The Carpet Design Awards recognize annually the best in handmade carpet design and are, to quote, ‘a coveted international badge of excellence in quality of execution and uniqueness of design for modern hand-made carpets.’ As with any design competition however there are caveats. For instance, entrants and thus winners – with the exception of those in the ‘Best Studio Artist Design’ – must be exhibitors at DOMOTEX which obviously restricts the pool of eligible carpets. As such, it is best to think not of the Carpet Design Awards as ‘the world’s best’, but rather think of them as one would of cinema, with the Carpet Design Awards as the DOMOTEX equivalent of an Official Selection during Cannes. Similarly just as movie critics will critique with superior air, so too must those who judge rugs chime in on what is – in their opinion – hot, hot, hot.
In 2016 The Ruggist published our inaugural ‘Un-Official Selections’ of the awards and while the goal was not to predict the will of the judges, we did manage a respectable sixty-two and a one half percent (62.5%) success rate in predicting the winners. As the new year has arrived it is once again time to weigh in with our thoughts as to what is praiseworthy and to ask: ‘Will our 2017 ‘Un-official Selections’ correspond to the official winners?’ Find out by following The Ruggist on Instagram and/or Facebook as we post live from the awards ceremony on Sunday, 15 January 2017 at 16:30 CET, 10:30AM EST.
Again, just as last year, there are certain restrictions, provisos, and acknowledgments we should and shall make. First and foremost, this is simply my opinion as self-appointed judge, not unlike any other, but perhaps more qualified judge of what is desirable: the consumer. Sometimes critics just end up being critics when our answers don’t align with the vox populi, whereas when we praise the popular we’re heralded as trendsetters. Regardless these selections are based solely on images of the carpets as provided to us by the entrants by way of DOMOTEX. These ‘selections’ – which I am in no way describing as ‘winners’ – are the ones I would select (from the three available choices) were I a judge of the Carpet Design Awards and reflect my subjective opinion. Please, by all means, feel free to disagree. Without further ado, we present the second annual un-official selections and commentary on the 2017 Domotex Carpet Design Awards.
Best Transitional Collection
Much like our selection last year, this year’s is based on the fact that it adheres most literally to the notion of ‘transitional’, it also helps that we love everything about it. Beautiful colour as if it was an updated version of a palette lifted from any number of great ‘Golden Era’ Tibetan Weave carpets, combined with a jazzy and pixelated graphically abstract design all executed in that shaggy and pelt like Moroccan pile construction which the market currently loves. Overall it is very visually interesting and from personal experience and knowing who is trading in these, it is apparent the tactile will not disappoint either. Without doubt, the Marrakech Collection from Art Resources is the ‘Un-Official Selection’ for the Best Transitional Collection.
I feel somewhat disheartened not un-officially selecting either of these beautiful flatweave kilims, one from Edelgrund, the other from Kirkit. The flatweaves from both of these companies are impeccable and one would be hard-pressed to judge either superior to the other. That being said, perhaps these flatweaves ended up as finalists because flatweaves are so hot right now – as acknowledged by the next (and new) category – or perhaps they were included because there is still not a standardized distinct enough description of what is a ‘transitional’ carpet. In my experience the phrase is used to denote something not strictly conforming to any one style, and I feel as though the kilims – while stunningly attractive and well made for their class – simply suffer from their inclusion in a category so broad and loosely defined.
Best Flatweave Design
The asymmetrical nature of this rug’s foreground contrasted against the regulating structure of the background stripe is what first attracted us to it, while the judicious use of shaggy pile is what kept the interest. There is certain to be much debate about the merits of an un-officially selected (or potentially winning) flatweave that also has pile and the irony should not be lost on anyone. Regardless, of the three finalists it is the flatweave that is most intriguing and has the most appealing colour palette, and thus Souf Collection from Art Resources is the ‘Un-Official Selection’ for Best Flatweave Design.
The contrast and bold geometry of this flatweave design certainly catch the eye, but they do not accurately reflect the current vanguard of flatweave, or more broadly, carpet design. Design is cyclical of course, but the current renaissance of flatweaves has not yet reached a point where more primitive and juvenile designs such as this are ready for a resurgence. This of course is not to say what 2018 may bring… .
