Thursday, July 24, 2014

The unbearable perfection of binding

The New York City designer chose the ultimate in simplicity – a one-coloured grey rectangular rug with no pattern. She also chose the ultimate in luxury fibres – 100% silk.

She was only willing to trust the simplicity of the design and the luxury of the fibre to the finest production processes. For this she came to Creative Matters. No detail was to be left unperfected in the painstaking production of this rug. And that included the lesser-documented process of binding.

The easiest, most economical way to finish off the edge of raw carpeting is to sew tape over the edge of a carpet with a high powered sewing machine. Obviously, this was not our vision for the grey silk rug.

The Nepalese artisans to whom we had entrusted the production of the rug, take incredible pride in their work and for them binding is a three-step process.

First, the loose threads from the warp and weft were folded back and encouraged to grip each other tightly with a high quality adhesive. After it had dried, the artisans worked their way around the rug perimeter with a special stitch that anchors the threads securely. Finally, they took the same grey silk thread and closely bound the entire edge with an overcast stitch. 

The stitches may look simple but the ability to anchor the stitch to a weft thread is key. A poorly executed stitch will lead to a tension inconsistency and eventually knots unraveling from the rug. Search Google for rug binding and most of the entries will be from companies who specialize in this oft-needed repair.

This splendid grey silk rug is currently in shipment - we look forward to presenting it in its full splendour shortly.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The dyeing process for our first vegetable-dyed rug

Following Carol Seberts’s discovery of some incredible vegetable dyeing expertise in Nepal in March, we are excited to announce our first vegetable dye collection. We’ll be bringing the first rug to show off at NYICS in September and the full collection will be available at Domotex in January. And here is a sneak peak at the design of the first rug.

The rug itself it is still in the weaving process, but here are some incredible photos of the wool at the dyeing mill. The dyeing stage alone, can take as long as two weeks.

The dyeing process starts with the preparation of the colour. The dye master tests and mixes the natural dyes making up a batch for each colour required in a rug. Tibetan dye masters have acquired a deep knowledge of the natural dyeing materials over many generations but due to the popularity of chemicals dyes, this traditional art came close to being wiped out.

When the dye master has achieved the correct colour, the yarn is placed in the hot dye where it is cooked for shorter or longer periods of time and at higher or lower temperatures, depending on the dye and the shade desired.

Once the dye master is satisfied with the tones the wool has taken on, s/he pulls the steamy bundle from the pot. Over 170 plants have been short-listed for dying use in Nepal, including: indigo, mulberry, saffron, turmeric, rhubarb roots and walnut. Madder root is often used for red hues.

Smaller quantities of wool are dyed in the pot and handled manually. Heavier quantities are loaded onto a spindle which is turned by hand to dip the wool into the dye time and time again.

When natural dyes are handled correctly, even in skeins of yarn not yet woven, the colours are simply beautiful.

Here the dye master in Nepal is showing us in Toronto how the dried wool now matches the colour specified in our design.A dye master - like a good winemaker - must be a chemist and a microbiologist with a working knowledge of botany, geology, meteorology and plant physiology. We’re delighted to have finally found a dye master who can meet the exacting standards of Creative Matters.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Our latest discoveries from India and Nepal

By Carol Sebert, Principal

Even though our design hub is based at our head office in Toronto, an equally important part of our work takes place in the countries where our carpets are physically produced. We regularly visit India, Nepal, Thailand and now China to liaise with the skilled artisans who bring our creations to life.  

In March, I was back at the “temporary field offices” in India and Nepal. After 25 years of touring these beautiful but challenging countries, you might think I’d have reached a been-there-seen-that attitude. Actually, the reverse is true – every trip is still full of new discoveries.  Having toured so many production facilities, talked with so many local artisans and developed an ease with the cultural differences, I now experience it all on a much deeper and more detailed level.

