The rug artist

Having grown up during the Iraq-Iran War, Vaheed Taheri knew there was a better life waiting for him elsewhere. With a family whose artistic heritage lay in rug designing, the Iranian artist knew that one day he would have a prosperous business, and perhaps he would carry on with his familial tradition.

“My family had a rug loom in our home as far as I can remember,” he remembers. “It was some sort of meditation for my parents. Sometimes it would take them two years to finish a rug. A majority of the time, [my parents] gave their rugs as presents to newlyweds or to our non-Iranian friends.

“I was lucky—my environment allowed me to learn how to read design maps, and taught me the art of weaving as well as finishing at a young age. I believe I always had a passion for rugs and textiles. It was in my deep nature somewhere only it needed to be awakened.”

According to Taheri, he came from a middle class family that practiced moderation. His earlier youth was built within a war environment and as he puts it, his childhood was more about surviving than fantasising about his future.

However, Taheri was catapulted into a friendlier reality when he moved to Canada in 2000 to finish his studies in urban planning.

“It all began when I moved to Canada,” he confirms. “I started working part time at a carpet store in Toronto. After working at the store for a year, I realised that most clients didn’t want the classic patterns—they wanted different, more vibrant [styles]. I believe this change in demand was stemming from their busier lifestyle in North America. [The clients] were looking for something new and fresh. Most designers were looking for something modern, sophisticated yet simple.”

Taheri began exploring various ways to meet the western consumers’ demands. He wondered how he could offer designers something different than what they were presently exposed to in the market.

“I began taking a few courses in interior design and graphic design. I began making myself familiar with the interior design culture in North America, while still maintaining my artisan family roots.

“I changed my major from urban planning to textile design. I really wanted to understand the concept of textile design as well as put all my focus on tailored luxury floor covering.”

In 2008, Taheri moved to San Francisco, California, and has been based there ever since. However, today he is frequently visiting the Middle East – creating an international name for himself. According to the designer, he can be found in the region a handful of times a year before he departs to Nepal to check on his workshop.

Today, the established designer is known for carrying a large selection of fine contemporary Tibetan rugs as well as modern designs. He also creates personalised wall-to-wall carpets. From contemporary to classic and transitional, his hand-woven carpets are building a big name for themselves.

The rugs are made from natural and renewable resources like wool, silk and mohair while Taheri strives to work via sustainable and humanitarian methods. In furthering this point, Taheri’s work is licensed by GoodWeave USA—a global non-profit organisation that works to end child labour.

According to Taheri, his rugs aren’t just meant to serve the function of a floor covering – but they help transform a space into a “calculated work of art”.

Taheri’s designs mostly take their inspiration from nature, while he still incorporates traditional Persian aesthetics. He says: “It is about old and new. It is about vintage and modern. It is about life, [and] it is about the evolution of my thoughts and how I can keep the old tradition alive with my work and how to keep this ancient art alive.”

According to Taheri, designs influenced by nature are calming as “we are familiar with it, we have feeling and
we understand the concept — it gives you peace of mind”.

Many of his rugs depict floral images, as though a plant has been plucked from its earthly spot and suspended in an abstract space. An example includes his VT-87000 rug from the ‘I’m Beautiful’ series, which exhibits various cream and green tones, while the image depicted is the stem of a plant that appears to be fossilised into the threads.

Some of Taheri’s other rugs display more abstract, Middle Eastern patterning, which can be explored through his ‘I’m Today’ series.

The Iranian artist prefers to work with natural materials. He explains: “We are doing our best to use natural contents such as wool, silk, aloe and linen. We try to use very old techniques to keep everything organic but at the same time figure out what the problems are in the process. This includes not using chemical materials to wash the carpet, or changing the colours [by use of] acids, but [instead] dying the wool or silk in the desired colour.”

Taheri’s rugs are made to order as well and he can customise the design according to the designer’s needs. He says: “We are literally creating the rug to harmonise the space, so the client doesn’t need to compromise on his design, colour, size and texture.”

Additionally, the designer is fearless when it comes to using strong colours. According to him, clients are well aware of his love for bold artistic decisions and strives to create strong patterns and designs. To prevent his designs from coming off too strongly, he offers river lines for more relaxed aesthetics and an earthy lightness.

Taheri works closely with interior designers and architects, as he considers them to be on the same team toward creating bespoke and inspiring interiors.

“We are part of their team,” he says. “I go with them to their meetings with their clients as part of their designer team. I believe the main reason for our success has been working very closely with interior designers and architects and being part of their team.”

At the moment, Taheri is working on a new collection which will boast collaborative work with his close friend Jonathan Browning. He’s also working on a new black and white 100% natural silk limited edition collection that we expect to make a big impact on the Middle East carpet market. “They are out of this world,” Taheri says. “And I am so excited.”

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