By Carol Sebert, Principal
Even though our design hub is based at our head office in Toronto, an equally important part of our work takes place in the countries where our carpets are physically produced. We regularly visit India, Nepal, Thailand and now China to liaise with the skilled artisans who bring our creations to life.
In March, I was back at the “temporary field offices” in India and Nepal. After 25 years of touring these beautiful but challenging countries, you might think I’d have reached a been-there-seen-that attitude. Actually, the reverse is true – every trip is still full of new discoveries. Having toured so many production facilities, talked with so many local artisans and developed an ease with the cultural differences, I now experience it all on a much deeper and more detailed level.
Of course, with every trip, I’m looking for new inspiration: something that will really fit for a particular client; something that will take a new carpet trend just one step further; something that will honour fair trade practices even more …
Two important discoveries this year concerned knots. First I came across a mill which can achieve a perfect low tight loop pile. This has always been the domain of the Thai mills, so finding a similar quality in India means we can offer it to our clients at a better price point.
Then – oh joy! – another facility with a particularly extensive (over 100) collection of hand looms and remarkable expertise to go with them, including the Persian knot. Persian rugs aren’t our specialty at Creative Matters, but we see an opportunity here to offer our clients the remarkable quality of this knot in non-Persian designs. FYI, a 9 x 12 (2.75 m x 3.75 m) carpet takes six months of knotting.
The most exciting discovery of the trip was the potential of vegetable dying. I had previously discounted it because I didn't know of a master dyer who could get pretty well any colour under the rainbow but now I do! It's pretty special - talk about eco friendly - and we are thrilled to bring this opportunity to our clients in 2015. The photo shows an example of the range of colours that are produced (by talented hands) with the skin of pomegranates.
Traditionally the fringe of the rug is left at the colour of the neutral wool used to assemble the warp and weft, so it was interesting to visit with artisans who are perfecting the art of pre-dyeing the warp and the weft to create a variety of blending or contrasting effects.
The art of weaving goes back centuries in these countries and the range and ingenuity of the equipment never ceases to amaze me. Here the weaver is using his foot to work the warp threads – like a pipe organ.
Abrash is a naturally occurring dye variation that creates subtle colour change - or a stronger contrast - within a rug. At Creative Matters we often find that such natural irregularities can add to the charm and authenticity of a hand woven carpet. In this photo, a mill owner was showing me his control of gradations with abrash – it’s useful for our staff to know we have a partner who can control the contrast so skillfully.
No CMI carpet gets to the loom before our designers have carefully examined multiple carpet squares. They arrive almost daily in our Toronto office in sterile-but-reliable Fedex packs, so what a pleasurable change it is to check samples in pure sunshine, under the proud and watchful eyes of the mill owners amid the smells and bustle of daily Indian life.
I work with colour every day but vibrance of colours in Indian street life never fails to astound me.
Finally, what a joy it is to discover a precious moment like this. It perfectly captures my love of textiles and every little labour-intensive stage of producing hand-woven carpets.