Of course, with every trip, I’m looking for new inspiration: something that will really fit for a particular client; something that will take a new carpet trend just one step further; something that will honour fair trade practices even more …

Two important discoveries this year concerned knots. First I came across a mill which can achieve a perfect low tight loop pile. This has always been the domain of the Thai mills, so finding a similar quality in India means we can offer it to our clients at a better price point.

Then – oh joy! – another facility with a particularly extensive (over 100) collection of hand looms and remarkable expertise to go with them, including the Persian knot. Persian rugs aren’t our specialty at Creative Matters, but we see an opportunity here to offer our clients the remarkable quality of this knot in non-Persian designs. FYI, a 9 x 12 (2.75 m x 3.75 m) carpet takes six months of knotting.

The most exciting discovery of the trip was the potential of vegetable dying. I had previously discounted it because I didn't know of a master dyer who could get pretty well any colour under the rainbow but now I do! It's pretty special - talk about eco friendly - and we are thrilled to bring this opportunity to our clients in 2015. The photo shows an example of the range of colours that are produced (by talented hands) with the skin of pomegranates.  

Traditionally the fringe of the rug is left at the colour of the neutral wool used to assemble the warp and weft, so it was interesting to visit with artisans who are perfecting the art of pre-dyeing the warp and the weft to create a variety of blending or contrasting effects.

The art of weaving goes back centuries in these countries and the range and ingenuity of the equipment never ceases to amaze me. Here the weaver is using his foot to work the warp threads – like a pipe organ.

Abrash is a naturally occurring dye variation that creates subtle colour change - or a stronger contrast - within a rug. At Creative Matters we often find that such natural irregularities can add to the charm and authenticity of a hand woven carpet. In this photo, a mill owner was showing me his control of gradations with abrash – it’s useful for our staff to know we have a partner who can control the contrast so skillfully.

No CMI carpet gets to the loom before our designers have carefully examined multiple carpet squares. They arrive almost daily in our Toronto office in sterile-but-reliable Fedex packs, so what a pleasurable change it is to check samples in pure sunshine, under the proud and watchful eyes of the mill owners amid the smells and bustle of daily Indian life.

I work with colour every day but vibrance of colours in Indian street life never fails to astound me.  

Finally, what a joy it is to discover a precious moment like this. It perfectly captures my love of textiles and every little labour-intensive stage of producing hand-woven carpets.  

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

The Art Day Project (and we're 25!) Part 2

As exciting and glamourous as our Art Day Project launch and gala event were, we thought we would add an exciting little twist into the mix in the form of a rug giveaway! That's right, a GIVEAWAY and if that weren't cool enough we also asked for you, loyal CMI fans, to help us design it. As we mentioned in the previous post, visitors and press were invited to participate in the real-deal Art Day process, getting down and dirty and making their mark in celebration of our 25th. We cannot tell a lie, it was FANTASTIC. Watching journalists, men in suits and art school pre-grads rub elbows around our work table was downright inspiring. It showed us here at CMI, again, that this process is so amazing and universal and encourages such creativity in everyone. 

The deal was, visitors create some beautiful marks and patterns and our crew works them into lovely finished designs, created for the sole purpose being voted on and for one lucky little artwork to be woven into a luxurious handmade rug. During the event we encouraged our creative friends to take a minute to chat with Label-Step's Reto Aschwanden and make a donation in support of their (and our) mission towards fair, safe and healthy working and living conditions for weavers. In total our team produced upwards of 60 designs from the marks made at those workshops and of those, 6 were chosen as semi-finalists. 

A month of voting produced the winner - a sassy number titled, quite simply, #58. The #58 artwork made the 17 hour trek to Nepal at the end of January (and is probably just getting over her jet-lag) with Reto and was handed over to our Nepalese partners to begin production. #58 will make the transformation from 2D to 3D and a winner will be drawn by Label-Step, in the Spring. 

