To revolutionize the Oriental rug world by pairing the rare virtues of great antique carpets with the best of modern design.
An extraordinary level of hand craftsmanship
and attention to materials — because it matters.
Carpets that are increasingly rare and precious
because of all that is woven into them.
Imaginative, evolving collections of the highest caliber
brought to life with unmatched craft and materials.
As such they would stand above the rest. Not just by virtue of their beauty, but also because of the artisanal processes by which they were made, the character of their fine materials, and their capacity to grow more beautiful with age. Almost as revolutionary was that their production would serve to advance the communities in which the company worked, and that the profits of the business would support humanitarian projects elsewhere. That vision was realized with the founding of Tufenkian Artisan Carpets in 1985, and its establishment as the first modern brand in the Oriental rug world — a brand that is still defined and energized by that founding vision today.
Our carpets are hand-knotted. That is simply the best way to make a carpet. Not surprisingly it is also the hardest, and by far the most time consuming. Knotting is a craft that is almost impossible to comprehend from the viewpoint of our frantic and impatient world. A 9'x12' foot Tufenkian carpet is composed of up to 1.5 million individually hand-tied knots. Who has that kind of patience, let alone the skill? I have tried hand-knotting on many occasions and after each clumsy attempt find it more difficult to even imagine what it would take to perform that exercise a million times. By comparison, hand-tufting and other semi-handmade productions are fast and easy. No comparison at all, really.
It sometimes startles me when I am reminded that the complex design of a rug I am admiring is actually the accumulation of so many tiny, hand-tied points of color. Like approaching a pointillist painting and being amazed to discover that its perfectly detailed and coherent image is actually composed from so many meaningless dots so artfully assembled.
Our yarn requires a high degree of skill and an enormous amount of human labor to hand card, and hand spin. While most carpet production in the world begins with machine-spun yarn — simple, fast, and consistent — we choose to expend almost as much labor in carding and spinning the yarn by hand as is required to weave it into a carpet. After spinning it is dyed in small pots by hand. While the design maps followed by our weavers are produced by computer, washing, shearing, and detailing of the carpets are still performed by hand.
Altogether more than 1500 hours of artisanal workmanship is required to make each of our carpets perfectly imperfect, charmingly individual, and to create the almost magical connection between the finished carpet and those who share their lives with it. It is much more difficult, time-consuming, and costly to make our carpets this way. We choose to do it because it matters.
As important as craftsmanship are the materials we employ. While we love our silk and other natural fibers, wool is still the premier material for luxury carpets, and our fiber of choice. I used to say that “none of our sheep speak English.” Whether from the mountains of Tibet, Afghanistan, Iran, or Armenia, they also aren’t bathed, or selectively bred for desirable characteristics. Our sheep are unruly, living in harsh environments pretty much the way they have for millennia, producing the wools that gave the historic carpets of each region their distinctive character. Not uniform in color or texture. Un-scoured and retaining their natural lanolin, they are the foundation for making rugs of outstanding integrity. Very different than their distant relatives — well-groomed and genetically engineered — living-large in the manicured pens of New Zealand and Australia. In the same way our carpets are a world apart from their more machine-made competitors and are famous among carpet-care professionals for cleaning beautifully and reliably, and for maturing elegantly with age.
Since that day other carpet makers have relentlessly struggled to imitate their look. But while the imitations have improved with time, they have not managed to approach the beguiling charm of our rugs. Authentic products with artisanal virtues like ours possess become more precious each year as the number of craftspeople qualified to make them diminishes, and admiration of their virtues grows. Our carpets are among those rare items in the world that become more beautiful with age, and last for generations. Their modern design is classic and timeless.
The value of Tufenkian Carpets increases over time and is enhanced by the social programs that are integral to their production, and the humanitarian projects that are supported by the profits they generate.
Sometimes they look to us for carpets to quietly support their vision, sometimes for inspiration and a commanding piece of art for the floor. Sometimes their budget is limited, and sometimes there simply is no budget. It is the job of Tufenkian Studio to see that among our collections are attractive alternatives to choose from, whatever the requirement.
We believe that because we are designing carpets that will last for generations and grow more beautiful with age, the color and design woven into them must be timeless as well. So while we are constantly exploring new design directions for our semi-annual product introductions, we avoid those that seem fleeting, and pursue instead those which seem to tap into deeper artistic currents that will be appreciated in all times.
Augmenting our own creations are those of a small group of interior design icons led by Barbara Barry, Vicente Wolfe, Kevin Walz, Laura Kirar, and Clodagh. Each has a distinctive point of view that has proven to resonate with our audience, and expands the range of our collections beyond what we could imagine without them.
I will never forget the day one of our design partners arrived to start work with us on a first collection. She was captivated by a pile of our carpets sitting in front of her, and spontaneously belly-flopped onto it, spread-eagled like a kid diving into the ocean. The siren-call of the fabric. We know it well.