Discovered in the Topkapi Palace in 1929, the Piri Reis Map as it is known, is the oldest known Turkish map showing the new world and one of the oldest maps of America still in existence anywhere (the oldest known map of America that is still in existence is the map drawn by Juan de la Cosa in 1500). The extant fragment of the map represents approximately one-third (1/3) of the original and was compiled by Piri from various sources as he himself had never sailed into the Atlantic. The map was signed by Piri in 1513 CE and later presented to the Ottoman Sultan Selim I in 1517 CE. It’s discovery was serendipitous as it existence was theretofore unknown when German theologian Gustav Adolf Deissmann – who had been commissioned to catalog the palaces non-Islamic items – located it in a search of the palace. Feted at the time as it was then the only known copy of a map by Christopher Columbus, the Piri Reis map is an invaluable look into he technology and skill of the past, and is widely regarded. This is the carpet the map inspired.
To avoid atë the firm implemented what has grown to become an ‘integral influence on the constant flow of creative design that emerges from the studio’ to quote Creative Matters. ‘Art Days’ allow the entire staff as a team, not just the designers, to immerse themselves in a technique or a subject matter in order to garner fresh and, as I came to discover, unexpected insight. By exploring various artistic techniques of photography, glassblowing, collage, and the like without a predestined use nor aesthetic, the firm is able to create a body of original artwork ‘from somewhere else’ some of which may be suited to an individual collection, others archived for potential use in future projects. The exploration of techniques foreign to some, familiar to others, fosters camaraderie and team building, while simultaneously fuelling the creativity of the firm. This is a brief look behind the creative curtain.
When I took my first job in the rug and carpet world – as a porter no less – I was still full of that invincible hubris and newly minted air of superiority that makes a more aged version of myself now cringe. Fresh from university and full of confidence, I was certain I was the first person ever to discover that design functions in rote, methodical cycles. I marvelled as the past returned to the present only to once again fade into oblivion. This was the thinking that compelled me to highlight ‘Circles’ in the Summer 2017 Issue of Rug Insider and it remains a strong influence in much of my critique. New and exciting is hardly new, nor is it exciting when it’s been done before.
Though I was prescient of the return of the past I knew from old design magazines and quaint television programs in syndication, at the age of twenty-two I had not yet fathomed there would be a point in my life when the return would be that of things I witnessed in my own lifetime.
Just over a year ago in June of 2016 I was on holidays visiting with family in Ohio, taking in the magnificent Royal Persian Tent of Muhammad Shah, and visiting with friends in the uberchic Red Hook district of Brooklyn, New York. While in New York I called upon the Outlet Shop of Odegard Carpets. I found a lovely ‘Youngtse’ quality carpet – 100knot Tibetan weave (crossed), handspun Himalayan wool, et cetera, in a palette that all but said: The Ruggist. It now lives in my bedroom. A short time later – while making arrangements to ship the aforementioned carpet home, I decided to have a ‘final’ browse through the firm’s online inventory, just to ‘make sure it was the right decision’. It was as though I was in fact no different than the average decorative carpet consumer: unsure, in need of a bit of hand holding. But then, as if an apparition of rug purchases future materialized in my living room delivering a cautionary tale, I realized – as every casual rug consumer, aficionado, collector, or otherwise should – that I should just buy what I love. And I loved what I saw on the screen before me: ‘Gorden Tiger’. Rrrrrraaawwwwr!
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.
The process of making custom or bespoke rugs and carpets is one that has many benefits both for the manufacturer as well as the consumer. Consumers enjoy the luxury of specifying each of every detail of the carpet – within the confines of a particular makers capabilities – and individual makers, importers, and retailers realize lower inventory cost and waste as they are not producing full carpets on speculation alone. No matter how efficient the process however there will always be surplus yarn after a rug is finished. ‘There are often two or three spools of a certain colour yarn left over after weaving a rug. This is because we make a few extra spools in case we need to redo something during the production process.’ explains Ellinor Eliasson, a designer at Swedish carpet house Kasthall.
