Historically regarded as prestigious objects of high artistic value, hand-woven carpets and rugs have shaped the Middle Eastern design aesthetic for centuries. Using his deep-rooted connections to his tribal ancestry, celebrated Iranian artist Taher Asad-Bakhtiari elevates the ancient Persian craft, honed over centuries by the semi-nomadic women of his tribe. As he harnesses age-old techniques to create modern interpretations of traditional fabrics and tribal weaves, creatives from all over the world have taken notice.
A labor of love, the rug company cc-tapis was founded in France by Fabrizio Cantoni and Nelcya Chamszadeh in 2009. Daniele Lora, now art director and partner, joined the company shortly after the duo relocated to Milan. More than a decade later, the team is working with Tehran-born Asad-Bakhtiari on a new collection of hand-knotted rugs that is breaking boundaries with its fresh take on the traditional runner. Featuring seven individual designs, including Like a Prayer, Eye of a Protector, Centaur, Ziggurat, Jade, Pardis, and Sufi – which is presented in two color combinations – the Archer Collection was born from Asad-Bakhtiari’s fascination with arrows and their power, and explores semiotics and cultural icons through designs expressed by a combination of natural materials and artisanal craftsmanship. Focusing entirely on one typology of rug – the runner – adorning corridors, staircases, and the narrowest of spaces, the Archer Collection is colorful and expressive. It explores the intricacies and power of arrows and triangles, using a range of organic materials including Himalayan wool, pure silk, Lurex, and mohair to showcase a handmade and sustainable new product. “The materials and resources that went into producing this collection are unlike any other I’ve used so far, from the fibers to the cuts to the color palette. cc-tapis provided me with the stepping stone to realize a dream project and commercialize my work,” Asad-Bakhtiari shares.
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The designer – who splits his time between New York, Dubai, and Tehran – has always been inspired by tradition, first launching the Tribal Weave Project in 2018, a collection of Iranian weaves for Bernhardt Design. It was unveiled at the International Contemporary Furniture Fair in New York, where Asad-Bakhtiari made his Stateside debut. The collection came about years earlier while he was working with Iranian artisans to reinvent the kilim and his ancestors’ signature high-pile rug, the gabbeh. He continues to take inspiration from his heritage in this latest work. “I look at the Archer Collection as a whole like a superhero toolkit,” Asad-Bakhtiari says. “The arrow shapes reference the Sagittarius, my horoscope sign, and a symbol I’d been wanting to explore artistically for a while to create pieces that everyone can relate to – a talisman of sorts.”
With Archer, as with any cc-tapis collaboration, the meticulous process of creating a collection begins at the company’s atelier in Kathmandu, Nepal, where raw materials are prepared and dyed, before being taken to the weavers’ homes to be knotted. This process requires immense skill and patience as it can take months to complete, and can involve up to 232 000 knots per square meter. Once the knotting is done, the rug returns to the atelier where the finishings are executed and the rug is washed, stretched, and dried. “No machines are ever used; everything is created by hand,” Lora says, adding that by the end of the year, all company packaging will be sustainable. “It will be completely recycled, recyclable, and plastic-free as we have been researching sustainable alternatives for over a year and have found a way to make a very resistant textile made with recycled clothes. We are also working on our carbon footprint and hope to off-set our transport emissions by the end of the year.”
The Archer Collection will be exclusively presented at the Dubai Mall store of Beirut-based carpet gallery Iwan Maktabi, as cc-tapis aims to continue to work with Middle Eastern designers like Asad-Bakhtiari on future projects. “We like to work with talents who we think have an interesting and innovative approach to design. It could be a designer, artist, fashion designer, photographer… Anyone,” Lora says. “We have people working with us from all over the world, which I think helps us find fresh and current ideas. It creates a diverse conversation, enriching our brand and taking it international.” As for Asad-Bakhtiari, he says his future plans are simple. “For now, just thinking and pondering.”
Originally published in the January 2021 issue of Vogue Arabia