Soho Design House were in Richmond this summer for the Richmond Mural Project, but that’s not because they were doing a mural. Instead, this unique company was producing rugs from the artwork of several different RMP muralists.
Soho Design House were in Richmond this summer for the Richmond Mural Project, but that’s not because they were doing a mural. Instead, this unique company was producing rugs from the artwork of several different RMP muralists. Soho Design House was founded by Jacob Rahman after he returned from a military tour of duty in Afghanistan. While deployed, he saw the art of rugmaking practiced at its source, and decided to integrate it with his love of graffiti culture, street art, and fine arts history. The result is a unique endeavor that creates beautiful home furnishings with an unforgettable connection to the art world.
While Rahman was in town showing rugs featuring the work of Ron English, David Flores, and more, we grabbed a quick chat with him about the origins of this unique idea, and just how much work goes into creating a hand-woven, bespoke art rug.
How did you get started with rugs?
I got started in the rug business in about 2006 when I moved to New York. We were doing luxury rugs for fashion designers. About 2012, I decided to just branch off, do my own thing, and pursue a passion of urban street art and combining street art with high end rugs. So in essence, we are making the street artists the designers.
And you spent time in Afghanistan, as part of the military? Is that where you learned about the process and actually making the rugs and all that?
I did. I spent four years in Afghanistan and actually, what was interesting about Afghanistan was that being there afforded me some time to be able to start this project. So this project actually started from a little military room in Southern Afghanistan. And the process that I had known about, these were actually made in Nepal, not in Afghanistan. The weaving of these particular rugs is a Nepalese rug, using Tibetan wool. When I was in Afghanistan, I was able to take some of the resources and the time that I had to put into this project, and that’s how it came about.
How long does it take to do one of these rugs typically?
Ah, the average rug, a 9 foot by 6 foot rug, will take about four to six months, depending on the complexity of the design and the number of colors. Typically we try to limit the number of colors to 25 or 30 colors. If it’s a solid design, we can maybe knock it out in four months, but if it’s a little more detailed, it could take six to seven months. Everything is strictly handmade. There are no machines, nothing. It is all just hand knotted.
We’re looking at a David Flores piece–do you also have a number of other artists work on rugs? How has the response been from the artists when they see the rugs?
Ah man, we’re really blessed. So far, they’re responsive and super positive. I think the idea of having their art on a rug is something new to them. The price point of the rugs is fairly high; it’s a luxury item. I think that makes them interested in collaborating. When they see the product, so far, it’s been positive. Ron English really loved his rug; David Flores loved his rug. We’re doing something with House of Meggs. He has a sample, but when he saw the full size rug, he was really excited about it. So far we’re blessed. We have some really amazing artists we’ve had collaborate with us. We’re looking to continue growing.
And you started in 2012?
Yeah. So, you know, the company starting from the ground up in 2012. Getting the artists, getting the sources, sampling, bringing the right mix of the right people on board, creating the sheer nature of the product. You know, it takes about six months to make, [but] we have about eleven rugs already. That took several years. Also, I just got back from Afghanistan about six weeks ago, and in this time, I’ve hit up New York Design Week, Milan Design Week, and now I’m here for the mural projects. This has been in essence, almost like six weeks in the United States that I’m running this.
And you’ve been running around everywhere, huh?
Yeah, it’s been exciting; it’s been good stuff.
What are your interests in this kind of art? When did it happen for you? Did you start working as an artist?
Oh man, it’s been a while, a long while. I’m seasoned in my age and older than some of these artists. I think I started back maybe in like the early nineties. And obviously, started off with graffiti, and as we saw more of the street art coming to life, like Shepard Fairey and Fail and Bost and Proush 1 and all these cats. I got introduced to, say, David Flores’ art, and of course, Ron English’s art, and it’s just really, really exciting to be here now.
What projects or what plans do you have for the rest of the year?
Hopefully for the rest of 2014, we’re going to continue our collection. We’re aiming for comic con in New York, Art Basel in December, and continue working on private clients. Because apart from these art rugs, we are also able to do the bespoke designs. With the designs, we are able to produce the rug for them, and so right now, we have some architecture and design clients as well.