The Carpet Design Awards are an internationally renown accolade which recognize annually the best of carpet and rug design – provided entries satisfy the eligibility criteria. Specifically and exclusively chosen from those firms which exhibit at DOMOTEX – The World of Flooring (except for Category 1 – Best Studio Carpet), the CDA(s) as they are known have become a ‘…badge of distinction, given in recognition of quality and design excellence in handmade carpets and rugs.’ Now in their thirteenth (13th) year, the Carpet Design Awards will be presented on Saturday, 13 January 2018 in Hall 9 during Domotex.
The 2018 iteration of the Carpet Design Awards incorporates several changes which are poised to refine the honour. Gone for example is the much maligned ‘Best Innovation’ category because let us be frank, true innovation in the world of handmade rugs is few and far between, as is the ‘Best Traditional’ category, though given the current style trends toward more traditional carpets one is left to wonder if this was perhaps premature. Further refinement and consolidation of the ‘Best Collection’ category appears on first glance to be wise, as is the continued support of smaller firms via the ‘Best Studio Artist’ category. [Self-aggrandizing disclaimer: The author of this article had a carpet in the inaugural finals of this category in 2012.] The definitive positive change for the awards this year however comes in the form of a change in the judging process for the carpets.
In prior years the finalists would be winnowed from gross entries via images and remote voting by the Jury of the Carpet Design Awards. While the jury has been and remains ’eminently qualified’ to quote a respected colleague, the diversity of the panel and lack of broad specialty rug knowledge meant the finalist carpets were not – in this author’s opinion – always reflective of the current state of rug making, rather more reflective of the whims of fashionable design as a whole. To counter this, Domotex and their organizational partners COVER and HALI revised the process as follows. This year’s gross entries, in all 265 from sixteen (16) different countries were given to a ‘winnowing panel’ consisting of the jury as well as three (3) additional judges whose rug industry expertise helped to guide the process of paring out the finalists for ultimate judging by the CDA Jury during Domotex. Headed by Jury Chairman Michael Mandapati of New York’s Warp & Weft, the winnowing panel added James Ffrench of New York’s Beauvais Carpets, Michael Pourvakil of Toronto’s Weavers Art, and Matthew Bourne of London’s and Los Angeles’ Christopher Farr. These four (4) distinguished rug experts – each with their own specialties – provided the necessary rug and carpet specific knowledge to truthfully judge the chaff as it were from the standouts. The finalist carpets thus selected will be on exhibit during Domotex where the Jury proper consisting of Mandapati, designer Dr. Vanessa Brady of London, carpet expert and buyer Wilhard Kühne of Dogern, Germany, artist and textile designer Kustaa Saksi of Amsterdam, and noted architect Hadi Teherani of Hamburg will pass final judgment selecting this year’s winners.
Since the first published ‘Un-Official Selections’ in 2016 wherein the selections corresponded with the winners a favourable sixty-two and a one half percent (62.5%) of the time to the far less successful 2017 selections which managed only a meagre twenty-five percent (25%) match rate the goal has never been to predict the will of the judges, rather to provide potentially divergent commentary on the state of rug and carpet design. Now, as before, there are certain restrictions, provisos, and acknowledgments that should and shall be made. First and foremost, this is simply the opinion of a self-appointed judge, not unlike any other, though perhaps slightly more technically qualified than the real judges of what is desirable: the consumer. Critical acclaim is but one part of consumer culture with the voice of critics either standing apart when in discord with the vox populi, or adding fuel to the trendsetting fires when the praise aligns with what is popular. Regardless these selections – which are in no way described as ‘winners’ per se – are based solely on images of the carpets as provided by the entrants by way of Domotex and are the ones this author would select (from the three available choices) if he were a judge of the Carpet Design Awards and reflect – as all decorative and aesthetic decisions do – subjective and ever changing opinion.
And while the goal may not be to match the decisions of the judges, whom amongst us does not like to be right? Will ‘The Ruggist’s un-official selections of the 2018 DOMOTEX Carpet Design Awards’ correspond to the official winners? Find out by following both The Ruggist on Instagram and/or Facebook and Rug Insider likewise on Instagram and/or Facebook for live coverage of Domotex throughout the fair including the awards ceremony on Saturday, 13 January 2018. Without further ado, The Ruggist presents the third annual un-official selections and commentary on the 2018 Domotex Carpet Design Awards.
Best Studio Artist
‘Golden Fade’ by Salem van der Swaagh had me from ‘repurposed wool’ as the Un-Official Selection for Best Studio Artist. Paired with the on-trend shagginess and an appeal toward younger audiences via its authentic craft origins, it was impossible to select any other carpet for the honour.
