Carpet Design Awards (CDA) 2012: The Ruggist Review

Full Disclosure: I (Red Spruce that is) had a carpet in the shortlisted finals of the competition and that alone was the impetus for attending DOMOTEX 2012. Please keep that in mind as you read.
The CDA’s featured 211 Carpets from twenty-six (26) counties entered in ten (10) categories competing in an anonymous selection process that produced the thirty (30) shortlisted finalists – three (3) in each category. It is worth adding that – for those who know rugs – it can only be somewhat anonymous as the signature and iconographic work of some of the entrants was sure to be recognized, but I digress. These thirty (30) finalists had their carpets displayed at the CDA stand in Hall 21 of DOMOTEX where the final judging and selection of the winner took place. We join the story already in progress at this point.
We arrived at DOMOTEX on the morning of Sunday, January 15, 2012 and were meeting the beautiful Raquel Diaz-Downey of COVER/HALI who had once again organized the competition this year. En route to the show my husband asked, “Do you know what she looks like?” to which I replied “No but she’ll know who I am.” I said this with a smidgen of arrogance, but to be fair COVER has been very kind in its coverage of Red Spruce (and I once wrote a piece for them) and I am sure my name/image is either lauded in their office or serves as the backdrop to their office dart board. In either case, we arrive and within moments Raquel said “Hi” and showed us in.
After a brief tour and explanation of the layout of the show, we bid Raquel good-bye and proceeded to the GoodWeave booth to briefly say hi and to drop our coats. Then it was off to the CDA stand!!
Oh I was in heaven. There was my beautiful carpet. One of thirty (30). I was and am proud. But The Ruggist was not (only) there to bask in the glory of this relative success, he was there to be The Ruggist. And as you’ve not doubt previously read I promised as a follow up to my review of DOMOTEX 2012, one of the prestigious Carpet Design Awards (CDA). And so as to not disappoint and without further adieu, I present said review:
Since the winners had yet to be announced I took the opportunity to walk the entire stand and write down what we shall call “The Ruggist’s CDA Winner’s List”. Let’s see how I compared to the expert judges on the panel, with some verbose comments of course. Oh! before I go on the official list can be found here.

Best Modern Design Superior
The Ruggist Selection: Quandak by Ali Mohammadi
CDA Winner: Ruby Room
I was disappointed that the winner “Ruby Room” was so indicative of what passes for good carpet design in this day and age. Sure it is what the masses want to consume, but is it worthy of a design award? I am not convinced. Take some blob-like shapes, layer another unrelated design over top (in this case one that is highly derivative (derivative is my polite way of saying knock-off) of a Lapchi design by the name of “Beaded Curtain”) and viola! you’ve got a new carpet design. **sigh
Best Modern Design Deluxe
The Ruggist Selection: Reflection Sky by Wool and Silk Rugs
The CDA Winner: Reflection Sky
I first saw the rugs of Wool and Silk at the NYICS in the 2010 or so I think and I’ve loved them every since. I love the hand of the mixed wool and silk (at the yarn stage). I also happen to think that this winning carpet is simply amazing! It deserved to win because it works on many levels. Not only is it beautiful from a purely aesthetic perspective, but once you know the name and actually see the reflection, the carpet takes on that much more meaning. Simply wonderful.
Jan Kath had also a “carpet” in this category that though ingenious in concept, was in my opinion miscategorized and should have been in the best collection category. In fact, according to Mr. Kath’s own marketing, and I quote: “The original basic pattern that inspired this collection…” (emphasis added) His “carpet” was in fact a series of three (3) showing a tonal green and beige Bidgar design in three (3) iterations. The first was a full on Bidgar design. The second, showed the design fading into the beige field, while in the third the design had nearly completed faded into the beige field. How is it that three (3) carpets ended up in this category? Should not it have been in the Collection category? Moreover, if his intent is for us to rethink what it is to be a “carpet”, then his comment to me that my carpets are “Too Intellectual” makes me the Noam Chompsky of the rug world.

