Jan Kath and More! Over Coffee

Jan Kath and More! | Over Coffee

A casual conversation with Jan Kath about rugs and carpets turns intimate before the opening of Jan Kath in Toronto.

Meeting a German requires a degree of punctuality and though I was not yet late, I was concerned that I would be as the cab driver zig zagged his way through the gridwork of Toronto streets, dodging streetcars and a seemingly inexhaustible supply of orange safety vests, construction cones, pedestrians, and incomprehensibly slow and distracted drivers. My anxiety mounted as he asked me which route I would like him to take as if I was some navigational savant. ‘I just need to get there as fast as possible,’ I replied. My appointment was for 15:30 and when the driver pulled to the curb in front of the Gladstone Hotel where I was staying and entertaining Kath, the clock on my phone read 15:23. Safe! Then Jenni Finlay, partner of Findlay and Kath, messaged: ‘I’m so sorry. I didn’t get Jan out of here on time. He’s in an Uber now but is running late.’ I am sure I rolled my eyes, laughing internally at the situation. I took a few moments to head up to my room in order to preen myself before returning, settling into a very comfortable lobby sofa to await my guest.

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Nepal Ascending - The Ruggist

Nepal Ascending

How a focus on quality and differentiation can revive the carpet industry of Nepal.

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.

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Kyle and Kath - Jan Kath Design and Avenues World School launch Crossroads & Avenues. This project is a creative collaboration between the children of Avenues: The World School of New York City and the Kesang Primary School of Kathmandu. This global project brings together the creativity of children from opposite sides of the world in order to explore their cultural views and interpretations of design as seen through a child's eye. The result: fresh and original Nepali-Tibetan carpets. | The Ruggist.

Crossroads and Avenues | Excelsior!

'Giving back' takes on added dimension with an eye keenly focused on the future of Nepali carpet making.

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.

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Jan Kath has introduced a new carpet named 'Magic View II' which is a fusion of Magic View and Cloud. | The Ruggist

Magic View II | Jan Kath

As progeny of the of the firm's earlier work, 'Magic View II' is an exemplar of photorealism in carpets.

As the early 21st century begins to wane many of the innovations which have propelled the art of carpetry to its current zenith have passed from novel to commonplace. The technology which brought forth the rise of photorealism in carpets is now pervasive; its functionality enjoyed by countless carpet makers and designers the world over – regardless of their artistic or aesthetic merits. This is the natural state of progress, yet as any connoisseur knows there can be and is great divide between technical and artistic acclaim. In short, just because one can manipulate an image via computer and make it into a carpet does not mean one should. However, time and time again the firm of Jan Kath has demonstrated an adept ability to find balance between technical achievement and artistic merit; this is the nexus point, the so-called ‘sweet spot’, and in its latest manifestation it presents itself as the enchanting ‘Magic View II’.

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'Nine Million Stars' is a video project produced by Jan Kath and Label STEP that celebrates Nepali carpet weaving as a sustainable alternative to migrant labour. Staring famed Nepali actress Reecha Sharma and noted Nepali stage actor Tika Bhakta Jirel, directed by the award-winning Tsering Rhitar Sherpa. - The Ruggist | Image courtesy of Jan Kath.

Shine Brightly! | The Future of Weaving

A video by Jan Kath and Label STEP celebrates Nepali carpet weaving as a sustainable alternative to migrant labour.

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.

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