While it is certifiably fun, colourful, and artistic, I find it difficult to select ‘Animal Mask’ as anything other than a well executed finalist. Exuberant and brash, a textural delight, this carpet expresses the notion of carpet as art in it’s truest form and is what can be done with carpet as a fine (as opposed to decorative or craft) artform; but I have my doubts. Carpets and rugs by their nature are utilitarian objects which also happen to be decorative. For me, to truly be a rug or carpet a piece must still retain utility beyond that of ‘decorative object’ or tapestry, if we are talking it up with marketing. As tapestry, this rightfully called piece is one of a limited edition of three (3) plus an additional prototype and artist’s proof giving it genuine artistic appeal. As rug, not so much. Not as practical as it could be owing to variable pile heights and with an asking price of €20,000 – 30,000 ($23,988 – 35,982 (USD) as of 31 December 2017) it seems there is a substantial ‘artificial scarcity value’ attached as well.
This category is near and dear to me for the reasons aforementioned and so it is with keen interest I look at the carpets trying to best gauge how much ‘hands on’ there is in each piece. While not an explicit requirement, there seems to me to be a need for the designer to be a bit more than just the person who originated the design. ‘Poudre’ is no doubt a technically stunning carpet which faithfully replicates the thrown toner upon which the design is based, but perhaps it this precision – running counterintuitive to the hipster craft adoring love of imprecision, of elements of the hand – which detracts from the inferred connotations of studio, of atelier. However as a token of special recognition, ‘Poudre’ is awarded the rare distinction of ranking as second favourite, an honour if you will, not lost on those who know the origins of the name: Atelier Février
Best Modern Design Superior
I favoured ‘Pattern Mix’ in 2017 for Best Modern Collection and so it is with equal earnest I select ‘Pattern Mix 10’ from Galleria Battilossi as the Un-Official Selection for Best Modern Design Superior. I first saw this collection in 2016 at ‘The Rug Show’ in New York City and it remains just as endearing today. What interests me the most about these carpets is the technical prowess with which the very structured designs are executed; the parallel zip-zagging effortlessly punctuated (or is that revealed) by the areas of more solid field. It’s also interesting to note this carpet is ‘made in the Punjab’ which corresponds historically to the ‘Chand LC Collection’ below.
‘Chaos’ and ‘Snakeskin 1’ are carpets perfectly suitable for virtually any space, modern or otherwise, with small scale repetitive patterns expressed dramatically or vibrantly providing a non-offensive backdrop when placed with other interior furnishings. In this regard, neither of these un-official finalists are any different from ‘Pattern Mix 10’, and so functionally it is difficult to choose one over another. If I were to be gifted any of these I would not object, but if I were to choose I would simply go with the one I like most, and I have.
Best Modern Design Deluxe
Recently I have put an inordinate amount of thought into what makes a carpet modern, specifically as I like to say ‘delightfully’ so. Abstraction plays a major role, as does familiarity (or the lack thereof), but so does re-interpretation. Oddly this coarse criteria definition also describes so-called traditional rug design as well, but I digress. Modernity in carpets must not only balance design, but it must speak to the zeitgeist of the time in which it is made or appreciated. ‘Gatsby Gold’ by Hossein Rezvani is thusly chosen as the Un-Official Selection for Best Modern Design Deluxe as it harkens to the gilded age and the cautionary tone of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s magnum opus The Great Gatsby both of which resonate with the current state of wealth, decadence, and inequality.
Firstly we should commend the winnowing committee for this remarkable grouping of carpets from which to choose best modern design deluxe; what divergent styles! I was at first tempted to select the ‘Galmous Atlas Mountain’ as the un-official selection owing to both Moroccan carpets being hot, hot, hot, right now and the envisaged beauty of mid-century modern furniture adorning the rug, but then I thought ‘No, that look doesn’t say modern as in now, rather modern as was then – in the mid-twentieth century.’ Likewise ‘Blocks Number 3 Silver Grey’ while equally as praiseworthy doesn’t capture this moment of modernity, rather seems to be indicative of the vanguard from a period just past.
Best Transitional Design
To express displeasure with the term ‘transitional’ would be to sound repetitive of years past, but for the sake of those who do not have an encyclopedic knowledge of my past writings allow me this indulgence. Each of the carpets in this category have a readily apparent traditional origin to their respective designs, yet through techniques mostly related to non-standard colourations we interpret them somehow differently, somehow not just traditional. Each could also be played up as modern depending on context – as I did by selecting ‘Ottoman Collection’ for inclusion in my Rug Insider Winter 2018 feature on ‘Delightfully Modern’ carpets – or they can be played more traditionally, again depending on context. This innate not-completely-defined aesthetic notwithstanding, the Un-Official Selection for Best Transitional Design is this ‘Blue Star’ from the ‘Ottoman Collection’ by Art Resources.
These two (2) un-official finalists tend to lean a bit too traditionally Persian for me to favour them as best transitional and perhaps that is why ‘Ottoman Collection’ was selected. While definitely classical in its origin, it exhibited just |<-that->| much more divergence from form, something it seems I desire in a carpet to be classed as transitional, best or otherwise.