In 2016 a Kilim from Rug & Kilim was wholeheartedly un-officially selected as the ‘Best Traditional Design’ raising the question ‘What is traditional?’ in reference to a Scandinavian inspired mid-century modern based design elevating itself above the more recognizable offerings of ‘traditional’. Unfortunately I cannot do the same this year in a more narrowly defined category. The best and un-official must dazzle and while possessing every trait which allowed Rug & Kilim to win last year, against the charming tufts of pile in ‘Souf’ above there is scant comparison.
Best Modern Collection
With concessions given for most aptly named collection, Pattern Mix from Galleria Battlilossi is the ‘Un-official Selection’ for Best Modern Collection. The collection, which first debuted during the September 2016 ‘The Rug Show’ in New York City, is made in the Punjab and is a refreshing divergence in texture from what one typically expects in a modern carpet. Bold complementary patterns, literally mixed within the same field give the impression of peeled layers of wallpaper revealing a long and storied past. This objectifies the very manner of how the carpet industry has progressed – building layer upon layer throughout time – and reminds that what is modern is based simply on what the past has been.
The colour of Unstring by Kavi by Jaipur and the familiar feeling of winter elicited by The Winter Series by Tissage both weighed heavily in their favour, yet in the end neither could compete. Unstring reminds too much of fitted hallway carpet in an uberhip hotel, whereas Winter was edged out because – sadly – I am all to familiar with winter and could not bear the thought of bringing such an accurate emotional portrayal of the season inside.
Best Transitional Design
Just as the conundrum of defining transitional plagued the decision making process of ‘Best Transition Collection’ so too does it complicate the category for individual best transitional design. The above Shiraz from Hossein Rezvani elicits the feeling of a carpet, the pile of the foreground/design raised against a shorter field pile thusly being slowly flooded or submerged by obfuscating liquid. The result, a very traditional design left somehow modernized and abstract, is coloured simply but boldly enabling it to be placed comfortably as a statement piece in a modern home, yet at the same time retaining the ability to form the base for a wonderfully elegant and formal traditional space. In doing so Shiraz Sabz from Hossein Rezvani helps to better define what a transitional carpet is and is also the ‘Un-Official Selection for Best Transitional Design.
Both of the un-official finalists in this category are great looking carpets but, as apparently is the point to be belaboured in the article, are not as orphaned as other designs more suited to the moniker transitional. The Barchi Collection from Ariana Rugs, while wonderfully abstract is – at its core – just another great looking shaggy pile carpet in the traditional, if not also delightfully modern, style, whereas Allure from Rug Art is everything we’ve come to expect of this era of abstract palette knife inspired painterly carpets. Neither are bad; in fact, of all the categories, this inadvertent grouping of carpets makes the most pleasing complementary combination and all three (3) could easily be purchased and used for the same home.
Best Traditional Design
To be succinct: This is simply the best looking and most sellable of the three (3) finalists and thus is the clear un-official selection. Fashionable colours paired with a mix of shaggy and more de rigueur pile heights, Vase from Akya is even named in a manner which elicits memories of the ‘great’ Persian carpets of the past. While The Ruggist will be the first to acknowledge traditional is highly variable dependant on from where one hails, the commercialized portion of the rug industry more or less equates any easily recognized design genre, e.g. mid-century modern, so-called Persian, or art deco, to traditional, and thus, as long as a design remains derivative thereof it is bound to stand out in this category. Vase Green from Akya is the Un-Official Selection for Best Traditional Design.
In my recent Hali article reviewing the 2016 New York International Carpet Show (NYICS) I state, ‘By presenting antiques and collectables juxtaposed with new and modern production, ranging from traditional to repurposed to decorative, NYICS has done a great service by exposing visitors to rugs and carpets they may not normally see.’ While neither of these two (2) un-official finalists are antiques, they do posses a more niche aesthetic not dissimilar to many antique and collectable carpets, which moves them lower on the list from my perspective. It’s about balance, and while Nandi from Indigo Looms would be a stunning conversation piece in say my study, I simply cannot see the average sub-urban or even urbane consumer possessing the sophistication to own this carpet. All of that being said, I am so pleased to see unusual carpets represented and I hope to see more, though perhaps slightly less esoterically interesting, carpets like this represented in the future. Either that or we (collectively) must significantly increase the average level of consumer carpet awareness and appreciation.
