door or precious in a dressing room. 

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It's Not the Knots... Sort of. 'Mameluka V A' by Rica Basagoiti. The Ruggist.

It’s Not the Knots. Sort of…!

Of all the technical details one could discuss regarding the craft of handknotted rug and carpet making, one stands apart as perhaps the most easily misconstrued, misrepresented, and misunderstood: knot count. This confusion arises for a variety of reasons too numerous to list, but suffice it to say knot count has tended  – rightly, wrongly, or otherwise – to be used as an indicator of rug quality due to its easily discernible and quantifiable value: the number of knots per square unit of measure. As such there is an expedience in saying a higher number of knots equates to a ‘better’ quality rug. Hmmm…. Yes, but that is not the full story.

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Materials Matter, Bailed hanks of undyed wool at Khantze & Co. in Kathmandu await dying and then knotting into fine handmade Nepali-Tibetan carpets. | Photograph by The Ruggist.

Materials Matter | Wool, et alia.

For rug and carpet traditionalists, hmm, fundamentalists, umm, aficionados, umm… …for those who adhere to the use of time honoured materials, there can be but only one material – perhaps we should say fibre – that stands proud: wool. However, as illustrated herein by the photograph of bailed hanks of undyed wool yarn awaiting processing, the crafting of carpet does start as a plain amorphous white-ish hued mass of materials; not all of which are created equal. This is true for wool – the types numerous – just as it is for the myriad fibres utilized in rug making, each with their own unique properties providing features – and the associated benefits – appropriate to equally varied uses and situations. When purchasing a rug or carpet endeavour to understand the fibres utilized and moreover whether they are appropriate or not for the intended use of the rug, be it hardworking at the front door or precious in a dressing room. 

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Tapisserie Ras El Hanout, the Ras el Hanout Tapestry designed by Pierre Marie, made by Manufacture Robert Four in Aubusson, France. | Photograph courtesy of Pierre Marie.

Ras El Hanout | Pierre Marie

Pierre Marie was born in Nogent-Sur-Marne and as the child of ‘slightly hippie parents’ experienced a happy childhood filled with a passion for Disney animated films and ’an early enduring attraction to colour.’ Now as an accomplished designer in his early late thirties, he has prestigious collaborations with French brands such as Hermes and dyptique within his portfolio, or perhaps more accurately, oeuvre. He sees himself as an ‘artist-ornamentalist,’ that is it say, as Pierre Marie does, he is ‘Someone that has the talent and the knowledge to decorate any surface with a story, a pattern, a frieze. I would just say that some media are more hungry for drawing than others. And textile is definitely one of them.’

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'Darth Vader' is an eponymously named limited edition rug by Hadi Maktabi. | Image courtesy of Hadi Maktabi.

‘Darth Vader’ et alia | Hadi Maktabi

I knew of Hadi Maktabi of Hadi Maktabi Rare Carpets and Antiques long before I met him, though I am not certain how it came to be. Perhaps it was his reputation as someone genuinely and eminently qualified to lecture (in the schooled manner, not the scolding) on the topic of antique Persian carpets, or perhaps it was his embrace of all things modern when it comes to social media, promotion, and brand awareness. Maybe it was the juxtaposition in this forced dichotomy of a man who on one hand promotes himself via Instagram and the like, yet eschews most modern carpet production; I cannot help but wonder his process of deciding what modern things to accept and what to reject. Maybe it is his near zealous obsession with quality and the rare or his love of video games and pop-culture. Regardless of how, it is the latter which brings us to be talking about and with him today.

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A Presto! - Over Coffee with Daniele Lora and Fabrizio Cantoni of cc-tapis - Milan - The Ruggist

A Presto! | cc-tapis

It was in the late summer of 2015 C.E. at the 12th annual – and apparent penultimate – New York International Carpet Show that I first met Fabrizio Cantoni of cc-tapis and became more acquainted with the Italian brand. At the time I had only recently begun to take writing and rug commentary far more seriously and in the process the two (2) of us had, as one does in this age, begun following one another on Instagram. After passing by the cc-tapis stand several times I returned and while making reference to Cantoni’s Instagram handle I inquired assertively, ‘Which one of you is Happy Fabrizio?’ as I approached. That is how I came to meet Fabrizio Cantoni, who along with his wife Nelcya Chamszadeh and their business partner Daniele Lora comprise the energetic triumvirate at the core of cc-tapis.

