4 Au Courant Brands Championing Artisanal Modern-Day Rug Making


Rug brands Rhyme Studio, Verdi, Stark and Merida Rugs all share their artful approach to modern-day rug making.

Discover these rug brands, which will make you completely floored



circular green rug inside dark arched building

Photo: Courtesy Rhyme Studio

Living Irish History

“The driving force was to tell a story of authentic Irish craftsmanship with an international, contemporary twist,” shares Claire McGovern of her studio. For the New Yorker by way of Dublin, the spark that led to her foray into the rug industry was hiding in plain sight: wool—a material indelibly linked with her home country—was a dying trade, accounting for just two percent of fibers sold or traded in the synthetics-dominated market. “Wool is extraordinary. It’s nature’s miracle fiber,” McGovern says. “Here is a material that you can bring into your home and it will literally purify the air and last you a lifetime.” With heritage and sustainability as founding principles, Rhyme Studio was born.

Today, the atelier collaborates with historic Irish mills to process native wool before it’s tufted by hand at their farmhouse workshop near Avoca in Wicklow. Ireland’s rich cultural tapestry imbues the brand in motif as well as material, with most designs offering modern riffs on tradition. Om, a collection defined by linear patterns, was inspired by a 1,600-year-old tree alphabet found on standing stones in the countryside. Works from the Báinín line feature pure Galway wool bedecked with motifs that evoke the stitching of an Aran sweater. And in Modernity, a series of minimalist geometrics in primary colors pays tribute to artist Kazimir Malevich and prolific Irish designer Eileen Gray. “I’ve always bemoaned the idea that a rug must be beige,” McGovern says. “Art should not be limited to any one media.”

layers of differing checkered and striped textiles with hands nearby

Photo: Courtesy Verdi

Contemporary Heirloom Quality

Tomás Vera grew up idolizing his father Carlos Vera Dieppa, who wore his hair long, rode a motorcycle, enjoyed recreational aerobatics and didn’t start a traditional nine-to-five until the age of 42 when inspiration struck to create a Japanese tatami-style mat from fibers found in his native Colombia. In time, the designs progressed to include latex backing, a leather border and later, pigments, patterns and ribbon-thin strands of metal. “It was the first rug of its kind and a revolutionary concept at the time,” shares Vera, who moved home to launch Verdi, a new business built upon his father’s vision after his passing. Verdi now employs an in-house team of 75 in addition to 30 families who harvest their marquee material, fique: a soft yet resilient vegetable fiber from the Andean region.

“We have a huge natural fiber catalogue because of the Amazon,” Vera says. “We’re always discovering new materials and exploring how to weave them for a contemporary ambiance.” Recent experiments at the Bogotá headquarters have seen Colombian fibers like plantain, cumare and worm silk woven with copper, stainless steel and silver-plated metals to mesmeric effect. “We consider our rugs to be art in their uniqueness and in the way they reflect light,” he adds. That the fast-expanding studio’s moniker pays homage to Vera Dieppa’s nickname underscores the next generation’s commitment to celebrating cultural and familial legacies alike. “Verdi is not a brand, it is a story,” Vera says. “And this is just the beginning.”

two women on large grey and green rug

Photo: Vinod Sign, Courtesy Stark

International Culture Of Craft

No rug brand has its tentacles so deeply spread, linking master craftspeople all over the world with top designers and consumers alike. From artisans in Nepal trained in Tibetan knots to weavers in India working on looms, rug seekers have access to products made by mills specializing in authentic techniques unique to their region. “We have a handful of key vendors who each have their own flavor and aesthetic,” says Stephanie Muller, Stark’s vice president of product development and strategy. “They’re artists in their own right.” Not married to one look, Stark rather does it all: from their material inventory (silk, sisal, wool, and a new proprietary performance fiber, among others) to techniques both hand-crafted and machine-woven, to endless styles, like striking geometrics, painterly pastels, stripes, animal prints and traditional motifs.

“It’s always exciting to see their new technical developments and creativity,” Muller says. While the third-generation family-run operation recently marked 85 years in business, their commitment to artisanship remains at its core. Take the rug shown above: a recent collaboration with German company Rug Star is inspired by desert and urban landscapes and crafted in India using hand-knotted techniques. Think of them like a great connector—a connector of craftsman to consumer, a connector of inspiration to trends, and a connector of the past to the present.

large green swirled rug, which is part of Merida Rugs' collection

Photo: Angel Tucker, Courtesy Merida Rugs

American Textile Ethos

In the mid-19th century, Fall River, Massachusetts, was the Silicon Valley of America’s textile manufacturing industry. Fast-forward through decades of shifting global economies, and few active mills remain today. But one self-described counterculture company decided to put down roots in the storied area as some of the last big mills were shuttering. “We’re not going to survive in the United States unless we’re doing something extraordinary,” admits Merida Rugs CEO Catherine Connolly. That something extraordinary, for starters, is that each of the company’s rugs is made of all-natural materials sans chemicals. Another revolutionary idea? Empower local craftsmen by creating a workplace where weavers find joy and pride in their craft. Merida Rugs HQ is part production lab and part innovation hub, where skills are honed and techniques tested.

The goal is to create an environment where weavers push the bounds of their creativity in hopes it carries through to the finished product. Leading the charge is artistic director Sylvie Johnson who approaches design with the curiosity of an art student (she has been known to study out-of-print books on pigments to find fresh hues). The brand releases one new collection a year, each marking a new chapter in the Merida Rugs’ story. Their latest collection, Arte Povera, is inspired by the Postwar 1960s Italian arts movement, the story of which is as rich as the rugs themselves. “They have presence,” says Connolly. “The rugs contribute to the conversation in a sophisticated way.”


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