How do you go about making yourself comfortable in your indoor landscape? If you are Brooklyn Artist Amy Helfand, you make your outdoor landscape into a rug; a very nice, very beautiful rug. Helfand’s rug designs suggest or depict natural environments — sometimes real, sometimes drawn from her wild imagination. But Amy’s inventiveness does not end with pattern and decoration – the designer has teamed up with Rugmark to insure that the material and manufacturing of her rugs are as forward-thinking as her designs.
A licensee of Rugmark, Helfand is committed to producing rugs made exclusively under fair labor conditions. Rugmark is a non-profit organization dedicated to ending child labor in the carpet industry. They do so through a combination of certification, licenses, and loom inspection.
Many of these children, however, have been sold by their parents to rug producers. Being “rescued” from miserable working conditions, therefore, is not enough. So, equally importantly, the organization provides education, books and uniforms for former child laborers.
All of this is nice, honorable even, but why is it smart from a business sense? First, Rugmark helped Helfand to find a manufacturer in Nepal capable of producing her incredible designs. Second, they continue to provide her with business opportunities and publicity. And third, according to the designer, “people are more aware of the issues involved than ever before, so having the Rugmark label is an asset.” Rugmark also produces rugs for Nanimarquina, whose Flying Carpet garnered lots of attention here late last year.
Originally a collage artist, Helfand’s path to rug designer extraordinaire was the result of an unexpected turn. She was asked to do a show at Wave Hill, a public garden in the Bronx whose gallery space is in an old mansion. She figured, “Why not do a rug based on the site plan of one of the gardens to sit in front of the fireplace?” So she did. “The translation of the work was very successful, so I decided to try more rugs.”
Helfand’s current project is based on the Appalachian Trail. Like her previous work these pieces operate in that liminal state between representation and abstraction, wilderness and cultivation, trails and exploring. She collects images of plants, trail and garden maps, and then recombines them. In her words:
“I transform their biomorphic contours into idiosyncratic, abstracted sites on my own imagining; creating site plans by “drawing” with pieces of the maps I’ve amassed. I blaze a trail through a wilderness of my own making, running it through a fantastical forest of shapes.”
Helfand’s rugs are available by commission. Prices start at $100/sq. foot. Her show, “Amy Helfand: Modern Nature” at the Frye Art Museum in Seattle includes two of her rugs as well. Now until July 30, 2006.