Best Modern Design Deluxe
Rapture from Zollanvari is not only the ‘Un-Official Selection’ for Best Modern Design Deluxe but it is also my favourite carpet of the entire twenty-four (24) entrants this year. The abstract patterning reminds of fabric bunched in a dye vat or perhaps various hues of metallic paint imperfectly mixed, swirled prior to a more thorough mixing. This latter notion being more prominent in mind as the one-hundred percent (100%) silk pile and special finishing inherent to this collection from Zollanvari will certainly present an impressive and enchanting lustre de luxe.
When I saw Erbil Tezcan of Wool and Silk at The Rug Show in September, he excitedly showed me the inspiration for ‘Summit’ and explained how he was not so much a ‘designer’ but rather an ‘interpreter’. Perhaps his words ring true to others, but it also raises the query as to where exactly the line lies between designer and interpreter, completed work and inspiration, pastiche and genuine with the work of Mr. Tezcan undoubtedly and decidedly categorized in the latter. So, much like the other un-official finalist in the catagory, I would not hesitate to purchase this carpet either.
There is a large strong market for carpets of this aesthetic, and it overlaps greatly with the market for paintings that match the sofa. Is it bad design? No. Does it look like a carpet design made from a painting made, not by an Artist, but by a worker in a Chinese factory producing scores of all but identical paintings daily? Yes, yes it does. While this carpet is one-hundred percent (100%) sellable and a smart showroom owner with customers who fit this alluded to class would be wise to buy it, I cannot give it praise as the best when its raison d’etre is simply to appease the masses.
Best Modern Design Superior
Whether the notion of Art Nouveau or delicate dragonfly wings comes to mind, the organic fretwork like nature of this design is appealing due to its imperfect symmetry and, to be frank, ease of use from an interior design perspective. Two (2) colour carpets present a special challenge as the palette can underwhelm just as easily as it can overwhelm. Finding the perfect balance between contrast, colour, and design is an art which Rug Star has mastered with Dresden Brown, ‘Un-Officially Selected’ as the Best Modern Design Superior.
It’s modern, it’s colourful, it’s stylish, it’s composition is more or less everything a modern carpet should be, yet as much as we want to like this carpet, we simply cannot. In another year, against other competitors it may have bested the lot, but against Dresden there is simply no comparison.
My vacillating love/hate relationship with photorealism in carpets continues this year and I must say no love is lost in categorizing ‘SuperMoon’ as an un-official finalist. Without a lengthly diatribe regarding photorealism in carpet design, simply consider that just because something can be done, does not mean it should. This technique, like virtually any in design and carpet making is wont for overuse and in order to maintain a vibrant, beautiful, and dynamic carpet market we must hedge against the overuse of techniques detrimental to the innate concept of design itself.
Best Studio Design
Magnificently colourful silk carpets handmade in Kashmir. That description alone should provide all the information needed to judge Wrap by Dena Lawrence’s Firesun Carpets as the ‘Un-Official Selection’ for Best Studio Design, but if you need more consider the words of Ms. Lawrence herself: ‘We set about establishing a small production unit weaving my Artwork into rugs in Srinagar three (3) years ago. Initially it was exactly that – my Artwork was translated and woven into silk rugs and or wall hangings. What is unique about the rugs is that it is a direct translation of a free expression painting. One rarely sees this in the market as rugs.’ It’s as though the work was destined to excel in the Studio category.
If you would like to know more about Dena Lawrence and her Firesun Carpets, please read ‘Carpets as Therapy‘ by The Ruggist, published 27 May 2016.
Repurposing fabric waste is a grand nobel cause and it should be rewarded, but not at the expense of design considerations. The Vlisco is fantastic much the same way any product made of recycled material is, yet visually it reminds of the traditional braided rugs of North America and that is an aesthetic unworthy of praise given the other two (2) finalists.
Capital ‘A’ artistically, Chosrau’s Spring Reloaded by Atelier for Textile Design Beate von Harten is probably the single best piece in the entire Carpet Design Awards. That notwithstanding, it suffers much the same as the two (2) finalists in Best Traditional Design in being too intellectual for most (but not all) consumers.
Join me, Michael Christie, aka The Ruggist during DOMOTEX which runs from the 14th-17th of January 2017 in Hannover. I’ll be walking the floor, seeing what’s new, judging for myself what is noteworthy, and of course taking in all the world of rugs has to offer. Live updates can be found by following The Ruggist wherever finer social media is found and my review of DOMOTEX can be found post show on ruginsider.com. Cheers!