Meanwhile, somewhere between the Art Day exhibition and the first day of Spring, Carol was lucky enough to speak with Katie Loux from UK carpet and textiles magazine Cover, about our big event, creativity, future Art Days and what to expect from us next. It was so lovely to see us in print (we're not gonna lie) and especially flattering since we've been swooning over every issue of Cover, and her sister publication Hali, for as long as we can remember.

Speaking of future Art Day workshops, a few weeks ago we participated in POSSIBLY the most exciting one yet. It was so great and we can't wait to tell you all about it.


Monday, March 24, 2014

The Art Day Project (and we're 25!) Part 1

You'll have excuse us for the radio silence - It's been a whirlwind here at Creative Matters and we're just starting to catch our breath! They say that 50 is fabulous but what about 25? We've just nicely entered our 25th year at CMI and we have to admit, it feels pretty great. Rewind a few months to November 26 2013 to our amazingly fantastic exhibition and gala, The Art Day Project, launched at Toronto's own, Textile Museum of Canada (TMC). Our team (see below!) worked on the event for an ENTIRE YEAR, designing, plotting, preparing, choosing the perfect outfits and finally the day arrived and we couldn't be more thrilled with how it turned out. 

The four-day event began with a lecture by our fearless leader Carol Sebert, entitled Responsible Rugmaking: The Fair Trade/Quality Connection. The theme of our event was centred around celebrating and demystifying the art of rug design and fair trade weaving and Carol spoke to that alongside Reto Aschwanden (who flew from SWITZERLAND), the Commercial Director for Label-Step, the incredible fair trade carpet production organization that we work with to ensure fair, safe and healthy conditions for all of the weavers who make our rugs. 

Apres the lecture we ran some Art Day workshops, not unlike our own marathon art sessions, created to inspire and generate fresh new marks, patterns and designs. The namesake of our exhibition and gala event, Art Day, involves rolling up your sleeves and throwing your inhibition to the wind. Through a series of exercises that vary in length, we use different drawing and mark-making materials on an assortment of surfaces that, in turn, get refined, combined and enhanced into the beautiful hand-made custom and retail rugs that we produce each year. We were also lucky enough to capture the process of one of our Art Days on film (check it out here) and the final cut arrived just in time to premiere the night of our gala event.

This event also marked the North American launch of our latest line of handwoven rugs, The XXV Collection. It was noted by Carol, amidst the planning process "I think what our designers have captured in this exquisite collection is so Gatsby-esque. The silver and golden hues and simple yet intricate patterning is a perfect reflection of how delighted we feel as a team to be celebrating 25 years of creating luxurious fair trade floor-coverings for interior designs, architects and clients”. (We had to quote that…it gave us a little chill :) And how true; as a team we couldn't be more excited to be part of this tremendous milestone and this fantastic company. We're so grateful and moved by all of our family, friends colleagues who came to support us and our Art Day Project. 

If you thought this little recap was exciting, stay tuned for part 2 of this post!


Tuesday, January 14, 2014

The Art Day Project Rug

In celebration of our 25th Anniversary, Creative Matters held a series of art and design workshops at the Textile Museum of Canada in conjunction with the exhibition of our newest works titled The XXV Collection. Our designers walked participants through a creative design process that mirrored our own Art Day workshop, which is dedicated to creativity and inspiration. During Art Day we use a series of mediums, papers and tools to create marks and images that will eventually be worked into designs for hand-made, fair trade rugs.

The marks and imagery, generated during our 25th Anniversary Art Day workshops were created as inspiration for several original rug designs, with the intention of creating a luxurious, handwoven, fair-trade rug. The design team created fifty-three initial artworks and have narrowed it down to six to be entered into our first ever XXV Art Day Competition. Now we are inviting the public to judge the creations online and entrants have a chance to win the Art Day Project rug by visiting our site and voting for their favourite design. The winning design will be hand-woven, by Creative Matters' artisans in Nepal, into a beautiful 6'x8' rug (valued at $5000) and donated to Label Step for their awareness-building and fund-raising purposes.