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In Consideration of Copyright - The Ruggist

In Consideration of Copyright

In the 1999 film ‘Dogma’ Salma Hayek plays ‘Serendipity’. Not simply a woman whose name happens to be Serendipity, but rather she plays the physical embodiment of serendipity itself, which is to say she is the ‘chance’ which brings about the occurrence and development of events in a happy or beneficial way.  Except of course, there is no chance. While those without divinity perceive their interactions as random, or due to fate, or karma, or what have you, from the perspective of Serendipity, it is her will which causes events to happen as they do; for her the future is not fully unknown nor fully manifest rather its exists as any one of an endless number of permutations based upon her direct actions. In many ways the creation and success of a supposedly new rug or carpet design is a result of serendipity with the artist or designer creating something perceived as new as a result of the careful and equally serendipitous or Serendipitous work of those who have come before.

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'Nine Million Stars' is a video project produced by Jan Kath and Label STEP that celebrates Nepali carpet weaving as a sustainable alternative to migrant labour. Staring famed Nepali actress Reecha Sharma and noted Nepali stage actor Tika Bhakta Jirel, directed by the award-winning Tsering Rhitar Sherpa. - The Ruggist | Image courtesy of Jan Kath.

Shine Brightly! | The Future of Weaving

There is a certain penchant on the part of carpet purveyors to romanticize the notion of carpet weaving as a storied, well respected, and almost nobel profession. Skills are extolled, the art and craft are professed as sublime, homage is paid to the hard work and talent of those who make carpets, and the resultant product is held as high example of handwork and human artistry. And why not? The ability to create woven cloth from fibre dates to time immemorial, with estimates dating this skill to some 27,000 years ago. And while pile carpet construction, as evidenced by the Pazyryk Carpet, dates to perhaps only the more recent but still sufficiently historic fifth century BCE, it is safe to state unequivocally that weaving has been important to the development of humandkind. But, for such a noble and profoundly important profession, ‘How many handweavers do you know here in the west?’ I ask rhetorically.

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Domotex Hannover 2019 Complimentary / Free Admission | The Ruggist

With Compliments! | Domotex

For most people in the Northern Hemisphere the arrival of January signals Winter’s grasp has firmly taken hold, yet for itinerant rug and carpet buyers eager to spot the latest trends, find an antique gem in the rough, or explore the innovations which will drive the future of rugs and flooring, January can mean only one thing: Domotex. Billed by the organizers as ‘The World of Flooring’ the original fair in Hannover, Germany as well as the complementary regional shows including Domotex Turkey in Gaziantep, Turkey, Domotex Asia/ChinaFloor in Shanghai, China, and the soon to be inaugurated Domotex USA in Atlanta, United States, certainly live up to, if not exceed, this moniker. The January 2019 fair in Hannover will host over 1,600 exhibitors who will – assuming past trends hold – attract approximately 45,000 buyers representing in total over 100 countries from around the world. In short, it’s big, it’s important, and if you are serious about rugs and carpets, it’s a must attend. The Ruggist will be there for the duration of Domotex 2019 which runs Friday, 11 January through Monday, 14 January, 2019.

