Peace Industry Felt Rugs
Melina and Dodd Raissnia of Peace Industry own and operate their own workshop in Iran where they have perfected the best methods for producing the highest quality felt rugs, all of which are designed by Melina. The method is a revitalization of the oldest rug tradition from Iran that had been on the verge of extinction. For a look at the process watch our 15-minute film. You can also read an essay on the subject by Melina Raissnia for Turkotek.com.
Peace Industry felt rugs are made from 100% lamb's wool and natural dyes. They are hand-made in small batches insuring that each piece is unique and exceptional in quality. They are earth-friendly, chemical-free, and fair trade. Custom colors and sizes are available.
An ancient craft revitalized
In 1999 Dodd brought Melina a small felt rug after returning from a trip to Iran. Her fascination with it led to a quest to find the people who made them. When Melina and Dodd Raissnia arrived in Tehran in 2002 in search of this obscure tradition they had no information that would dictate where or how their journey would begin. That is because the felt rug tradition in Iran, though ancient, has remained undocumented and almost unknown by the international textile and rug community.
They began their search at the main bazaar in Tehran where hundreds of thousands of Persian rugs are sold. Not only were there no felt rugs available but no one had any idea where they could be found. From Tehran they traveled to nomadic mountain camps and villages finding clues but running out of time. After several more trips and countless glasses of tea they found a small number of villages where a few old men were practicing the ancient art of felt making. It became apparent that this ancient and unknown tradition would die out quickly if nothing changed.
The tradition of felt rugs began in Iran in the Neolithic age. It spanned the nomadic mountain regions from Turkey to Mongolia where nomads live in felt covered tents. This is the only region in the world with a tradition of felt carpets because of the type of wool available that produces an extremely strong felt. The Central Asian nomadic tradition is the most known and incorporates primitive motifs from the Zoarastrian religion like spirals, rams horns, and waves. There is little known about the Persian adaptation of this nomadic art form. The Raissnias have found pieces that they believe represent a once popular style in Iran but don't really know how long the tradition enjoyed popularity amongst urbanized Iranians.
The felt making process
Felt rugs are not woven but pressed to create an incredibly strong, dense textile. Layers of loose wool fibers are arranged on a tarp on the floor. Boiling water is sprinkled on top of the wool. It is then rolled in the tarp with a stick and then bound tightly with a rope. The rolled, wet wool is walked on until the fibers have shrunken together enough to bind. The wool is then removed from the tarp and beaten and rolled by hand to ensure even felting. Patterns are achieved by adding a layer of wool arranged into a design. Any form of wool can be integrated into the pattern including felt shapes, dyed loose wool, or yarn for fine details. When the wool is wet it is very pliable. Sculpting techniques are used to move the design into position and straighten the edges.
A commitment to fair trade and the environment
Before the Raissnias launched Peace Industry they were conscious of the most progressive trends in socially responsible business practices and dedicated to creating a business that could put those ideas into practice. The Raissnias committed themselves to making rugs that would not harm the environment, deplete natural resources or pay sub-living wages.
The ancient felting process does not require the use of chemicals or toxins. Only a very mild soap is used to wash the wool. Otherwise, wool and biodegradable vegetable dyes are the only ingredients.
They learned that it takes more than good intentions to conduct foreign trade in accordance to the principals of fair trade. Peace Industry found itself in a privileged position because it operates the only workshop in the world that produces this type of rug. This guarantees that their rugs can not be outsourced to other workshops where workers could be paid less which is something that happens frequently in the rug trade and is impossible to control. For the Raissnias, fair trade is not seen as a practice based on charity but necessity. If workers are not compensated fairly, rigorous quality standards could not be achieved and a base on which to build a future could not be realized.
What's in a name?
The name, Peace Industry, happened organically, like the business itself. While searching for felt rugs in Iran, Melina was making peace flags and selling them from her tiny art gallery in Point Reyes, California, a coastal village located an hour north of San Francisco. As the business expanded to include felt rugs Peace Industry moved next door to a larger location and then relocated to the present space in San Francisco. The name, Peace Industry stuck. The Peace Industry logo is Melinas' original peace flag design.
For Melina and Dodd their brand has come to represent the growing movement in business to actively seek ways of impacting society and the planet in a positive way. They see this movement as part of the larger global peace movement which is taking on social justice and environmental issues and responding with creative solutions.