Kush, the Portland-based rug company, offers handmade oriental rugs sources from around the world, as well as custom designs, sizes, and weaves to fit any space or style. In the following Q&A co-owner Rebecca Lurie tells us about erosion rugs, woven to feature abstract designs, and silk sari rugs—floor coverings made from recycled saris.
Rebecca Lurie, co-owner of Kush Handmade Rugs in Portland,with two recycled sari rugs.
What is an erosion rug?
The trend started in Nepal around 10 years ago, with Tibetan weavers working with Western designers to create abstract, raw-looking rugs with painterly expertise. Time and competition pushed the designs into more-sophisticated interpretations of this erosion concept. Traditional, tight patterns with entire sections erased—in etched lines, as if acid had dripped down the rug. We have a broad and growing collection of our own at Kush. We carry designs ranging from an abstract portrait of rust dripping down a cement wall to multitextured, formless contrasts in steel gray and lime green.
When I came to your showroom earlier this year, you also showed me beautiful sari silk rugs. Can you tell us how you discovered those?
In India, several years ago, I was knocked off my feet by the recycled sari silk rugs. Using remnant, re-spun silk from the mill ends of sari looms, skilled Indian weavers had managed to create brilliant rugs in interpreted designs ranging from Uzbek Ikats—those wonderfully tribal, narrow fabrics of Central Asia—to antique Agras with their formal and feminine abundance of florals, arabesques, and distinctively Indian design complexity.
Can you describe the Sari silk rugs for people who haven’t seen them before?
Sari silk is very inconsistent and varied; the yarns often carry with them the wild residual colors of the saris they would have been. These tones, offset by the high sheen and the often very subtle patterns create a stunning, unbelievably soft, indescribably abstract rug. Viewed from one end, they are a vivid explosion of color that I’ve never seen outside of India; viewed from the other, they are a wash of indeterminate pattern—a seemingly ancient design that you must work to see, putting together the patterns in your mind and filling in the blanks where the motifs are practically invisible.
Where do the designers at Kush get its inspiration for creating unique rug designs?
Inspiration is everywhere; the work is to recognize it. For instance, one night many years ago, I was driving across the 405 bridge toward northeast Portland when I noticed for the first time ... the white-painted columns supporting the highway’s upper deck. They had begun to peel, revealing cold, gray concrete underneath: patchy, industrial blotches spaced beautifully in white with a balance only time can create. I desperately wished I could pull over somewhere; to pause for a moment to take a picture, and turn that picture into a rug. It would be a beautiful erosion rug, I thought. And I continue to think it, every time I drive across that bridge.
Can you address the intersection between new rugs and repurposed rugs? Why do you think people are attracted to repurposed rugs?
They say necessity breeds invention, and in the world of rugs this theory has been instrumental over the last decade. A shortage of weavers, the dizzying rise in material costs, and a glut of out-of-fashion, but well-made, old rugs all contribute to the rise of the repurposed, reimagined rug. These are economical, capitalistic reactions to the modern world and businesses far and wide have responded with aplomb. What’s fascinating to me is the way the most successful repurposed rug collections are made to not obscure their former incarnations, but rather underline the forgotten glory. The old, the sense of history, is accentuated and made irresistible.
I believe that as we are propelled ever faster forward into a digital age, we are more urgently drawn by a need to be connected to our earth and our human past. We yearn for significance, timelessness and history because all around us everything seems so finite, and so fast. We’re all looking for a human connection in a digital world. Handmade rugs are the ideal conduit—inherently linked to history by the strands of culture and craft while they grace our modern homes.
Gold silk sari rug, hand knotted in India.
Manhattan 8' X 10' hand knotted Himalayan wool, silk, and nettle.
Metallic silver sari silk rug with oxidized wool design. Hand knotted in India.