Okay, so our rugs are not block printed, but there are some things that I just simply cannot resist. Perhaps it's the allure of the weavers motto 'Happiness is Handmade' that strikes a cord. Akin to block printing this weaving method is like a long thread winding through the history of India, a rich tapestry of time, tradition and unaltered craft.
The technique is simple and complicated in equal measures, the possibilities endless and the appearance of the rug along the loom such a sight to behold. To watch the process from the preparation and dying of the yarn, past the hypnotic motion of the spinning wheel and on to the loom where the design is remembered by some incredible photograph in the weavers mind and appears line by line; its enthralling and exciting and I am hooked!
Needless to say, a rug is a very simple way of adding some colour, spirit and joy to a room. It really is a magic carpet; in our house they circulate from bathroom to bedside, settle in front of the Aga for a while and then are dragged outside when the sun shines, making the perfect picnic rug. And oh joy, they can be bunged in the washing machine and the cycle starts again. Rather like a 'flying' carpet, except these rugs don't transport me to my dream destination, but bring my dream destination to life in the form of my home.
A few years back I found myself 'popping up' during an art exhibition alongside rug aficionado Francesca Gentilli. We were both having to 'present' our craft to a small but interested audience.
We connected then (perhaps both being as terrified as the other at having to speak publicly about what and why we do what we do) and have since shared a shop space, collaborated on a collection of rugs and more recently travelled together to Jaipur. And so, it was an absolute honour when she took me to meet her weavers earlier this year. It was just a day, but what I experienced, saw and heard has created a lifetime of memory. I have documented a small portion of it here and asked Francesca to expand on the craft she holds to closely to her heart.
I talked to Francesca about her attachment to rugs.....
MM How long have you been a ‘rug dealer’ and how did you get in to it?
FG Where has the time gone? It’s exactly six years ago that I started my little business and it all started in India...! I find it the most inspiring country bursting with life and colour and I'm always finding excuses to keep going back. Whilst on travels in Rajasthan I was on the hunt for a rug and was not having much luck, but, on our last day I stumbled across the tiniest shop packed FULL of glorious colourful rugs. I wasn’t familiar with dhurrie rugs back then and spent hours on the floor drinking chai, learning all about them. I found myself a runner and bought an extra 8 to take back home to see if I could sell them. They all sold within a week so off I went back to India to see if I could make it work. And that's where it all began!
MM You have a very joyful relationship with the weaving communities in India and I can see you adore visiting. What is it that particularly draws you back each time? FG India holds a very special place in my heart and it's the people that make it so wonderful. I am very lucky to spend time with the families that weave my dhurrie rugs, they are a joy to be with and treat me as an extended member of the family. I've had some of the most delicious home cooked food I've ever eaten with them, sitting crossed legged on the floor eating off palm leaves with our hands. Their generosity is endless and so are the portions.
MM Can you explain how the orders are handled. Some are made at the main and very beautiful space where the yarn is dyed and others are made at the weavers homes….can you tell me a little more about the ‘birth’ of a new rug? FG From the initial dying of the cotton to the weaving, each rug passes through at least 20 pairs of hands from start to finish. All of our dhurries are woven in the small villages scattered across the countryside outside Jaipur. First is the dying, all done by hand by the Dye Master, and once the cotton has dried in the Rajasthani sun it is then spun into a 20 count thread to make the yarn which is then spooled ready for weaving. The loom is probably the most important part. It's made to the size of the rug, again all by hand so this is why there can be slight discrepancies in the size of the rugs, making each one unique. And then the weaving; our artisans weave a few inches by hand each day until the beautiful dhurrie is complete.
MM What's your favourite colour? FG Green! Specifically the green of Tamegroute pottery unique to the Moroccan desert with all of it's depth and character. I love finding these emerald treasures and bringing them back home.
MM You took me to a very special little village near the weavers with what has now become an iconic sweet shop…thanks to your Instagram. We were both blown away by the incredible colours of the buildings and houses and the amazing welcoming people. What can we learn from this and how, other than rugs, do you bring it back into your life in the UK? FG There's no fear of bold and bright colours in India, in fact it's encouraged! Everything is decorated within an inch of it's life, the colossal trucks are works of art in their own right. I think the world would be a much jollier place if everywhere was as colourful and OTT! I'm a bit of a magpie when it comes to colour... Our home is full of 'stuff' I've been drawn to and collected on my travels. Vintage textiles either framed or hanging on the wall, handmade pottery, old doors or shutters that I've carried back in my suitcase and obviously rugs aplenty!!
THANK YOU for sharing this Francesca....for more of her rug wonderment you can find her at www.francescagentilli.com