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.’
The New York International Carpet Show (NYICS) gets underway in New York City this 11-13 September 2016 and even before the show starts it’s as though – to quote Star Wars – there is a ‘great disturbance in the force.’ As the original autumn New York City rug and carpet show there has, in years past, been a certain caché to exhibiting and attending the show, which was in no small way, due to the disrupting nature of the show when it first broke from the then stranglehold of the Atlanta Markets in 2004. By adding an ‘Antiques Pavilion’ during this year’s show, the NYICS once again attempts – to quote Star Trek – to ‘boldly go’ into the great unknown by presenting antique and collectable carpets alongside new production. While this is not uncommon in showrooms, this is a novel approach worthy of note for what it may bring to the trade show environment and marketplace in general.
Within the world of rugs and carpets if one is to mention ‘Tiger Rug’ the foremost thought aught to be that of Tibetan Tiger Rugs. Not because of any exclusive domain over the motif – which there most certainly is not, but rather because in the grand and storied history of tigers as inspiration for carpets Tibet has produced some of the most amazing, lively, and original versions of the design. Whether the motif originated in Tibet, in a geographically proximal region, or in Timbuktu as a metaphor for far-off unknown places, is a scholarly debate for another time. Regardless, know that amongst the collectable and pre-commercialized rug market, Tibetan Tiger Rugs are, if you’ll pardon the pun, the cat’s meow.
There are no shortages when it comes to the amazing breadth of designs available in modern carpets. From solid colour, to simple geometrics, the florals, flowers, and the abstract, to intricate layered designs, the painterly, and photorealistic, the contemporary well informed carpet consumer does not want for selection or options. And that is solely in reference to readymade carpets, not mentioning those that are made-to-order or bespoke.
After well more than a decade since his departure, Tom DeMarco has returned to The Stephanie Odegard Collection effective Monday, 7 March 2016. ‘I am sitting here at my new desk at 200 Lexington Avenue [in New York City]’ Tom says as he finally ‘spills the beans’ on the closely guarded news. ‘As of today I am the new General Manager of Odegard.’
How we choose to describe the texture and feel of rugs and carpets speaks volumes to what we most cherish and on first glance it would appear as though anything describable as smooth ranks highly amongst those things. Smooth as glass. Smooth as a baby’s bottom. Smooth as silk. Smooth as velvet, though rarely is the type of velvet mentioned. Each describes something as smooth – that is to say as relatively even and not rough, yet each of these various similes conveys important and subtle differences. Smooth as glass is certainly a desirable characteristic when describing a paint finish, but to describe a carpet, likely not. Carpets should be smooth like velvet! Yes, velvety smooth. Preferably linen velvet. That kind of velvet smoothness, or is it ‘chippy and brittle’? But what about other descriptions? ‘It’s like butta!’, shaggy, wispy, cloud like, durable, pliable, to name but a few. All of which describe what is known as the hand of the carpet and they invite the casual observer to ‘Come on now touch me!’ – quoting the Doors to convey the degree of sensuality carpets with exceptional hand possess.
Around this past Labour Day I had the pleasure of corresponding with a long term friend and colleague named Tom DeMarco. Through a series of emails we discussed his carpet ethos and methodology and how the decisions he makes regarding his carpet construction contribute not only to their quality, but also to their mysterious je ne sais quoi of desirability. Without further adieu, I present a unique behind the scenes look at the creative process that defines one man’s vision for making an authentic carpet in this day and age. Ladies and gentlemen: Kooches.
‘It was the loveliest party that I’ve ever attended, if anything was broken I’m sure it could be mended.’ – They Might Be Giants. This opening quote, like so many random quotes, has been taken out of its original context and dropped headfirst into the void allowing for a new meaning more suited to the purpose at hand. For unlike the song from which the line originates, there are no socially inappropriate connotations to be had, only the simple sincerity of the words at face value: It was a lovely party – hosted by the passionate Christiane Millinger – and with certainty had any carpet inexplicably sustained damage the fastidious Ms. Millinger would have been able to execute the repair.
‘Now everything is back to normal.’ are the words that remain vivid in my mind. They had been spoken by a Nepali carpet maker as we discussed the current situation in Nepal. A mere (4) months hence from The Great Quake of Nepal and everything is back to normal. Despite the somber loss of life, the destruction of sites historic and otherwise, and the untold problems currently facing those in Nepal, everything is normal. Normal. He is not entirely wrong. Everyday people get up and go about their lives, perhaps differently than they did prior to 25 April 2015 perhaps not, but living their lives none the less – including of course making carpets. It’s a simple reminder that while the toll – human and otherwise – may have been severe, it could have been far worse. For those now in Nepal, life must move forward, infrastructure must be repaired or rebuilt, work must continue. As we find ourselves at this arbitrarily defined anniversary of sorts we must now wade into a discussion of what role the carpet industry plays in genuinely helping the Nepali people rebuild their country by asking: are we the well intentioned partners we imagine ourselves to be or are we modern day carpetbaggers?
In the wake of a series of devastating earthquakes and aftershocks that have literally shaken the very foundation of Nepal, I find myself in an unfamiliar state of mind. Empathy has never been my redeeming quality, yet concern and anxiety occupy my thoughts of a people so far away, so impoverished, so disparate from my western life of relative comfort. How is it, that a Midwestern born, American expat living in rural New Brunswick, Canada can be so distressed about people he has never met? Grand philosophical reasons aside, the simple truth of the matter is that twenty (20) years ago fate and circumstance conspired as it were and I found myself at the beginning of a career, and a love affair, dedicated to modern handmade rugs and carpets and moreover to the best thereof. For those not as well versed, this includes what are arguably the very best carpets in the world: those made in Nepal. I’ve sold countless Nepali made rugs, I’ve written extensively on carpets both as an amateur and a professional, I’ve worked with some of the finest contemporary producers of carpets in the world, I own Nepali made rugs. But this isn’t about me. This is about Nepal and its people, the handmade carpet industry of Nepal, and how imperative it is that we all show real empathy for Nepal.
As an industry we bring modernity with all of its inconsequential demands to a place where subsistence agrarian culture still dominates the economy, where manual labour is a way of life, and were exploitation (in wide ranging and various forms) is still a major concern. We also have the ability to bring hope, compassion, understanding, and as I’ve called for, real empathy for the Nepali people. We do this by honouring them for all that they’ve done for us, and by continuing to work with them as they rebuild their country. They are a “patient, studious, artistic, nuanced and extremely hard working people, and I would not be who I am without them.” says Tom DeMarco of Kooches, speaking words universal to any serious designer of modern carpets. With that, The Ruggist presents a photographic journey that explores the best of Nepali made carpets.
It’s now been a week since my rushed departure from Metro Market Week (I had to return home on Wednesday afternoon for a meeting on …
When I logged in to write this entry, I noticed that Google wanted me to know that my last post was on August 12, 2008. …