Vail Valley Character: Adam Kiss
June 26, 2009
VAIL, Colorado –Adam Kiss, a rug expert who lives in West Vail, can tell you from which time, country and city an oriental rug originates. He can tell you what the maker used to dye the rug, and if they were interrupted mid-process.
He can remove the 10 pounds of sand that built up over ski season, repair loose or missing stitches, and he can also tell you how many times your dog has peed on your rug.
Kiss grew up in a family that collected oriental rugs, and he began his own collection in Boulder after graduating from the University of Colorado in 1973 with a degree in economics.
After moving to West Vail 20 years ago, he started working for Vail Associates.
He began getting oriental rug and fabric certifications, and, 14 years ago, he started working for SteamMaster out of Minturn.
He now cleans and repairs oriental rugs, drapes, animal hides and other valuable fabrics.
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Rajkumar Manickam, CEO of SteamMaster, is quick to boast that Kiss is one of 80 people in the country to achieve his level of oriental rug qualification. He is a certified rug appraiser and a specialist in identifying rug fibers. He is also holds the title of certified rug specialist, which those in the rug business refer to as a rug Ph.D.
Aside from his love of rugs, Kiss loves his job because it gives him the freedom to ski every powder day in the winter.
He has skied for 40 years, taking trips to Pennsylvania as a child from his home in Washington, D.C.
Naturally, Vail seemed like a nice place to settle.
“I didn’t even know what skiing was until I came here,” he said. “I’ve never even thought about moving back.”
He taught his daughter Jillian’s Buddy Werner League ski team for five successful years, which is one of his favorite experiences, he said.
VD: When did you begin learning about rugs?
Kiss: Oh, in the early ’90s. I went to a lot of schools and learned everything from how the rugs are made to the chemistry of cleaning rugs. I’ve been around them my whole life. My family would go to rug auctions, and that’s one of the best ways of learning about rugs.
VD: How apt are you at identifying rugs?
Kiss: Oh, that’s my forte. When I got my – what they call a Ph.D. in oriental rugs – the class was out of Dallas. The written test was one day long, and for the second part of the test they laid out 50 rugs from around the world … and I had to identify all of them. You really have to know your rugs, to know how to treat it. Some rugs use vegetable dyes, other rugs use monochromium dyes, and to know that is the key to knowing how to clean it.
Vegetable dyes are organic. Navajo rugs quite often use them for instance. Monochromium is a more modern chemical dye that is almost bulletproof, so you can use stronger cleaners. … You really need to know what you have and what you’re cleaning to know what to use, because there is not one product that’s going to clean everything.
VD: You’ve lived here for 20 years. What else have you done since you got here?
Kiss: I worked for Vail Associates, you know, I did all the Vail jobs. I worked on the mountain in guest services and trail crew, all that kind of stuff.
VD: Do you do anything besides rugs?
Kiss: I also do fine fabrics. I do draperies, like really fine draperies. Once again, you really need to know what your dealing with. Like silks. You just can’t jump on silks, because you can ruin it. So, you really need to know what you’ve got before you treat it.
VD: How much can you tell about the history of a rug?
Kiss: Every rug has its story. A lot of these rugs were made by nomads, nomadic tribes. So, they’ll start a rug, and you can see half way through the rug, the rug changes. That means that something happened so that they had to beat feet and get out of where they were, and the rug is finished on the run. You can see that in a lot of rugs, the first half is really nice and tight, and the second half you can see was made in a hurry. Something distressing happened at that point – otherwise they would have finished it and sold it.