Gorgeous rug designs promote 'trade, not aid'

Leading lights of the design world team up with Nepal fairtrade group to create a new rug collection for the Design Museum.

Rug designs

The new rug collection for the Design Museum took over eight months to bring to fruition

Non-profit social business Node has teamed up leading lights from the design world with one of Nepal’s founding fairtrade groups to create a new rug collection for the Design Museum. Founded by illustrator and author Chris Haughton and Kathmandu-based entrepreneur Akshay Sthapit, Node asked 18 designers and illustrators to come up with carpet designs, which were then produced in limited runs of 10 each by the Kumbeshwar Technical School in Kathmandu.

Contributors to the new range include Donna Wilson, Clayton Junior and Serge Seidlitz, while People Of Print director Marcroy Smith helped to co-ordinate the show. "We started by just wanting to make nice rugs and to inspire other artists to be involved with the project," recalls Haughton. "We’re so delighted that the Design Museum has come onboard, as well as all the amazing artists that make up our collection."

Cut some rug

Each designer was emailed a brief and set of instructions, plus a downloadable rug template and swatches for Photoshop. In return for their design, they were sent one of their completed handmade rugs.

Kumbeshwar Technical School was set up by the Khadgi family, who are from the lowest caste in Nepal - and traditionally expected to accept cleaning and waste disposal roles. Their carpet weavers are given fair wages and taught literacy skills. Profits from the rugs will further support their adult skills programme, a school of 260 children and an orphanage of 25. The message behind the project is clear: trade, not aid, is the best solution to the problem of poverty within the developing world.

The new collection will be available exclusively from the Design Museum Shop from March 2013, during Fairtrade Fortnight. And you, too, can design your own rug. Check out Node’s website for more information.

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This article was originally published in Computer Arts issue 211.

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