The world is asleep, or at least the plane is. Yet I, the woman traveling with a small child is wide awake. I have rested but I could not sleep. My mind has a million thoughts going through its head.
I believe the saying goes — there might be 1,000 steps to the journey but it all begins with the first step.
I look at EYE AM THE RUG INDUSTRY. WE ARE WATCHING: Visual Campaign not as the first step but as the maintenance of those steps. Follow me if you can on my analogy — I have two.
The first is an image of a long hike up a steep mountain, at the top of the mountain is a tea house. (This story and image have been making the rounds on social media.) For centuries, people have hiked the mountain, walked along death defying edges of a cliff, holding on to nothing but the cliff face, to reach the top. As generations went by, the feet wore into the ground a path, steps in to the mountain. Each generation maintained and improved the path. The end was still the same century old tradition of some incredible tea at the top. The product did not change, the mountain did not move. What changed was the process of reaching the top. The path was cleared a bit better, the rope along the cliff maintained a bit better but not the tea.
I feel that way about rugs. The rug is the same. The basic process is the same. What changed over the generations was the path of the rug. This path included building schools, learning about recycling water, using fewer chemicals, finding new techniques, helping the people who maintain the tradition of the making of the rug.
The second image I have is of the United States National Forests. For generations, families used the forest for their own good. America’s path was not always a good path. People used natural resources with no regard to the future. Then some people woke up and realized if we do not protect, if we do not nurture what we have around us, it will be gone. National forests were born. We, as people, could not harm or destroy it. Instead, it became our job to protect the trees. We realized the importance of nature. We realized once it was gone, it was gone. Yet, not all Americans feel it is their job to protect the trees, to guard and nurture what is around us. Those that do want to protect our national forest usually don’t speak up — they just act in correcting the wrong. Some lobby in DC, some simply go out into the forest and help clear the hiking trails.
Rugs are made by people. Many many rug companies not only understand the importance of the people but the importance of protecting and nurturing their livelihood. Over the years, weavers have left the industry. Like many industries before it, working in a big city, bright lights can outshine the forest, the village. Many rug companies have worked hard to build schools, to build hospitals, to help and protect a dying art form — the weaver’s talent. They work alongside villages to improve the lives of the people who make the rugs. Just like the National Forest, there are those who lobby for change and there are those who just go out and do it.
EYE AM THE RUG INDUSTRY. WE ARE WATCHING: Visual Campaign is pulling together all those companies who have just gone out and done it; the companies that have taken the first step in change, in progress.
It is my job to pull together all those first steps. It is here that I think of the great libraries of the world — they all have large steps, spanning a great width, leading to big doors that hold the world’s knowledge. Imagine the first person who pulled all that knowledge into one place. Imagine the difficulty of collecting both the good (the pieces of literature that made you smile) and the bad (the literature that made you want to stand up and fight injustice.) Imagine the librarians who today struggle to keep the door of knowledge open. Well, I am that librarian for the rug industry. I want to help build the steps, to a library of rug knowledge. I want to take all those companies who took the first step and pull them together. I think you would be surprised at how far/how high the steps already reach. My wish, my job, is not just as an individual; it is the gathering from others, the collective who will help build a library. It will be for future generations to maintain and improve on. The rug art form, the rug traditions, the weavers have not changed but the world around has changed. As we continue to adapt and improve, we must document and share the past, the present, and acknowledge the future.
I firmly believe, if you understand rugs, you can read into history and be touched by the lives that walked across that rug.