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Born in the Purple - Viron Erol Vert - Art Carpets - The Ruggist

Born in the Purple | Viron Vert

Like many topics related to the esoteric world of handmade rugs and carpets – and indeed of civilization broadly – different perspectives, different attitudes, different life experiences, different perceptions of the one true reality all influence how one reacts. Art, specifically the notion of carpets and rugs as art is by no means an exception, and it is this idea which routinely finds its way into the marketing and sales of rugs and carpets. ‘Art for the floor.’ and countless of other permutations of this tagline exist today just as they indubitably have existed since mankind first discovered the trade of rugs could be profitable. But ‘art’ is no clearly defined term. Contemporary usage leads one to understand many skills, artforms, and crafts as art. Cooking for example, or painting, or sculpture, to name but a few. Art, perhaps in an elitist attempt to winnow away the chaff, is also categorized into distinct sub-groups. Fine art, decorative art, folk art, classical art, again to name but a few.

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Embargo On... Again | Iran Sanctions - The Ruggist

Embargo On… Again | Iran Sanctions

Pursuant to this directive once the first wind-down period ends on 6 August 2018, the government of the United States will revoke several JCPOA related authorizations regarding sanctions on Iran, namely: The importation into the United States of Iranian origin carpets and foodstuffs and certain related financial transactions pursuant to general licenses under the Iranian Transactions and Sanctions Regulations, 31 C.F.R. part 560 (ITSR). Further information regarding sanctions can be found from the Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Asset Control (OFAC). In short, importation of Iranian made carpets into the United States after 6 August 2018 will – once again – be illegal. No other country currently has plans to enact an embargo on Iranian made carpets.

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Kyle and Kath - Jan Kath Design and Avenues World School launch Crossroads & Avenues. This project is a creative collaboration between the children of Avenues: The World School of New York City and the Kesang Primary School of Kathmandu. This global project brings together the creativity of children from opposite sides of the world in order to explore their cultural views and interpretations of design as seen through a child's eye. The result: fresh and original Nepali-Tibetan carpets. | The Ruggist.

Crossroads and Avenues | Excelsior!

Kyle and Kath – Jan Kath Design New York and Avenues the World School quietly launched the Crossroads and Avenues design project in January 2018. The brainchild of Kyle Clarkson, Managing Partner and designer at the firm, Crossroads and Avenues extends an ongoing multi-year program in which Kyle and Kath hosts schoolchildren educating them on the art, craft, and design of handmade carpets. During these class visits, children learn about the art of handknotted carpets and are given the freedom to imagine and create their own carpet design. ‘The kids have had such fun creating their own designs that I was inspired to take it to the next level and produce a few of their designs at our factory in Nepal.’ says Clarkson of the effort. Originally envisioned as a way to expose handwork to students whose lives are admittedly removed from such work, the project – with the encouragement and support of Avenues: The World School of New York City – quickly developed into a global collaboration bringing together disparate cultures and interpretations of design; all through the as of yet unjaded eyes of children.

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Iranian Moderne as represented by the carpet 'Miran' by Farahan Carpet. | Image courtesy of Farahan Carpet. | The Ruggist.

Iranian Moderne | Farahan Carpet

Persian and Oriental are two terms whose use in reference to rugs and carpets conjures mental images of familiar designs such as Tabriz, Kashan, Heriz, and Kerman even if the proper names remain unfamiliar or unknown. These designs, just like many others originating in either Iran itself, the geography of the former Persian Empire, and indeed in Central-Asia broadly have also come to be known as so-called Traditional carpets with all three terms used more or less interchangeably, in part due to the region’s former centuries spanning dominance of carpet production and trade. So while there inarguably remain innumerable examples of equally as traditional weaving and design the world over, the aesthetics of Persia have come to monopolize what is known as Traditional, Oriental, or Persian (T.O.P.) design, at least in rugs and carpets from the Western perspective.

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Jan Kath has introduced a new carpet named 'Magic View II' which is a fusion of Magic View and Cloud. | The Ruggist

Magic View II | Jan Kath

As the early 21st century begins to wane many of the innovations which have propelled the art of carpetry to its current zenith have passed from novel to commonplace. The technology which brought forth the rise of photorealism in carpets is now pervasive; its functionality enjoyed by countless carpet makers and designers the world over – regardless of their artistic or aesthetic merits. This is the natural state of progress, yet as any connoisseur knows there can be and is great divide between technical and artistic acclaim. In short, just because one can manipulate an image via computer and make it into a carpet does not mean one should. However, time and time again the firm of Jan Kath has demonstrated an adept ability to find balance between technical achievement and artistic merit; this is the nexus point, the so-called ‘sweet spot’, and in its latest manifestation it presents itself as the enchanting ‘Magic View II’.

