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A rug renaissance

Connie Steiert

For 11 years, what has made The Scarab so unique and so irresistible, is that each and every piece it carries from beautiful rugs to unusual artifacts has a fascinating story behind it.It is these very personal tales of skill, hard work, creativity and centuries of tradition that Scarab owners Jane Rohr and Larry Stone sought to honor when they opened the store in its first, 600 square-foot location in Minturn in 1992. Today, in a beautiful, expansive location in Eagle-Vail, the store still carries some of the loveliest antique carpets carpets that have traveled countless miles through multiple generations.There are also utilitarian objects, once part of daily household lives in Africa, Turkey and China, now turned into fascinating pieces of art or lovely accents for homes.But one of the most intriguing stories, with an ongoing script, comes from The Scarab’s latest offering, a product that is revolutionizing the Middle-Eastern rug industry, while offering financial hope halfway around the world.The Scarab has become well known over the years for offering some of the loveliest, most exquisite antique rugs around, all handcrafted, hand-woven kilims and hand-tied Middle-Eastern and Oriental pile carpets. Of course, antique rugs are expensive, and not all customers can afford to own one. Another problem Rohr and Stone encountered is when a client wants a companion rug or runner, it could take years if ever to track down.One alternative was to turn to manufactured carpets, but Stone explains these machined, chrome-dyed carpets have a flat look, which lacks the luster and depth of the antique rug. The Scarab refused to carry machined rugs that didn’t meet their high, exacting standards, and Rohr and Stone continued to travel to Istanbul and Turkey to handpick antique rugs.But a few years ago, a bold and insightful group of men traveled to the villages of Turkey, Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan the traditional producers of the world’s Middle-Eastern rugs and talked to the town folk. They asked them to begin producing rugs with the wonderful, age-old techniques that had been handed down for centuries, but at the same time, keep in mind modern day palates. Now known as Woven Legends, this group of men supplies the materials, but gives the artists wide latitude in what they design. The villagers shear their own sheep, wash the wool and hand spin it, and then hand dye and weave, or hand tie the rugs, often using their own dyes, such as the vibrant red color made from the madder root they harvest.&quotThe rugs are so much richer and people are so excited to see new carpets made with the colors and depth,&quot Stone says.In fact, this new production of contemporary carpets made with age-old techniques has sparked an exciting renaissance in the rug industry.&quotWhat’s exciting for us, is that with one-of-a-kind rugs, there may be a 100-year-old rug that a customer loved, but it was the only one that existed,&quot explains Rohr. With the new line of handcrafted rugs, it takes only a few weeks to weave a new rug that matches an old one. With The Scarab’s technology, they can e-mail a picture or fabric swatch to a village in Turkey and have a new, custom rug, of heirloom quality created with all the beautiful craftsmanship of the antique rug.&quotA lot of clients are downsizing,&quot says Stone. With smaller homes, owners often need to exchange their beloved Persian carpet for a smaller version an almost impossible feat before. With the new technology, the rug can be replicated in the size the client desired.Another wonderful aspect of this rug renaissance is that villagers in some of these Middle-Eastern countries have been struggling to make a livelihood for years, and now the new rug industry has provided just that.For instance, many weavers were forced to leave their native Afghanistan when the Taliban came to power.Since their ousting, many of the weavers have returned and are now practicing their art once again. The same has happened with Tibetan weavers as well.&quotThis industry has put a lot of people to work who lost homes,&quot Stone says. The profits from the wholesale sales of Woven Legends go back to the weavers to help buy more wool and to pay them for their work. And the work is closely monitored to make sure, not only that standards remain high and quality superb, but that there is no abuse or child labor involved as well.The Scarab expanded a few years back into its Eagle-Vail location, in part, to accommodate its extensive, new Woven Legends line. Rohr still travels to Turkey, where she is from, and where her family still resides, to search for beautiful antique rugs personally, which continue to be a mainstay of the store. But the new, handcrafted rugs have given the buyer a wonderful array of options.The homeowner can still choose to purchase an antique rug, with hundreds of years of history behind it rugs that typically go for $300 a foot, or far more.Or, the customer can buy a brand new rug, beautifully crafted to last a rug that depicts the beginning of an exciting new history and pay around $60 a foot.One only has to look at a rug, called &quotSardis,&quot which hangs from one of The Scarab’s walls, to understand the exciting possibilities of these new, heirloom-quality rugs. It is a recreation of a 15th Mamluk rug from Egypt, whose design received &quotincredible reviews&quot from rug connoisseurs. The Pazyruk Rug is the oldest rug known, from the third or fourth century BC. The original hangs in a museum in St. Petersburg, but Christopher Walters of Yayle has reproduced it in every beautiful detail. The Scarab also carries several Gabbeh rugs, a Persian carpet, historically created by two tribes in Iran. This tribal rug has a modern look, available in different, often geometric motifs, and is becoming extremely popular.&quotUltimately, we are always trying to meet the demands of our clients,&quot says Stone. With clients visiting the store from all over the world, Stone adds, The Scarab has &quotset the bar really high for ourselves. We continue to operate at the same level of service.&quot&quotIn one way, we have seen a lot of change,&quot Rohr says. &quotOtherwise, we still have the same ethics. We still carry tribal art, things that people make with either memories and their hearts.&quotThe Scarab carries a fascinating array of beautiful and unusual furniture, accessories and artifacts from northern and western Africa, as well as from the Middle East, to personalize any room. There are wedding baskets from Indonesia, and huge copper kettles and earthenware jugs hang from the ceiling. Dough boxes, which have been turned into ottomans, cushioned with old kilims, line the floor. An African gourd, traditionally used to carry milk has been decorated with tribal beads and is now a stunning work of art.The store also holds a multitude of utilitarian wooden stools, beaded slippers, treasure chests, carved wooden bowls, antique Dan tribal masks from African and beautifully carved mirrors and exotic furniture.&quotWe bring in a lot of accessories from the areas the rugs come from,&quot Stone says. &quotIt gives a greater depth to appreciate where these rugs came from.&quotAs Rohr says, at The Scarab, &quotThere’s stories to everything.&quotYou can view the Scarab’s entire line of exceptional carpets and tribal art accessories online at http://www.TheScarab.com. Or, call (970) 949-1730. q


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