One of the highlights of designjunction at LDF 2014 was the AfghanMade show curated by Wallpaper* magazine where contemporary rug design combined with traditional Afghan know-how. The work being done in Afghanistan to modernise the weaving industry and to open up new direct markets is funded by the US Task Force for Business & Stability. The initiative shown at Design Junction involved five of the worlds leading rug companies, Christopher Farr (UK), Nodus and ABC Italia (Italy), Nanimarquina (Spain) and Fort Street Studio (USA).
The Afghan carpet industry is centuries old but up until recently the rugs were finished and washed in other countries and sent internationally. The idea behind the AfghanMade project was to enable the Afghan carpet industry to complete the rugs and sell them globally. AfghanMade Carpets have previously exhibited at various international rug shows and design fairs since September 2013 but this is the first time they have collaborated with Wallpaper*.
Wallpaper's involvement in the project ensured that the best contemporary rug companies who embraced authentic manufacturing techniques were involved. Fort Street Studio for example is a rug company that was set up in the early Nineties to harness the superior quality of 'wild' silk from Hangzhou in China. The founders, artists Brad Davis and Janis Provisor have always sort the highest quality for their rugs and the Afghan made designs retain this while capturing modern abstract concepts . Much of their work stems from their habit of deigning in watercolours but for AfghanMade the work moves away from soft bleeding graduation to loose impulsive lines or parts of characters from Dari and Pashto languages.
Hand dyed and hand knotted at 120 knots per square inch, the rugs are capable of conveying immense detail and subtlety of shade. With a life span in excess of a hundred years, the rugs have little in common with modern machine made rugs.
Danish Italian duo Stine Gam and Enrico Fratesi designed 'Platonism' for UK rug specialist Christopher Farr. The fine, grid-like lines of the design suggest motion in much the same way as overlapping grids create moire patterns.
Much looser in spirit but with a similarly surprising colour component, 'Web' by Brad Davis and Janis Provisor for Fort Street Studio has a spontaneous hand drawn element.
Como-based designer, Giacomo Barzaghi designed four rugs for ABC Italia including 'LaPunta', a design based on the craft of mosaic tiles and their ability to reflect light in different ways. ABC Italia was founded in 1962 by Sultan Amini, a young carpet expert and enthusiast of traditional Afghani craftsmanship. The name, ABC Italia, comes from the initials of original company name; Amini Brothers Carpets but now reflects the fact that the company is based in Italy exporting rugs made in Afghanistan to various parts of the world.
Nanimarquina is synonymous with the best in rug making techniques and a vibrant contemporary aesthetic. 'Ghost' is the work of Barcelona and Berlin based food and product designer Marti Guixé. HIs unconventional approach to design is always interesting and quite often amusing. Here the concept of the Kerman rug is revisited to great effect. Hidden within the design are objects and animals that only become visible when closely observed or from specific viewing angles. Guixé's piece incorporates birds, horses, deer and flowers - if you look hard enough.
Christopher Farr has been at the forefront of fine quality rugs in Britain since he started his eponymous company in 1988. 'Custom Version 3' is a design by Farr himself and is intended to convey the reciprocal nature of life - the Yin and Yang. Made entirely from silk, the rug can act purely as decoration or as something far more practical. The design shows the influence of Jean Arp's work with interlocking organic forms.
For more on the Afghanmade project go to the website.
Product illustrations by Martin Niclausson.
Afghanistan process photography by Tina Hager.