Best Flatweave Design
Behold ‘Moroccan Kilim’ by Bazar du Sud as the Un-Official Selection for Best Flatweave Design. Upon first glance the well-loved-denim appearance of the kilim recalls the familiar, comfortable, ubiquitous nature of said fabric, but as the eyes travel – and they do – the cacophony of patterns becomes apparent revealing this is no commonplace rug. It is this depth, almost as if the rug can be seen from two (2) disparate focal points, which elevates this piece above the rest.
For as much as I am a fan of Iranian, Persian if you rather, weaving neither of these flatweaves incorporate enough ‘oomph’ to set them apart from either each other, nor ‘Moroccan Kilim’. Given their respective provenance we can be assured of superior quality and either would work well jointly or severally in many interior spaces, but at the end of the day these two (2) pieces come up flat(weave) when compared to the beguiling undeniable visual intrigue of ‘Moroccan Kilim’.
While admitting the bias that 1) I love geometry and 2) The carpets of this collection are my favourites of all the finalists this year, ‘Chand LC Collection’ by Ashiesh Shah for Choudhary Exports is the Un-Official Selection for Best Collection for 2018. In much the same way ‘Gatsby Gold’ re-interprets the past (which is now also the present and thus ‘modern’), the carpets of this collection re-interpret the past at a time when great change is once again underway. Inspired by the Le Corbusier designed iconic façade of the Palace of Assembly in Chandigarh, India, the variable treatment of the same figurative element across the various carpets in the collection speaks of classical carpets and the repeated interpretation of natural elements found therein. For an Indian architect of this day to draw natural, insomuch that it was already extant, inspiration from a noted architect of a former day, is to bring full circle the notion of rebirth that was the original impetus for the construction of the Palace of Assembly and casts off colonialism and neocolonialism in favour of self-determination; even if it is just a carpet design.
As with several of the categories this year it is not the faults of the Un-Official Finalists, rather it is the merits of the Un-Official Selection which have made the decision. As collections go, both ‘Alasht’ and ‘Moving Landscapes’ illustrate a cohesive theme throughout the groupings but in the final analysis it was impossible to overcome my love at first sight appreciation of ‘Chand LC’.
When I first saw this image I immediately thought to myself: ‘This is just another photo from Rug Star’s ‘Intimacy Berlin’ photo series which the firm uses for promotional purposes. As such, my mind raced through a series of disparaging thoughts denouncing the effort as an affront to the intent of the category. Then, I thought to find out more and emailed Jürgen Dahlmanns of Rug Star to clarify. Herr Dahlmanns in response to my question: ‘Yes, you are 100% right, this shooting belongs to my project ‘Intimacy Berlin’. The client is an art collector and the shoot was as much installation as it was a client’s home presentation. So ‘Intimacy Berlin’ is more and more a hybrid project. On one hand it is the original idea to show rugs in real interiors, in homes of friends or friends of friends of mine, but on the other it is now our main sales tool and we are now offered homes (for photoshoots) from art interested people. They offer me their home to see how it changes with the rugs and mostly end up purchasing some of them. The owner of this apartment – itself a collector’s home – purchased four (4) of the rugs the way we placed them for the photoshoot.’ And so it is that ‘Residential Apartment from 1880’ is the Un-Official Selection for Best Interior owing to its classic-rug-sales-tool-remade origins.
My marketing interest in ‘Residential Apartment from 1880’ aside, I find the clean, neutral aesthetics of both interiors submitted by Mariantonia Urru to be a bit too indicative of most upmarket, luxury-ish (not a typo), everything is perfect, Instagram interiors that people seem to love without thinking for a moment what it would be like to actually use the space. For example, look at the Instagram feed of @rugediteur and imagine either of these spaces amongst those photos. ‘Would they stand out?’ I ask rhetorically.
‘Amini Project’ by ABC Italia is hereby proclaimed the Un-Official Selection for Best Communication because this photograph can be described as fully embodying the notion of luxury, style, and design. Everything about the photograph, from subject matter, to styling, composition, what have you, says refined and sexy. If you are a company selling luxury wares to luxury consumers this is the message that should be conveyed. And, if I’m going to add just a bit of cheekiness, I’ll say they also chose the correct size rug for that table.
Truth be told, I enjoyed all of the entrants in this category as each conveys the intended message either implied or explicit. The ‘polish’ if you will of the ‘Amini Project’ is what set it apart.
In retrospect it seems this year’s awards do still face some challenges. Of a possible twenty-four (24) different companies competing across all slots in all categories, we find only sixteen (16) firms heavily weighting the awards toward either the aesthetic vision of the winnowing panel or as a harbinger of trends to come or as commentary on the more limited selection of higher caliber carpets this year or, or, or. Regardless, the final list of finalists of the Carpet Design Awards will always represent a limited view on the entirety of the global rug trade much the same way I can only choose my un-official selections from those presented.
If you are traveling to Domotex or televisiting intently from afar, be sure to follow both The Ruggist on Instagram and/or Facebook and Rug Insider likewise on Instagram and/or Facebook for live coverage of Domotex throughout the fair including the Carpet Design Awards Ceremony.