Imagine the cost of getting a world famous architect — say, Frank Gehry or Zaha Hadid — to design a rug for your home. How much would that cost? For an answer that might surprise you, look to Arzu Studio Hope, a U.S. nonprofit organization that has launched 10 hand-knotted wool rugs designed by Gehry, Hadid, Michael Graves, Robert A.M. Stern and others.
The Masters Collection is produced by highly skilled female weavers in the remote, poverty-stricken province of Bamyan, Afghanistan. Each made-to-order rug takes six to nine months to produce and is sold as a numbered piece, with an artist statement and information about the weavers who made it.
"The project shows the marriage of iconic global design and extreme authenticity in craftsmanship," said Connie Duckworth, founder of Arzu Studio Hope. "It's a product with a purpose. It's not just about the name of the architect. It's also about poverty alleviation and the connection between individuals from so far away."
PHOTOS: The Masters Collection from Arzu Studio Hope
The Masters Collection includes tribal prints, geometrics, a pair of a Matisse-like abstracts by Graves and the 6-by-2-foot "Puzz" by Gehry, whose design looks like a multicolored pile of giant jigsaw pieces.
Prices start at around $70 per square foot. The smallest rug is 5 by 7 feet and costs $3,500. The rugs are sold to architects, design professionals and corporations through Coalesse, a division of the office furniture giant Steelcase. Individual consumers can order the rugs directly from Arzu Studio Hope.
The rugs, which were launched at a recent reception at Coalesse in Santa Monica, are made from naturally dyed, hand-spun wool that creates marled yarn, adding depth of color and texture. Seeing the rugs in person reveals the artistry of the rug-making process, none more so than in the intricately woven 3-by-14-foot runner featuring Hadid's computer-generated perspective drawings.
Duckworth, the first female sales and trading partner in the history of Goldman Sachs, founded Arzu Studio Hope in 2004 after witnessing life in Afghanistan.
"Today, we employ 700 people in an area that looks like the moon," she said. The company produces 300 styles including centuries-old tribal patterns, traditional floral patterns and a line of modern and contemporary prints. The Masters Collection is likely to produce future collaborations with other designers in a variety of disciplines.
"The architects had carte blanche," Duckworth said. "It's an interesting medium for them, and they enjoyed the design process and seeing the rugs come to life."