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Ragmate is the 2018 evolution of the successful Ragamuf Chair Cover of 2017. Image courtesy of Ragmate. | The Ruggist

Avant-garde Rugs for a Modern Crisis | Ragmate

While the Ragmate Collection of cushion (toss pillow) covers, throw rugs, floor rugs and wall rugs possesses the same endearing shaggy texture as the original Ragamuf, the technique of manufacture differs. Instead of being handknotted to a stretchy substrate – as was the process for the Ragamufs designed by Finnish designer Tuula Pöyhönen – Ragmates are instead knotted to a stable net, which is a ‘very old and common technique, at least in Finland’ according to Leskelä. Utilizing waste textiles from the fashion industry, Ragmate is the realization of the long-held dream of Leskelä and the result of her endeavours to help those in need. ‘I want to use my skills and expertise so that as many female refugees as possible will have the chance to improve their condition to survive in their lives.’ Each individual and unique Ragmate (no two are the same) bears attribution for the Syrian refugee who handknotted it and in some instances even offers inspirational thoughts from the same.

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UK Heritage Rugs as featured on The Ruggist

Empire in Retrospect | UK Heritage Rugs

In speaking with UK Heritage Rugs’ Principal Brian Sales during Domotex it was apparent his passion, no, his calling, no, his mandate was not to be euphemistically inspired by the work of others – as is the purported case of so many who knock-off the work of others, but rather it was to honour the originals. By working closely with the curators who oversee the works his firm licenses Sales was able to ensure – as best possible given no-one involved created the originals – the carpets present the artwork in a manner befitting the originals’ museum quality status, however the reader prefers to interpret that. Without hesitation Sales has succeeded in this regard, though whether or not the firm’s carpets themselves are ‘museum quality’ is an academic question left for the reader and future curators.

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Make Rugs Not War - Carpets as Art, A Review - Jan Kath - The Ruggist

‘Make Rugs Not War’ | Carpets as Art!

Calling as art the vast majority of rugs and carpets made today is intellectually dishonest and in truth no different than calling mass produced paintings from China that have ‘just the right hint of blue that ties the room together’ art as well. There are of course rare exceptions but in a world driven by design and trends, precious few carpets elevate themselves above the fray into the exalted world of art, or perhaps to best distinguish: Art! This is unquestionably a subjective opinion, one anyone is free to question or challenge, yet to accept broadly rugs and carpets as art is to invite inclusion of many a pastiche object just as it is to delegitimize the work of practicing artists, formally trained, folk, or otherwise. The ensemble of carpets which comprise ‘Make Rugs Not War’ specifically challenge the status quo, and thus, like ‘Pearls’ Passage’ by Viron Erol Vert, transcend decorative art into Art, utilizing the carpet not just as rug, but as medium upon which commentary is imbued. With that, what is it then that Jan Kath is saying via ‘Make Rugs Not War?’

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Avail an Interior Designer | Op-Ed - Thoughts from the staff of Cyrus Artisan Rugs on the use and role of Interior Designers. - The Ruggist

Avail an Interior Designer | Op-Ed

The profession of Interior Design is the art of coming up with a visually appealing and functional scheme for a room or building’s interior so as to uplift it in terms of aesthetic and functionality. According to a thesis by Amany Hendy of Damietta University titled ‘The Positive effects of Interior Design for Human Psychological Health’, one of the facets that moderate the affective states of humans is the overall look and feel of their surroundings. When people are pleased with the arrangement of their environment, they experience a morale boost and are much more likely to report higher levels of happiness as opposed to those who dwell in banal vacuum-like settings which do not speak to them aesthetically. For this reason, the role of the Interior Designers is of much greater importance than what the majority of people would have us believe.

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