I have thought long on this, in fact since November 2016 and I do not in any way claim to have the answers save one: I know if nothing is done, the facts speak for themselves. I have friends in Nepal who envision a guild of sorts which would certify the quality of workmanship and materials. I have other friends in Nepal who would join this guild if it meant they would sell more carpets. I see the possibility of this guild idea growing to include export organizations, and NGOs from the West. I see the Guild bringing together Nepalis, Tibetans, and Westerners with a renewed ‘we can rebuild’ attitude like that which existed in that ‘brief shining moment’ that was the aftermath of the earthquake; earthquake also as allusion to the long decline of Nepali weaving. I call upon any concerned importer or maker of Nepali-Tibetan carpets to if not join me and my colleagues in working toward this concept of Guild, at least acknowledge a new approach must be had. For those who feel as I do, that a more unified voice is required, that more can be done both here in the West but more importantly in Nepal as well, and that the status quo is less than acceptable, I welcome the opportunity to talk with you personally so that we can – collaboratively – truly give back to Nepal.
It is worthy of note that throughout the entirety of The Ruggist you will find no small degree of exaggeration, hyperbole, and irreverence. It’s who I am, it’s how I write, it’s how I see the world. Black, but not just any black. The most perfect black of which you can think. Soot from a freshly cleaned chimney black; matte with no discernible texture, as though you’re staring into a void. Vantablack® – Can this be applied to yarn? I wonder… . That kind of black. And then of course to the far other extreme, a white of no less than equal splendour, pure, but not devoid of all hue. Perhaps the Benjamin Moore named colour: Grand Teton White, if only because it reminds me of my fourteen year old self giggling at the name while basking in the very same majesty that first greeted those French explorers. Each colour – no less special than the other – vying, clamouring to be recognized as the best, the most authentic, the singular whatever it is.
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.
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.
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’.
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.
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.
To write of rugs and carpets is to interject oneself into an esoteric world replete with a cast(e) of characters far to numerous to enumerate herein and from my decidedly privileged Western experience it further seems as though each of those characters has at least one (1) opinion on any rug topic imaginable. Thus it is when choosing to discuss a particular topic or specific rug, one has to decide not only one’s own thoughts on the matter, but also the approach and tone of the article. Is the discussion serious or irreverent? Yes. Does it – as has on occasion been the prerogative of this author – examine carpets with an eye toward pure design; a faux reality of aestheticism in which meaning is lost in favour of the ephemeral and obsolete, planned or otherwise? Perhaps… .
Written word can so easily lack the nuance conveyed by the pace and cadence of speech. Comedic timing depends heavily on this distinction and so whether one finds The Ruggist humorous or just plain laughable on occasion, others would say I have a decent sense of that timing. Irregardless – Which many argue is not a ‘real’ word rather a combination or regardless and irrespective, and following English convention would mean ‘without regardless’, a double negative so actually meaning ‘with regard’. More on this later! – of what you think, any self-respecting Rug Dealer, Ruggy (or Ruggie), Rug Salesman, Ruggist – but (k)not The Ruggist, Porter, Floor Technician, Expeditor, Rug Saleswoman, Rug Salesperson (Why must English remove gender specific nouns?), National Sales Director, Owner, Rug Historian, Creative Director, plain ol’ Person-in-charge, ad nauseam, worth their weight in a pile of wool dust has had to endure countless musings of supposedly clever customers, now known as CeCe, (and coworkers) all of which have been uttered so widely and geographically disparate that we must assume CeCe (singular in case, plural in meaning) are actually a special sub-species of human possessing a collective consciousness of indecision. Yes that is one sentence.
The Carpet Design Awards are an internationally renown accolade which recognize annually the best of carpet and rug design – provided entries satisfy the eligibility criteria. Specifically and exclusively chosen from those firms which exhibit at DOMOTEX – The World of Flooring (except for Category 1 – Best Studio Carpet), the CDA(s) as they are known have become a ‘…badge of distinction, given in recognition of quality and design excellence in handmade carpets and rugs.’ Now in their thirteenth (13th) year, the Carpet Design Awards will be presented on Saturday, 13 January 2018 in Hall 9 during Domotex.
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.