Who Makes Your Rugs? Two Recent Books by STEP Partners Tamarian and Jan Kath Take a Closer Look

The creation of a handmade rug is a complex process fueled by skilled artisans. Two recent book releases by STEP Partners Tamarian and Jan Kath offer a closer look at the exceptional artistry and dedication behind their rug-making processes—showcasing all of the craftsmanship and the people involved in creating handmade rugs. The integral role of fair trade and STEP’s solutions-based community initiatives are also featured in these books, underscoring how a commitment to ethical practices is essential to a sustainable future for the industry.

Beyond the Loom: The People Who Crafted Rugs in Kathmandu, Monsoon 2023 

A story by Narendra Shrestha with Ryan Higgins.

Beyond the Loom offers a profound look into the lives of the weavers who create Tamarian’s exquisite handmade rugs in Kathmandu. Captured over eight days in July 2023, award-winning photographer Narendra Shrestha’s images reveal the intricate and human-centered process of rug-making. This book is more than just documentation; it is a heartfelt tribute to the people of Nepal and the beauty of handcrafted artistry. 

Ryan Higgins, owner of Baltimore-based Tamarian, was the visionary behind this project and sought to emphasize the importance of showcasing the humanity involved in each step of rug creation, from spinning and dyeing to weaving and finishing. “We’re looking to educate our dealers and their clients. All aspects of the rug-making process are really a mystery. It’s taken me twenty years to understand it,” Higgins explained, emphasizing his hopes to really “show how much humanity is involved in making a rug and how it interfaces with nature.”

Beyond the Loom is not only an educational resource but also a celebration of the culture and environment surrounding the Boudhanath Stupa in Kathmandu, an area deeply significant to the weaving community.

The book’s foreword, written by STEP managing director Reto Aschwanden, highlights Higgins’s deep curiosity about the individuals behind each weave. “This photo book beautifully demonstrates Ryan’s vision of the rug industry and Tamarian’s approach to contemporary artisanal weaving,” Aschwanden describes. “It depicts the challenging work and the joy, commitment, dedication, and pride that go into the making of each handwoven rug. It shows the many skilled hands, inventive minds, and passionate faces who keep artisanal weaving going in the modern world. It is a portrait of a community of people who work, study, play, and live together.”

Jan Kath – The Book

This 522-page coffee table book, simply titled Jan Kath – The Book, explores the remarkable journey of designer Jan Kath. Spanning over 30 collections and 25 years of creativity, this publication offers an in-depth exploration of Jan Kath’s creative evolution, the diverse sources that inspire him, and the meticulous production process behind handmade carpets.

Photographer Santosh Chhantyal’s stunning images document the entire process, from the sourcing of raw materials in the highland villages of the Himalayas to the craftsmanship in Nepal’s manufacturing facilities. The book not only showcases the artistic achievements of Jan Kath but also honors the incredible skill and dedication of the weavers who bring the designs to life.

Stories from the Makers

Both publications underscore the role STEP plays in promoting transparency and ethical practices in the rug-making industry. STEP is proud to be part of and celebrates the efforts of Tamarian and Jan Kath in bringing these beautiful stories and images to the forefront. The books not only highlight artistry but also aim to shed light on aspects of the industry often overlooked, fostering a deeper appreciation for the cultural heritage and labour intensive craftsmanship behind each handmade rug.Through these bare, authentic human stories, readers gain insight into the lives and communities, highlighting the profound connection between the creators, their surroundings, and their art.

For more information and to purchase these publications, visit Tamarian’s website and Jan Kath’s website.

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