These extemporaneous remarks were originally delivered to honoured guests, attendees, and the Executive Committee of the Nepal Carpet Manufacturers and Exporters’ Association (NCMEA) during the organization’s annual meeting in Kathmandu, Nepal on Wednesday, 29 March 2023. They have been automatically transcribed by artificial intelligence and lightly edited for syntax and clarity.
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.
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.
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.
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.
And that ladies and gentlemen is what great (timeless) design is about: self-expression. Three (3) years hence and I am still thinking about the collection and in particular the above design 1608 (I know, I know, it could have a slightly better name) wondering what kind of amazing living room this carpet would complete, when the so-called article Print Play: The History of Madras Plaid scrolls across my Facebook timeline. Aside from chortling at the use of the word history, I also had a hearty laugh at the idea of Madras Plaids being back en vogue or as we have to say these days: ‘On Trend.’ This is not a fabric that is trendy, this is a staple. Sure its popularity waxes and wanes in the common downmarket world of H&M (How else would you sell new clothes each season?), but in the nicer prêt-à-porter boutiques of say the preppy, Brooks Brothers wearing, summering in the Hamptons crowd, Madras Plaid has never gone out of style. It remains a superior example of design that is both aspirational and establishment, timeless and popular, subtle and bold, ‘Go to Hell’ even!
Nota bene: This post was heavily revised on Tuesday, 28 April 2015 to reflect information available at that time. I spoke with a colleague in Kathmandu earlier this morning and while most of his family are safe, others remain yet to be located. He further reports their homes are destroyed, and the immediate concerns of shelter, food and medicine are top priorities.I would like to stress that many of the efforts listed here will have longer term benefits to Nepal, whereas others benefit the short term needs of the country. Consider donating to organizations with existing infrastructure and the ability to service these immediate needs first, then give to other efforts with longer term impact. Finally, please remember that the long term success of rebuilding will only be helped by your continued business with Nepal. So, to begin again as it were, an uncredited quote from our friends at floordesign in San Francisco via facebook…