Luxury carpet company Fort Street Studio premieres its first limited edition collection Progetto Passione in New York, signalling a new chapter for its artist-designers
When American artists Brad Davis and Janis Provisor decamped in China in 1994, they fortuitously founded Fort Street Studio — now the world’s foremost luxury carpet company. From their apartment in Hangzhou, in the search of something just for themselves, the duo took their distinctive painterly artworks as inspiration and applied them to a pattern for a woven silk carpet. In the process, they pioneered a carpet style that is now so celebrated that it belies the tedious and skilled nature of the techniques involved. Over two years went into research and development to determine how to transform their distinctive artworks into a format that could be understood by the weavers. That first carpet came off the looms in the fall of 1996, and the pair have hardly had a chance to look back since.
Fast forward 20 years and the increased availability of computer software has made designing the rugs both faster and easier to copy. But with a shrinking pool of master dyers and weavers with each passing generation, the carpets are ever more difficult and time consuming to produce.
Despite their seriously impressive artist credentials, the duo has insisted that the carpets not be viewed as artworks, but rather completely functional and usable pieces of (highly tasteful) home decor. Each of their designs takes into account a sense of symmetry, adaptability around various room shapes, sizes and furniture arrangements, and is customisable in terms of shape, size and colouring. Their latest collection, however, represents somewhat of a departure. Born of the desire to work outside their usual self-imposed constraints, Progetto Passione straddles the worlds of art and collectable design.
‘In 2015 we began spending time in a magical small mediaeval village called Roccantica in Italy. While in residence, we began to collaborate on a group of designs that pushed the boundaries of our work for Fort Street Studio into a realm that sits more comfortably at the nexus between art and design,’ recalls Provisor of the origins of the collection. ‘Drawing on our background of being the originators of watercolour affects in hand-knotted carpet design, we opted to produce a group of pieces that both employed this technique and was also emphatic and singular in their use of colour and iconic bold forms. We also chose to include a metal sumac detail in each of the eight pieces, copper, tin and brass/gold, along with a finer knot count than our standard wild silk production.’
The eight designs that make up the Progetto Passione collection are 150 knot wild silk and took three years to create from the initial designs to the finished carpets. ‘Not only is this an artistic collaboration between the two of us but also with our masterful weavers in our workshop in China, of whom there are only six who have the expertise to weave these pieces,’ adds Provisor.
Part of the motivation behind the ambitious collection is the dwindling availability of skilled weavers who can produce such highly complicated designs. Each piece requires at least four to five months on the loom, meaning the designs will be limited to between five and eight per run, depending on its complexity. And in case you were be wondering — these may be some of the last carpets of their kind ever produced.
The origins of the collection inspired its nomenclature. Pieces are named after real or fictitious Italian towns, plus other Italian words alluding to the collection’s underlying passion project roots. ‘So we've entitled the collection Progetto Passione!’ explains Davis with excitement.
Founder and principal of Art Agency Allan Schwartzman, who also serves as a partner, chairman and co-leader of Sotheby’s Fine Art Division had this to say: ‘Janis and Brad have singlehandedly transformed high carpet design from the traditions of Eastern cultures to the cutting edge of innovation in contemporary creativity and craftsmanship. Their newest and most exclusive Progetto Passione carpets raise that bar even higher. They’re in a league of their own.’
Schwartzman’s contemporary Jodi Pollack, also of Sotheby’s where she is co-heads the International Design Department, added her own accolades: ‘Weaving a carpet with the fluidity of watercolour has become a standard sought after by many contemporary carpet designers. Janis and Brad were the originators of this approach. Their new series of Progetto Passione carpets reinforces their premiere position as design leaders and masters of their field. The complexity of composition, palette and material, and the extraordinary workmanship required to execute each of these unique works, transcends anything that has been presented in the universe of contemporary carpets. Their finely knotted craftsmanship, as well as the forms and colour combinations they have designed for each of these eight remarkable carpets are breathtaking, a true achievement of both design and execution.’
Text / Suzy Annetta
Images / Courtesy of Fort Street Studio
The Progetto Passione limited edition pieces will be on display in Fort Street Studio’s New York City flagship showroom from 1 – 29 June 2018. Private viewings will also be available through Sotheby’s