In April, Creative Director Ana Cunningham and Senior Designer Ali McMurter visited our weaving partners in colourful, chaotic Bhadohi in northern India.
Creative Matters Rugs Made in India - GOOD TO KNOW
- Almost all of the rugs we choose to produce here are handwoven.
- We are a licensee of Label STEP which promotes fair trade practices and ensures that all work is done by adults, not children.
- We make rugs in India for both client projects and our own collections.
Why we weave rugs in India
Bhadohi, also known as Carpet City, is the largest handknotted carpet weaving industry hub in South Asia. The carpet weaving tradition in the region dates back to the 16th century and currently engages 3.2 million people in the handmade carpet sector. Bhadohi's Indian Institute of Carpet Technology helps to assure a skilled workforce.
As Ali said, "Evidence of the industry can be found at every turn - carts of wool, semi-finished carpets and carpet-making supplies being moved through the streets, carpets drying in the sun, weavers and tufters working from their homes and workshops."
The rugs we produce in India
For every handknotted rug we design in our Toronto studio, we decide whether India or Nepal is best suited to its production. We then discuss that recommendation with the interior designer. Sometimes their client may be particularly committed to the Tibetan tradition of a Nepal-made rug. Other times, they may prefer Indian-made goods as they have a wide variety of textures and qualities.
While in India, Ana and Ali were able to personally view eight of our custom projects currently in various stages of production: three for hotels, one for a restaurant, three for high-end stores and one for a private home. As a number of designs from our new Arctic Collection are also made in India, they enjoyed detailed discussions with our Indian team about how the production of these rugs could be further enhanced.
As clients who work with us regularly know, we always ask the mill to send a 2' x 2' (60cm x 60cm) sample before weaving of the final rug begins. We often make adjustments to the specifications – such as colours or scale - at this stage and then, if necessary, make another sample for final approval. Since they were on site, Ana and Ali were able to review some of these samples in production and share important notes about client preferences directly with the team on the ground.
Sourcing wool and silk for rugs made in India
Our handknotted rugs are made of 100% wool, 100% silk and every combination of the two. When budget permits and when a rug is not required for a particularly high-traffic area, we love using silk to create highlights in our designs.
As the Bhadohi region is such a well-developed centre for floorcovering production, it is relatively simple for the mills to source any wool or silk required for the design.
"The wool can come from many different countries, depending on the feel and durability we are trying to achieve. Most often, we use New Zealand wool in our Indian manufacturing, because it is consistently strong, smooth and dyes very well," said Ali. "The silk is typically from China or India, and can range from subtly lustrous to very shiny, depending on the quality and finish."
New rug weaving possibilities
Although the vast majority of our work in India is handknotted rugs, one of our current retail projects includes a handloomed portion. "This is a very efficient way of producing carpet that has a luxurious and handmade feel to it. It’s done using an upright loom and after seeing it in motion, we realized how incredibly complex the set-up for this quality is. We were quite thrilled to see the loom in action," said Ana. (Email firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to see a sample of the handloomed method.)
Fair trade Rugs - it goes without saying
Creative Matters chose Label STEP as its fair trade endorser in India and Nepal five years ago when Ana and President Carol Sebert witnessed their work first hand on mill visits. Fair trade is an incredibly complex and far-reaching issue at the ground level and it was educational, fascinating, and uplifting all at the same time for Ali and Ana to spend time with the local Label STEP staff and understand their approach and progress.
Mayank Srivastva is Label STEP's leader in the region. He makes formal visits to our three Indian mills several times a year and has colleagues who help him collect and share information. Together the Label STEP team provides guidance and leadership to manufacturers to ensure they pay fair wages and continuously improve working conditions and environmental practices.
If you are interested in Label STEP's work to support women by teaching them not only carpet production but also basic literacy, go here.
The most important consideration for a Creative Matters rug is an excellent final product made under fair trade conditions, but a visit like this one is an opportunity to appreciate and foster the symbiosis of our relationships. As Ana said, "We rely on our suppliers to produce goods of the very highest quality in fair trade conditions, and they rely on us to reach out to our clients with exquisite designs that showcase what is possible."