‘As long as you think it could work and that anyone would be interested.’ was the affirmative reply I received from Lucy Upward, Editor of COVER Magazine, when asked if she would be willing to be interviewed as part of my series ‘Over Coffee’. ‘We’ll do it over afternoon coffee at Jan Kath’s during ‘A Family Affair’ I replied, ‘I think it has the potential to be quite interesting. It will be a fun exploration of our thoughts, handfulls of people will find it enjoyable. Handfulls!!’ I concluded. ‘Handfuls. At least ten (10)… .’ Lucy replied. And so it was decided that we would sit down and chat while Lucy and I were both in attendance at the second annual ‘A Family Affair’, graciously hosted by Jan Kath, his eponymous firm, and the extended and diverse global Jan Kath family – in both the literal and figurative sense.
‘A lot of films about carpets follow the same narrative.’ begins Janis Provisor as I speak with her via telephone whilst her and co-principal and co-creative director Brad Davis are on a brief visit to New York City. ‘You typically see spinning, carding, weaving, all the usual makings of a carpet, but we wanted to make things more interesting; to create little vignettes.’ Provisor is referring to a series of short films her firm Fort Street Studio recently commissioned to tell a story with few stipulations and no pre-defined narrative. ‘We more or less gave the filmmakers carte blanche only requiring the films be shot on location in our New York Showroom and that they use our painterly and textural carpets as an inspirational design element. Beyond that, we said ‘Do what you want.”
In October 2016 Jan Kath by Kyle and Kath – the New York City showroom of the eponymous brand – presented ‘Boro: The Art of Repurpose’, an innovative presentation of authentic Boro garments paired with the firms like inspired carpet collection as well as the contemporaneous bespoke Boro fashions of Kuon. Spanning the intertwined realms of interiors, history, and fashion the exhibition revives the wisdom of the ages as it were, presenting it as one must, polished and now in high regard.
Although the inagural Istanbul Carpet Week took place almost six (6) months ago the impact and importance of the event has not dwindled with time. In fact, only now in a state of relative calm, removed from the incessant urgency and demands of instantaneous satisfaction imposed upon the media landscape of today can I truthfully and thoughtfully convey the importance of not only this event, but of more events like this in the future. In short, I believe this blend of educational conference, gala celebration, business to business meetings, and cultural and information exchange – something the antique carpet community has long encouraged to various degrees – is key to the long term survivability of our industry.
I have long admired the original Wild Silk carpets of Fort Street Studio, especially the latter day ‘Shag’ incarnation which is the stuff of ‘which decadent dreams are made’. The ‘Shag’ however is not what earned the firm their well deserved accolades, nor is it what motivated Hermès in 2010 to tap Fort Street’s joint Creative Directors Janis Provisor and Brad Davis to create a collection of exceptional wild silk carpets for the then new Hermès Maison collection of luxury home furnishings and accessories. That honour, as well the reputation of the firm more broadly, were brought about by the unbridled passion and synergy of two (2) artists – both partners in life and in business – whose combined vision to create something genuinely unique in the world of rugs achieved the rarest of goals: success!
Serendipity is a ‘fortunate happenstance’ or ‘pleasant surprise’; the term was coined by Horace Walpole in 1754. In a letter he wrote to a friend, Walpole explained an unexpected discovery he had made by reference to a Persian fairy tale, The Three Princes of Serendip. The princes, he told his correspondent, were ‘always making discoveries, by accidents and sagacity, of things which they were not in quest of.’, at least according to Wikipedia. And so it is quite serendipitous that the vast and mostly borderless internet happened to introduce me to the Ragamuf. What the heck is a ‘Ragamuf’ you ask? Well, let me tell you.
If you were to write an imaginary conversation as an entrée to an article about rugs in a presentation condominium in New York City, where would you begin? Would you pretend to be a client probing for the qualifications of the firm supplying the carpets? Would you marvel at the foresight and planning needed to get custom carpets into a show space? Would you boldly proclaim their carpets to be well suited for, and I’m quoting their marketing material here, ‘…all kinds of clients and spaces; from beautiful residences, lux[ury] yachts, and exotic hideaways to cool offices, boutique hotels and the Swedish Royal Castle.’? Yes, yes you would.
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.
To show The Ruggist’s support of all of these carpet making peoples we are introducing the social media campaign #rugswithoutborders in order to highlight both the great diversity of rugs and carpets made all over the world and the vibrant cultures from which they come. ‘America (or any country) First’ is a con which fails to realize the interconnected nature of our modern world. While it is true some countries may excel where others may fail, it is our collective diversity which has given us the world in which we live. None of us – The Ruggist included of course – can claim to be omniscient or omnipotent, rather we all contribute as we are able to make this world, our world, a beautiful and vibrant place.