It was quite a coup when Anthar—a flowing rendition in pleasing blues and whites from the Project Error collection by Jaipur Rugs—emerged as the only Asian rug to win a special mention at the German Design Awards in 2016. A turning point for design director Kavita Chaudhary, who graduated from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, to weave new generation goals into the family business.
“Anthar is a celebration of the mismatch of pattern. The rug was born out of errors as the weavers struggled to find their rhythm while working. The rug is a spontaneously conceived design that goes with the flow of the moment, of its creation,” explains Kavita, who has developed a unique design language at Jaipur Rugs—a carpet company based in Jaipur that’s been in business since 1978—with her own sense of aesthetics.
Earlier run by her father, Nand Kishore Chaudhary, Kavita took over the reins in 2010 after returning from the US. Along with a degree in design, she brought in a fresh, new perspective into the company’s repertoire which earlier only created traditional patterns. “I lacked business sense when I came in. Initially, I went with the flow. But after attending several trade shows in Europe, I was inspired by the abstracts that coloured the natural contemporary style of the designers there,” she confesses.
Pegged at higher prices compared to their relatively cheaper handtufted cousins, the company’s handknotted rugs are an absolute labour of love. A handknotted rug takes anything from four months to two years to make, with more than one weaver working on each. “The knotting is done by hand. We employ about 40,000 weavers pan-India, ranging from the Gujarat belt to Bhadoi in Uttar Pradesh. It is a direct relationship that we share with our weavers. We train them, empower them and even make them receive the awards their work fetches,” says Kavita. “That in itself is an extremely rewarding and heartening experience.”
The challenges abound, of course, in training acumen, says Kavita, as the new generations often tend to shun the knowledge and acquired expertise in the craft that has been passed down the generations. Then, there is also the issue of retaining seasoned hands. “But we value our human capital and ensure that our growing team stands knitted to us,” she avers.
In India, owing to the tropical climate, the rug market has been somewhat restricted. But now with avant garde projects coming up in the realty mart, and innovative designers changing the rules of interiors, there has been a rapid change in the scenario. “Traditionally textile colours are chemical dyes,” shares Kavita. “Going organic to conceive a natural range of colours would mean preparing the mix in larger quantities, thereby increasing cost. We prefer to work in consonance with the chaos theory—an open-ended creative process that is experimental.”
Exporting to over 30 countries across the world, Jaipur Rugs recently collaborated with interior designer Gauri Khan to launch a limited edition. With the fields of interior design evolving and new architects launching modern concepts, decor is undergoing a radical makeover. “It is a premium segment that we target, with prices commencing at `50,000,” says Kavita. “And with the well-travelled and well-heeled Indian emerging as an informed, discerning buyer, there is huge market here for us,” she concludes.