Given that conversations about sustainability are now commonplace, especially in the rug industry, we wanted to share our understanding of the word, as well as how this understanding has been at the core of our company culture long before these conversations became commonplace.
For us, a genuinely sustainable company ecology must address three interdependent concerns: the material environment, a shared social equity and economic benefit, as well as the preservation of precious handicraft traditions and techniques, not as dusty museum relics, but as a lived heritage that requires constant challenge and development.
Using Materials That
Our societies are over-flowing with material things. Given this over-abundance, we have always believed, from the beginning, that our own hand-made production process must use upcycled or recycled materials that already exist, and are easily obtained, within the surrounding environment. In fact, our co-founder, Eija Rasinmäki, has used upcycled cotton in her design work since 1970. In other words, our re-use of existing material is not part of a trend, but has been a fundamental part of our company culture for over thirty years.
Most of our rugs are woven from upcycled materials, a process that transforms by-products, waste materials, useless, or unwanted objects into the beautiful, sustainable rugs and textiles that you see on this website — rugs that, we believe, represent a significant increase in the quality and value of these materials. And, while re-using the cutting-edge of giant textile rolls or Indian sari dress leftovers from the local clothing industry may not sound very glamorous, the end-results are stunning, where unique and unexpected variations are found in each of our handwoven rugs, making them truly artisanal, one-of-kind textile objects.
In contrast, some of our yarn rugs, for example the print rugs, are woven from recycled yarn, a process whereby material that is derived from cut-offs, scraps and leftovers from the clothing industry, is then shredded into fibers and re-spun into new yarn.
In both cases, whether upcycled or recycled, the environmental benefits are exponential: materials that would otherwise be destined for landfill or the burn pit are creatively and thoughtfully reused — a re-use that reduces the need to process fresh raw materials, thereby reducing energy consumption, as well as the air and water pollution associated with the acquisition and processing of these new materials.
Production as a
We have been producing rugs in India for 25 years. The decision to move our production was not a conventional out-sourcing move, to obtain cheap labor or low cost materials. Instead, the decision to move our production eventually included a decision to move our entire family to India, for what became a three year sojourn, where we lived and worked alongside other local artisans and our production partners. During these sun filled years, Eija Rasinmäki spent every week at the factory, learning about local weaving traditions while also sharing her own methods and techniques with her hosts.
This close collaboration and exchange of ideas about a shared craft has grown into lifelong partnerships and friendships that have continued into the present, and have gone some way beyond a merely commercial exchange. In other words, our production process does not involve an occasional email to a local agent; it means biannual trips to visit old friends and their families, and to reaffirm our shared dedication to our craft.
Given that we have received far more than we could ever repay, we feel an ongoing responsibility to re-invest in the local communities, beyond just financial investment. Towards this end, we sponsored a two-year training program, supported by the Finnish Government, in which we taught local weavers our own sometimes complex rug weaving techniques, which they, in turn, have passed on to others in the community, and which have provided jobs and other opportunities for both creative and professional growth.
In short, our production partnership is based on a life-long relationship with real people and real communities, relationships that are based on a lived social contract that goes well beyond some official compliance to a minimal set of social responsibility guidelines.
Protecting And Developing Our
Global Heritage of Handicraft
Rugs embody a richly diverse cultural and artistic heritage, whether for the Bedouin in the desert or the Finnish grandmother in her summer cottage. This powerful textile heritage, with its multiple forms and meanings, deserves protection and celebration, as well as confrontation and development.
This is to say that sustainability is not just a choice about mere materials, but also a choice about how to make something from those materials, which in our case, involves an equally rich heritage of handicraft, specifically a Finnish rag-rug tradition that prioritizes hand weaving of recycled materials.
In this sense, our sustainable rugs and textiles are an effort to remember our own heritage, while at the same time to challenge and develop this heritage with new ideas and techniques that we have learned from other traditions. Our Finnish designers, for example, are often skilled weavers themselves, who spend considerable time weaving their own patterns and designs before passing on what they have learned to their fellow weavers in India, who learn from and add on to this collaborative effort, all of which results in some remarkably beautiful rugs.
Sustaining and developing the Finnish handicraft heritage, and especially the rag-rug tradition, is one of our main aims. Just as our own grandmothers wove rugs from used bed sheets, we now re-purpose textile surplus to create handcrafted rugs that combine our own Nordic nature and traditions with the skills and techniques of our fellow weavers and partners in India.