Afghan Artisan Rug Pop-up supports women artisan weavers

assembly of 10 leading Afghan rug manufacturers will showcase top-quality hand-knotted pieces at a specially organized sales event here Nov. 1-3.

The Afghan Artisan Rug Pop-up will fill the second floor of the Metropolitan Pavilion, at 123 W. 18th St., with an array of hand-woven rugs that range from the traditional to the ultra-contemporary. Each rug in the assortment was made from hand-spun wool using natural dyes.

The three-day event is organized by the Kabul Carpet Export Center to help promote the sale of Afghan rugs as well as support the many women artisans who weave the rugs by hand. Managed by Impact Carpet Associates, a partnership of carpet industry veterans with longtime experience producing rugs in Afghanistan, KCEC is made possible by support from the United States Agency for International Development.

“KCEC is acting as bridge between international buyers and carpet producers to create an effective way of supporting the women who are the backbone of the carpet industry,” said Najlla Habibyar, KCEC chief of party on the Afghanistan side for the pop-up.

Earlier in her career, Habibyar served in senior positions with USAID and as CEO of the Export Promotion Agency of Afghanistan.

“Without these women, there would be no carpets,” she continued. “This is not only their livelihood, but their form of artistic expression. The beauty they create on their looms is their way of challenging the harsh difficulties they face every day.”

Project director and KCEC managing director Rob Leahy said artisan rugs and carpets, particularly those made in Afghanistan, are in danger of disappearing if the craft is not supported and promoted by way of events like the pop-up.

“Rug-weaving is a skill that has been passed from mother to daughter over generations,” Leahy, a veteran of the rug industry since 1971 and owner of Fine Rugs of Charleston, told Furniture Today. “With increased competition from machine-made carpets, and with hand-knotted carpets being made in fewer places, if we do not support these artisans, then the craft will die out.”

Also helping to launch this initial Afghan Artisan Rug Pop-up are: marketing director Richard Ringrose, formerly vice president of ABC Carpet and Home, and production director Alex Zahir, was born in Afghanistan and has been a producer, wholesaler and retailer of Afghan carpets in the U.S. for the past 25 years.

Afghanistan is one of world’s leading sources of high-quality, hand-knotted rugs, most of which are made by home-based women weavers who use knotting techniques that vary from one ethnic group to another and have been handed down over generations.

Nearly all the dyestuffs used in Afghan rugs are natural, most of them sourced locally. For example, onion skins are used for a golden range of earthy colors; walnut husks yield rich browns; pomegranate skins add yellow; and madder root makes deep reds.

“Although rugs are now shipped by air freight rather than by caravans, the timelessness of their artistry remains unchanged,” the organization noted.

Entry will be free to the Afghan Artisan Rug Pop-up. Hours of operation will be 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Nov. 1 and 2, and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Nov. 3.