Label STEP is committed to improving the working and living conditions of carpet weavers and fighting abusive child labour. To achieve these goals Label STEP systematically monitors the production sites of its licensees and their suppliers, and takes measures to ensure fair working conditions. Label STEP operates at the local level in all major carpet-producing countries in Afghanistan, India, Iran, Kyrgyzstan, Morocco, Nepal, Pakistan and Turkey.

You can enter to win the Art Day Project rug by voting, online for your favourite design and although no donation is necessary, all contributions help Label STEP continue their work to make life better for the weavers and support the commitment of the dealers.

Click the link to visiting the voting site - good luck!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

25th Anniversary Events with the Textile Museum of Canada

We’re well in to the swing of our 25th Anniversary and kicking off some exciting events to commemorate this milestone!

Creative Matters has partnered with the Textile Museum of Canada on The Art Day Project – a series of lectures, workshops and displays being held at TMC from November 20 to 24, 2013, which promises to demystify the process of creating hand-knotted fair trade rugs and help celebrate 25 years of responsible rug making.  Learn more about how you can join in the fun at:

Art Day has become a pillar of the creative process at Creative Matters.  On Art Day, our team comes together with a variety of mediums and inspirational materials to create artwork as jumping off point for new designs.  Our talented artists then transform their paintings and other hand-made creations on the computer where new concepts for floor and wall coverings are born.  

Learn more about the process here to see how the team creates in mediums beyond digital.  One Art Day project even had the whole team explore the art of glass blowing.  You can read about that experience here.

You can try out our Art Day process at the Textile Museum of Canada from November 20 to 24, 2013.

Art Day workshops will begin with a tutorial by Creative Matters designers that will walk you through the process.  Choose to take your design home or leave on display as part of the Art Day Display and rug design competition.  You’ll then be invited to join a lecture, entitled The Art Day Project, and finally the group will have an opportunity to view the TMC’s collection and Art Day Display.  Space is limited so please reserve your spot early. Visit here for more information on how to RSVP:


Interested in learning more about fair trade practices and the process for making Tibetan hand-knotted fair-trade rugs? 
Join us on Wednesday November 20 at 6:30pm for a lecture, “Responsible Rug Making: The Fair Trade/Quality Connection” at the Textile Museum of Canada.  We will be joined by Reto Ashwanden from Label STEP, a company committed to improving the working conditions of carpet weavers and fights abusive child labour.  Creative Matters was one of the first carpet design and manufacturing companies to support the Label STEP initiative for a sustainable carpet industry in Nepal and to sign an accordant petition to the Nepali government.  Click here for more information and to reserve your spot:

Over the past few months on the blog we have introduced the Creative Matters staff in detail, (here here here and here) but our Art Day installation at the Textile Museum of Canada from November 20 to 24, 2013 will give you an opportunity to learn even more about each of us.  Photos of each staff member, bios, a description of their work and examples of their Art Day creations will be featured.  Here you’ll also get the chance to see samples of hand-knotted fair-trade rugs, raw materials like wool and tools, details of the weaving process, fair-trade practices, and, of course, some of the artwork creations from workshop participants.  Check out the TMC’s website for hours of operation, admission and directions at:


Once we wrap up the events at TMC on November 24, there is an exciting next stage.  As with previous Art Days, the pieces from the Art Day workshops at TMC will be used to create computer-rendered designs.  Five rug designs will be selected and you will have an opportunity to vote online with Facebook for your favorite design.  Don’t forget to ‘like’ our Facebook page so you don’t miss any of the action!  The winning design and designers will be publicized and a one-of-a-king fair-trade rug will be created by Creative Matters and donated to Label STEP for their fundraising efforts.   

Stay tuned for more excitement as our 25th Anniversary celebrations unfold over the coming months, including regular updates about the making of our official 25th Anniversary The Art Day Project rug which we will chronicle on our blog, CMI: Narrative Threads.