As the 21st century unfolds, the worlds of art and design are in a compelling dialogue not seen since the Bauhaus, when its Manifesto of 1919 declared, “To embellish buildings was once the noblest function of the fine arts…” Textiles—tapestries and carpets—are among the earliest elements—both decorative and functional—of human habitation, providing warmth to walls and floors while entertaining the eye with pattern, and in some cases, even legendary or historical narrative.
In contemporary interiors, a carpet is all too often a “neutral” component, a plain backdrop against which to display the more complex forms of furniture and art.
Equator Production, founded in 1985, seeks to restore the vital connection between the artist, the interior, and decorative coverings for the floor. Commissioning carpet designs from contemporary international artists, Equator Production orchestrates the execution and production of these designs, in limited editions, by traditional weavers. If the West, today is characterized by exaltation of the image, in Nepal, real things—fibers, colors, looms—are still venerated. Equator Production seeks to fuse image and making in a long-lost symbiosis. The production of artists’ sketches—a complex and demanding craft—is an art in its own right.
The primary roster of artists commissioned by Equator Production includes Rosemarie Trockel, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Joseph Kosuth, Guillaume Bijl, Walter Dahn, Georg Dokoupil, Rob Scholte and Albert Oehlen. Today, Equator Production again invites the participation of artists and seeks to inscribe their practice into the longer narrative of art historical relevance.
Equator Production carpets have been shown at the Venice Biennale, the Museum Fodor, Amsterdam; the Fruitmarket Gallery, Edinburgh; the Rheinisches Landesmuseum, Bonn; the Kunstverein Hannover, and the Kunstforeningen Copenhagen, among others. They are in the collection of the Groningen Museum of Contemporary Art; the Tilburg Textile Museum and the Vienna Museum of Fine Arts.
Equator Production was founded by Petra and Ranbir Singh, with art impresario Reiner Opoku. Several years after the passing of her husband, Petra Singh has taken up the reins of operation. She has engaged art historian Cornelia Lauf to curate a series for the company. Together with artist agency GoldenRuler, Rome, they are proposing a new repertoire of Equator Production artists carpets to be hand-knotted in international workshops. These carpets will be designed by prominent artists comfortable with the role of concept and delegation – but attentive to manual savoir faire, with all all its cultural depth. The current list of artists includes Heimo Zobernig, Joseph Kosuth, Liam Gillick, Ken Lum, Alan Belcher, Julião Sarmento, Emilia and Ilya Kabakov, and Jonathan Monk.
ABOUT OUR CARPETS
Equator Productions prides itself in producing contemporary carpet designs crafted with the same skill and materials that have been used for the past thousand years by Tibetan craftsmen in the heart of Nepal.
Having developed in isolation from other cultural influences, Tibetan rug weaving and design is a unique tradition. Tibetan carpets are created using stationary vertical looms using a senneh knot technique. Tibetan wool, one of the most durable, soft and luxurious wool in the world, is spun and knotted around each crossing of the warp and weft, creating a tight, durable, and rich carpet.
The entire production process, from the sheering of the sheep to the weaving of the carpets is done by hand by experienced adult weavers. We do not manufacture any carpets using child labor. Beginning with the wool sorting and washing, 100% pure raw Tibetan wool from high Himalaya is sorted by hand to remove any foreign material and to separate the wool based on its natural color. In cases where the colors need to be brighter, high quality 100% pure raw New Zeland wool is used instead because of its whiter color. Next, the wool is combed (a process referred to as carding), to prepare the wool for spinning. Spinning takes place on a ‘charkha,’ a Nepalese traditional spinning wheel. The lower the knot count for the final product, the thicker the yarn will be spun. After spinning, the yarn is dyed. Tibetan Weavers can use swiss chrome azo-free dye or vegetable dye as per clients demand.
The weaving of a custom design is created by reading graphs of the design, which hang in front of the weaver on a loom. All weaving involved great skill and craftsmanship, and only traditional tools are used to assist in the making of the rugs. Once the weaving is complete, the rug is removed from the loom and clipped using traditional scissors called ‘khapsi,’ to smooth and texture the surface. Next, carpets are washed with long wooden flappers and natural soaps, and then are hung and dried in direct sunlight for 4-7 days.
After drying, the carpet is stretched in a metal frame for at least 24 hours to perfect the shape of the carpet, and is finally checked by the Tibetan Weaver professionals.
ABOUT PETRA SINGH
Petra Singh was born in Germany, attending the College of Book Trades in Frankfurt (Schule des deutschen Buchhandels). In 1984, Petra enrolled in the Academy of Fine Arts in Duesseldorf to pursue a career as an artist. While studying in Duesseldorf, she worked in an international gallery in Cologne for several years.
In 1985, Petra moved to Brussels, becoming a founding member of Equator Production, a company devoted to producing artists’ carpets in limited editions, commissioning very well-known contemporary artists to create the designs. During that same period, she had art exhibitions of her own work in Amsterdam, Brussels and Basel.
In 2000, Petra moved to New York City bringing Equator Production with her, and continuing to collect important contemporary art.
2014 saw a renaissance of Petra’s company Equator Production. She is currently in the process of renewing production of Equator Production’s original editions, while also commissioning a new generation of artists to make designs for the carpets.
In 2016, a large number of the carpets will be included in a major exhibition at the Cleveland Museum of Art.
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