Madeline Weinrib’s Folkloric and Traditionally-inspired Patterns Seduce with Their Modern, Fresh Style
I’ve always admired the bold, graphic, hand-woven cotton rugs and hand-crafted wool rugs designed by Madeline Weinrib (top designers love her designs).
Just last December, I had the great good fortune to meet Madeline (Madi, to friends) in Jaipur, India. (I detailed this trip in ‘My Passage to India’ series. Please check THE STYLE SALONISTE archive.)
Madeline, who is based in New York at ABC Carpet & Home (she sells her products around the country) was in Jaipur to go to traditional Indian workshops where she is developing new organic block-print textiles, as well as new concepts and colors for her famous rugs.
Follow me to get an insider view of her design process and then to see her newest designs, available this Spring.
Madeline has been producing rugs in Jaipur workshops for ten years. In December she traveled to remote regions of northwestern India, finding inspiration, collecting traditional hand-woven textiles, exploring the culture, and seeing old friends in Bikaner, a desert city in northwest Rajasthan.
Madeline and I were invited by our dear Jaipur friends for late dinners and delicious lunches, and in the afternoons we explored some of the more curious and authentic lanes and markets of Jaipur and beyond.
When I was visiting New York recently, Madeline and I continued our conversations about design and jewelry and India at her SoHo loft. Her downtown pied-a-terre is decorated lavishly with her glorious rugs and delicious textiles, as well as centuries-old maharajah portraits, Indian antiques, mother-of-pearl inset Anglo-Indian chairs, and her extensive collection of vivid contemporary American paintings.
Come and sit down with Madeline and me as we chat about her work:
DDS: Madeline, it was such a great pleasure to meet you in Jaipur. I've admired your carpets for a long time, and thought from your exquisite style you must be a very rarified designer, very inaccessible in your gilded atelier. In fact, you're a very hands-on designer, sitting on the floor at the Jaipur weaving factory, working closely with weavers and block printers. Your rugs and textiles are so fresh and original. Your background is fine art and painting. How did you get involved with carpet design?
MW: Thank you. Ironically, it was something that I never thought that I would be interested in. I grew up surrounded by rugs and carpets because of my father's business, ABC, but initially, I had no interest or connection with the furnishing that were right in front of me. I was, however, always interested in drawing and painting--ever since I can remember—and that became my path. I showed my paintings at a gallery in New York and I taught drawing at SUNY.
I had been approached by colleagues at ABC to design carpets, but it was not the right moment and I was not inspired creatively. My rug designs evolved and came about much later, after I was established and had my own focus, my own voice.
DDS: Your idea of taking folkloric and handcrafted traditional patterns and making them modern, was a great one. And then you turned ideas into reality. How did you first start manufacturing carpets?
MW: I'm so glad that you picked up on that current in my work. My appropriation of traditional patterns and my reframing and modernizing of that visual language has always been central to what I do. Now it seems everywhere, but at the time—12 years ago—that wasn't the case. I discovered that it really resonated for me and that it could serve as my voice in the decorative arts. It became a real departure from my paintings, which at the time were organic abstraction. This departure was possible because I was open to using new materials--the decorative textiles that I had been looking at-- and was responding to the particularities and formal constraints that they presented.
Once I started shifting my ideas, I had to rethink my technique and my perspective. I trained myself to see from the floor as opposed to the wall and realizing that it had to exist in dialogue with the decor in the room, that it would have furniture placed on it. I had to plan for that, to work with that. It couldn't be as hermetic. In painting, it's a world of its own. Not rugs.
DDS: What was your original design motive and inspiration?
MW: I fell in love with an antique Tibetan carpet with a traditional design of a checkerboard. As an artist at that time, I was working on a series of drawings and sketches on craft paper and the designs on the checkerboard corresponded to the color of my paper and charcoal. That's when I realized I could transfer my ideas to a different surface with a different set of values. I designed my first collection.
DDS: Your designs can be read as both very modern and quite traditional!
MW: When I started working in textiles that was something I wanted to achieve. I designed concepts that would be contemporary and speak of its own time, but if it were a really strong design, it would work well in other environments. Great design should have flexibility. Using traditional motifs that have been simplified and pared to their essence has allowed me to achieve this duality.
Photos above: Images of Madeline Weinrib working on new carpets in India in December 2009. At the carpet factory near Jaipur, she is designing new carpets and colorways.
DDS: When did you start designing textiles?
MW: I started making textiles about five years ago. I meet a lot of interesting people through my travels, including a woman working in Uzbekistan helping to resurrect the art of ikat weaving. I wanted to produce ikats using my own palette and designs. It took a long time, but it has really taken off. I do the same thing with suzani textiles, and they are even harder to develop, but they look very beautiful. Two years ago, I started developing a hand-woven brocade. At this time, I can only make 14 yards per month. It’s rare and exquisite.
DDS: Now you're developing a line of organic cotton block print textiles.
MW: I started creating this collection in India a year ago and it has been steadily growing. I am broadening my color palette and have some gorgeous base colors that are all naturally made. In particular, I love the new indigo that I think will take off and have a life of its own. There's also a beautiful a saffron color. Ironically, I wasn't interested in this color five years ago, now I love it.
DDS: What is the most inspiring aspect of your work?
