It began innocently enough as I was preparing in May of 2018 to travel to Portland, Oregon to observe and document the making of ‘Intimacy Portland,’ a joint project between Christiane Millinger Handmade Rugs and Rug Star by Jürgen Dahlmanns. I was conducting field research for the article and eventual presentation ‘Inside Intimacy Portland’ for Rug Insider Magazine and – as one did in 2018 and still does in 2020 – I was browsing the titles available for download on Netflix; plane travel after all can be notoriously monotonous. One documentary quickly caught my attention: ‘Coffee for All,’ or ‘Caffè Sospeso’ as originally titled. I downloaded it partially out of sincere interest, partially out of the serendipitous nature of traveling to a renown coffee mecca: Portland, Oregon. The short film proved to be the entrée which has refocused my life.
To explore the creation of a new product is to take a step away from what has been into the unknown, the perhaps unfathomable, the hitherto unrealized. It requires a degree of modernism and a progressive mindset insomuch that conservatism simply tends to favour the status quo. With that comes a degree of irony associated with rug makers of today who while immediately embracing the aesthetics du jour, also favour steadfast traditional techniques even at the expense of efficacy and efficiency, socio-economic concerns, and as is relevant to ‘Nylon Engulfed’ the prototype handknotted carpet made of ECONYL® regenerated nylon, contemporary environmental and climatological concerns.
The nearly three-hundred pages of text and imagery of ‘The Handmade Carpet’ contain a wealth of knowledge accumulated over the long and storied careers of the authors Fritz Langauer and Ernst A. Swietly. The assertive authors undoubtably put forth superior and exhaustive efforts in compiling what amounts to multiple lifetimes of experience, information, expertise, commentary, and so forth as they attempt to explain, as the subtitle of the tome – ‘A Comprehensive Guide to Contemporary Rugs’ – purports, contemporary rugs and carpets. In the final analysis however, it must be stated that while the volumn is indeed comprehensive in regard to certain aspects of contemporary carpetry, it likewise lacks in its treatment of contemporary as the word has come to be employed in the colloquial of today.
On 10 November 2019 Peter Goudeseune and Sergey Burattin of Aquafil, makers of ECONYL® nylon, Shally Sarawagi of Sarawagi Rugs, and myself traveled to the north-east outskirts of Kathmandu, Nepal in order to ceremoniously remove the prototype handknotted carpet made from ECONYL®, now named ‘Nylon Engulfed,’ from the loom. This is not in any way a tradition within carpet making in Nepal – it is a commercial industry after all – but it is ceremony within weaving in Aubusson, France. The tombée de métier, the ‘falling from the loom,’ when a tapestry is removed, via cutting of the warp yarns, from the loom; it’s an irreversible step that concludes the weaving.
‘As a new rug designer I was excited by the challenge that this project brings — ocean inspired pieces that don’t damage the earth,’ says British designer Isobel Morris about her involvement in this project. ‘I have a passion for eco-friendly solutions for wildlife and the environment, I’m dedicated to a better quality of life for myself, society and future generations. Econyl offers a versatile solution for the rug and carpet industry [amongst many] and I’m proud to create designs with what I believe is the future of textiles.’
Humanity does not, and likely will not ever know precisely when weaving and knotting of handknotted carpets first started. Certainly Persia played a role, as have other regions of the world, including of course Tibet. The latter being the origin of the technique now being employed by Sarawagi Rugs of Kathmandu, Nepal to create the first handknotted carpet made of ECONYL® regenerated nylon. Designed by Isobel Morris, it is a prototype which begs the question: ‘What more can be done to improve the environment of the planet, while satisfying the needs and wants of rug and carpet consumers?’
In collaboration with Aquafil, makers of ECONYL® regenerated nylon yarns; Sarawagi Rugs, makers of fine Nepali-Tibetan carpets; and Isobel Morris, designer of textiles and carpets, The Ruggist is contributing expertise – such that it is – as well as documenting the making of the first handknotted carpet to be made of ECONYL® regenerated nylon. This is the first of a five part series of articles documenting the prototype production of a novel handknotted carpet made of ECONYL® regenerated nylon. Without further ado, this is the backstory and a peek at the beginnings of the process.
From Nathan Tucker of Lapchi’s Rug Design Studio in Chicago, Illinois: ‘I guess when it comes to reïnterpreting a certain medium or artistry into handknotted carpets, there’s always going to be a challenge, depending on how close of an analogue to the original inspiration you’re trying to achieve. In shibori’s case, the general patterning is something that’s pretty easy to recreate with a graphed knot. Specifically, the itajime technique of shibori is something you see a lot of; the more geometric style of block/resist dying.’
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.
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.
Celaleddin Vardarsuyu is an innovator, a true master of the art of contemporary carpetry. Whether you know of him by name, reputation, or have no knowledge of the man himself, for those who follow the trends of handmade rugs and carpets it is without doubt you know of his work and the subsequent derivative work his has inspired. In fact so pervasive is his influence – realized or otherwise – that even the casual observer of the broad decorative area rug market has likely seen at least some variant of his now iconic, oft imitated, patchwork style carpet. Vardarsuyu is also a passionate strongly opinionated thinker, a trait for which this author has nothing but the utmost of praise and respect.
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.
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.
Meeting a German requires a degree of punctuality and though I was not yet late, I was concerned that I would be as the cab driver zig zagged his way through the gridwork of Toronto streets, dodging streetcars and a seemingly inexhaustible supply of orange safety vests, construction cones, pedestrians, and incomprehensibly slow and distracted drivers. My anxiety mounted as he asked me which route I would like him to take as if I was some navigational savant. ‘I just need to get there as fast as possible,’ I replied. My appointment was for 15:30 and when the driver pulled to the curb in front of the Gladstone Hotel where I was staying and entertaining Kath, the clock on my phone read 15:23. Safe! Then Jenni Finlay, partner of Findlay and Kath, messaged: ‘I’m so sorry. I didn’t get Jan out of here on time. He’s in an Uber now but is running late.’ I am sure I rolled my eyes, laughing internally at the situation. I took a few moments to head up to my room in order to preen myself before returning, settling into a very comfortable lobby sofa to await my guest.
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.