The Bidjar Trilogy by Jan Kath
Best Traditional Nomadic Design Superior
The Ruggist Selection: Chelhaoui by Blanchete Tapis
The CDA Winner: Haleemi by Ali Mohammadi
Best Traditional Nomadic Design Deluxe
The Ruggist Selection: Noor by Werner Weber Zürich
The CDA Winner: Noor by Werner Weber Zürich
Best Traditional Workshop/Formal Design
The Ruggist Selection: The Better Future by Theo Keller GmbH
The CDA Winner: Cypress by Zollanvari AG
Best Old/Antique Carpet
The Ruggist Selection: Akhnif Kilim by Le Cadeau Berbère
The CDA Winner: Tekke Main Carpet by Foumani Persian Gallery
Best Collection Modern
The Ruggist Selection: Brick Collection by Knots Rugs
The CDA Winner: Jazz Collection by Nexus rugs
One of the Brick Collection
Did I mention I love Knots Rugs, specifically the people at Knots Rugs? Oh yes, in my last post
Best Collection Traditional
The Ruggist Selection: Casablanca Collection by Reuber Henning
The CDA Winner: The Spanish Design Collection by Ariana Rugs Inc.
The Ruggist Selection: Casablanca Collection 
I was glad to see the work of Franziska Reuber (nee Henning) recognized. It, I should also add, was great to see her and Birgit Krah again. Disclaimer: I once did a little work for Reuber Henning back in 2009/2010 and I’ve been a fan of their carpets since. Had I not been so overly distracted by Red Spruce and my previously mentioned depression, we might still be working together. Moving on though, she has great designs that I hope receive more attention outside of Europe. I mean you North America!
Best Innovation
The Ruggist Selection: Tagged by Jan Kath Design GmbH
The CDA Winner: Tagged by Jan Kath Design GmbH
CDA Winner: Tagged
When I saw this there was no doubt it was the winner and it is quite easy to see why the judges lauded so much praise and adoration on it calling it a “true game changer”. Mr. Kath pushed the envelope by taking a wonderfully executed hand knotted carpet design and tufting text on it! That is he treated a finished carpet as the backing material for tufting. The Ruggist is in complete agreement that it is a game changer, however it is sad though that by this time next year every cheap schlocky rug company will be making knock-offs of this concept. In the extreme I envision something gross like a rug depicting the Eiffel Tower with tufted text over top reading: I love New York. (I know the Eiffel Tower is not in NYC. That is my point.) Yes, Mr. Kath truly is an innovator, it is just sad that the resulting product will be crapy “design”, riding on the coattails of some real inspiration.
And finally!
Since you generally do not come here for safe commentary, allow me to digress, if only in an exaggerated, passionate, and slightly arrogant manner, (in other words: rant!) as I review the final (but actually first) category of the Carpet Design Awards. I saved this for last as it is the category in which I was entered. Shall we? Let’s shall!

Best Studio Artist Design (New in 2012)
The Ruggist Selection: Sand Dollar by Red Spruce (Duh!)
CDA Winner: Prisons by Chevalier édition
The Ruggist’s Selection: Sand Dollar
The CDA Winner: Prisons 
Oh where to begin. Obviously I wanted to win, who doesn’t and in all fairness to Chevalier édition I did say to several colleagues before the announcement of the winners that if I didn’t win, I wanted “Prisons” to win, so I cannot be too upset. But…
Really? This is what passes as innovative design in a category specifically designed for small studio producers? Studio producers should, by definition offer more unique and less broadly accepted designs. They should be creative and push the envelope. They can be more than just a rug that will sell. They can be, and are, the rug world equivalent of couture and bespoke, without bastardizing and overextending the terms. They are and should be the avant garde, the vanguard, the artistic and the experimental. That being said, a brightly coloured geometric, wool and silk, cut and loop pile tibetan weave carpet was all of those things. It was innovative and cutting edge design, it was coulture, it was the best: in or around 1998.
*Ring *Ring “Hello?” Oh yeah, It’s 2012 calling and they would like you to know that rug design has been there and done that.
“Prisons” won because it is bright and colourful and bight and colourful is having a resurgence of popularity in the broad interior design community (For that we can all be thankful; we all know of my disdain for beige), and that, ladies and gentlemen, is a judging fault. Critical acclaim and recognition should not be based on arbitrary and cyclical fashion whims. No! It should be based on other completely arbitrary and subjective criteria that reward the adventuresome, not the pedestrian.
I know for a fact that at least one of the expert panel of judges found “sand dollar” to be innovative. How do I know this without breaching some form of confidentiality you might ask? Because she said so herself in her own blog. Alix Perrachon (author of “The Decorative Carpet”), seasoned rug buying consultant, and rug expert said, and I quote: “While a minority, there were finalists from North America which take rug design to a new level. I could easily say that about the innovative “Sand Dollar,” an exquisitely designed and executed hooked rug hailing from Nova Scotia’s Red Spruce workshop and yes, it’s actually produced there.” End quote as they say when reading aloud.
But alas, Ms. Perrachon’s opinion (and that of another judge) was likely swayed (or more accurately as I’ve been told – outvoted) by the opinions of the other judges – that is, those with an eye more toward saleability and the broad design industry, not just the intellectual pursuits of  what makes a great rug design.
In conclusion.
Make no mistake, I am a huge fan and supporter of the Carpet Design Awards, but just like the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the awards presented by the CDA are swayed by public opinion, trends, fashion, and frankly: what is popular. Being a shortlisted finalist or a winner is a great honour and has opened up many opportunities for me (and Red Spruce) many of which are still likely untold, and for that I remain grateful.
Like many people though, I long for the day when art and creativity are rewarded on their own merits, not just because it is what the “market demands” or that because it is in the colour: Tangerine Tango.
As always, I appreciate your readership. Thank you and good-bye.