MW: Travel is inspiring and I meet talented and fascinating people throughout the world. For me, and for my staff, the most rewarding moment is when the new designs finally arrive in New York after the long process of development. It is thrilling when the finished product finally comes to fruition and feels beautiful. It takes such a long time that the gratification is very delayed.
The blockprint textiles are the product of highly-skilled local craftsman who meticulously apply each motif to the fabric free-hand using a single, intricately hand-carved teakwood block. They are made from natural cotton and printed with Azo-free dyes.
DDS: You have a great rapport with your Indian carpet weavers! You also work in other countries.
MW: In addition to India, I also make carpets in Pakistan, Nepal, Turkey and Morocco. Each country produces a different weave and a different aesthetic and I'm very fond of all the people that I work with. My designs are very much rooted in a sense of place and possess a truth to origins, which I love.
In December 2009, Madeline Weinrib was photographed working at the blockprinting studio developing samples of all new designs and colorways of her organic blockprint fabric for Spring 2010.
Madeline with the blue fabric—a new true indigo colorway of the blockprint that she is also introducing for Spring.
Madeline with the blue fabric—a new true indigo colorway of the blockprint that she is also introducing for Spring.
DDS: You also work closely with designers and private individuals on custom designs.
MW: I recently finished a great collaboration with the Neue Galerie, which is a wonderful museum in New York City for German and Austrian art. The director, Renee Price, invited me to design a carpet that was inspired by the aesthetic of Wiener Werkstatte.
The carpet I created is now available at their design shop and online through their website, www.neuegalerie.org. This was a wonderful project—I traveled to Vienna to visit the Wiener Werkstatte archive for my research. I have a partnership with Flor to design a commercial carpet for BAM (the Brooklyn Academy of Music) in anticipation of the 10th anniversary of BAM Rose Cinemas—another of my favorite cultural institutions. The design had to be durable, yet also resonate with BAM's progressive and avant-garde ethos. The floor tiles I designed specifically for the space translated beautifully and really transformed this old, historic building. Flor will be producing this carpet and it will be available on their website sometime this spring.
"One of my favorite places in Jaipur is Dera Amer. It is a beautiful spot fifteen minutes outside of the city and they will arrange your transportation. While there you can have a delicious meal al fresco, ride elephants, and even play elephant polo (If I can do that, anyone can). Its quiet and truly elegant and special. The website is http://www.deraamer.com/index.htm." — Madeline Weinrib
DDS: What will you be exploring next?
MW: I’m working on a line of wool flat-weave carpets. I am trying to create a flat-weave that feels as fresh and luxurious as the cotton, but with a warmer, richer color palette. I’ll be introducing the line in early fall of 2010.
DDS: Where are you traveling next?
MW: India is the most exciting and inspiring place and I recommend it to anyone who wishes to feel visually inspired. I feel very secure there. It's a place that's changing quickly so people who have an interest in culture, history and authenticity should plan to go soon. All jewelry lovers should visit Gem Palace in Jaipur.
DDS: Thank you so much! It was a great pleasure and adventure to meet you in sunny and shimmering Jaipur—and then just a week or two later, to walk through SoHo in a magical snowstorm to meet you at your loft. Life is wonderful.
Getting to know Madeline Weinrib
Painter and designer Madeline Weinrib lives and works in New York City. The great-granddaughter of ABC Carpet & Home founder Max Weinrib, she carries on the family tradition with her innovative collection of fine handcrafted carpets and textiles.
Translating her painterly sensibilities into woven form, Madeline launched her first carpet collection in 1984. Lush and opulent pattern, her designs draw on a wealth of sources gleaned from her travels. Her carpets and her lovely textiles reflect her interest in reinterpreting and reframing traditional forms.
In addition to her signature collection of carpets and textiles, her chic and superbly appointed atelier on the sixth floor of ABC Carpet & Home showcases a growing repertoire of evening bags, caftans and limited edition vintage furniture.
Madeline’s recent projects include a bespoke flooring installation for the Brooklyn Academy of Music and a signature carpet designed for the Neue Galerie’s Neue Now collection.
In addition Madeline is a trustee of Project Mala, a non-profit organization committed to building schools throughout the carpet-weaving region of India and lends her support to fund a classroom in Mirzapur, Uttar Pradesh, Northern India.
Madeline Weinrib Collections
Madeline Weinrib has several different qualities of carpets in different price ranges.
Cotton carpets are hand-woven in India and are reversible. Prices range from around $325 for a 3.5x5.5 ft to $1,400 for a 9x12.
Tibetan carpets are wool pile, hand knotted in Nepal. They range from around $1,800 for a 4x6 to $8,000 for and 9x12.
All of her carpets are available in bespoke colors and sizes. Her carpets are crafted only by skilled adults, as seen in photographs of weaving workshops on this page.
Textile collections and custom made pillows and upholstered furniture may be viewed and purchased here as well.
To view carpet and textile styles and meet Madeline by appointment:
Madeline's carpets and textiles at her Atelier on the 6th floor of ABC Carpet and Home.
Madeline Weinrib Atelier
ABC Carpet & Home
NY NY 10003
T 212 473 3000 x3780
Credits: Photography of Madeline Weinrib working on new rugs and textiles in India: private collection, courtesy of Madeline Weinrib. Product images: Madeline Weinrib.