Sam Presnell of the Rug Gallery discusses his recent rug buying trips to India and Turkey, the process of purchasing rugs from the rug makers in those countries, and some of the most interesting new styles of rugs.
John Maher: Welcome to The Rug Gallery with Sam Presnell. The Rug Gallery is an oriental rug company and carpet store in Cincinnati, Ohio. I’m John Maher and I’m here with the owner of The Rug Gallery, Sam Presnell. Hi, Sam.
Sam Presnell: Hi, John.
John: So Sam, today we're talking about a rug buying travel update. Where have you traveled lately for rug buying?
Recent Rug Buying Trips
Sam: This is the thing I love to do -- this year I was in India, Turkey, Atlanta and Las Vegas for business.
John: Okay. What kinds of insights does traveling give you in terms of buying and selling rugs?
Sam: When you travel you get into the places actually where they make it, which is nice. So you actually talk to the people who are developing it. You can talk to the designers who are doing all the detail working, coloring work. You can get a feel for what they think is important and what direction they're headed in. You can see a lot of things that you may not be able to pick up if you go to a big show like an Atlanta show because there it’s just more product-driven.
But if you get into the actual weaving compounds, into the structures that support manufacturing and making rugs in the countries of origin there's something, that special relationship, that happens as well.
The Rug Making Process in Turkey and India
John: Tell me about India and Turkey and maybe some of the differences that you see in terms of the rug making process or the industry in those countries.
Sam: Yes, it's two different worlds as far as India and Turkey. India is today probably the biggest manufacturer of handmade rugs in the world. I read somewhere that 35-40% of the rugs that are handmade in the world today come from India.
Turkey is a very small player compared to India as far as rug production mainly because Turkey is really developed. I mean, it's more like Eastern Europe, I guess you would think of it, than more of a Middle Eastern type of a country that a lot of people think it is. It's very, very modern, lots of jobs, more manufacturing type jobs and all kinds of jobs, banking, all kinds of things you would consider to do. So there’s less weaving; the weaving that is done is usually not something done in the big cities but out in the rural areas that maybe do sheep herding and they also spin wool and then they make rugs from that as well.
The Turkish rugs today are very unique in that the lot of the vintage rugs that we see and a lot of the tribal looking pieces usually come from Turkey.
So you'll see stuff that basically is what we've talked about as vintage in previous podcast, where we’ll take a rug hasn't sold in 20 years and we'll sheer it down, we’ll bleach the color out and we'll make a really cool warm looking rug in neutrals or grey colorations. That is very, very cool looking.
A lot of what’s in Turkey is also what we call patchwork, that's done in Turkey, where they'll take a bunch of rugs that are worn out or damaged and they'll cut them into pieces and they’ll sew them together and they create very creative rugs out of that. They will also take those and they'll overdye those sometimes. We see a lot of overdyes also coming out of Turkey as well.
That's very common. Whereas India, it's a little bit different in that it's more newer rugs and pretty much they are developing rugs that are, I would say more modern or more transitional than what we see in Turkey.
John: Okay, when you go on these rug buying trips like that, are you just setting up business relationships with the rug makers or are you actually picking out individual rugs and saying, "Hey, I want that one in my store and I want that one in my store?"
Sam: We're actually picking stuff that we want. Either stuff that we want or stuff that we want to create or develop for ourselves. We'll also supply ideas, coloring, and designs of products as well. We do both but this last trip that we did that we bought extensively. I was shocked at how much goods were ready to buy.
Usually, that's been a no-no in the last 10 years since the crash. I think that a lot of people now are feeling more comfortable with making ready goods and having stuff ready to purchase if you wanted to. We came away from this trip really overbought. We went a little bit too much overboard because we were so excited. There was such great stuff and we could take it and have it in the showroom within a few weeks.
Particularly Beautiful Rugs and Styles
John: Tell me a little bit about more about that. Have you found some particularly beautiful rugs or what are those types of rugs that you've seen?
Sam: I did. I hate to say this. I hope our buyers will like what I like. Usually I’m a little ahead of everybody because I’m in the business, but I really have fallen in love with a product that we call “oxidized”. Basically what we're doing is we are weaving -- we can weave it in several different way -- but stuff I'm interested in is woven with wool and silk. Basically, what we do is we have a special application with these designs, that can be traditional designs, that can be transitional designs which is a mix between modern and traditional where they’ve erased part of the design, it looks worn; it could be very abstract, [Jackson] Pollock type of looks.
Then basically what we do is we weave have half of wool and half -- most of the design is done in silk. At that point, we take a chemical, it’s like a caustic, and we apply it to the rug. It only eats the protein out of the wool and it actually drops that wool down and takes it all the way to the back of the rug almost and it looks very worn at that point.
Then you have the silk on top which does not get affected by it. It's a real art, and believe me, you can screw a rug up as easy as you can make a good one. But it is really cool because you get this worn looking rug. At the same time you get that embossing look of the design on top, and silk is just so lustrous and has a nice sheen.
If you look at one side, it looks like there is no pattern at all there. You look from the other side you see the pattern because of the grain of the rug. I've just been really gaga about it. Like I said, we have not done extremely well with in in the store but I just sold one yesterday. I am really excited that people will start to embrace it. I've had a few people tell me that was the most exciting thing they've ever seen and they've been around to other places in bigger cities buying and looking, and they thought that our store represented some of the best and newest stuff as far as modern rug-making.
John: That's great to know. Maybe, like you said, you're a little ahead of the game and you're on to something that people are really going to like in the future.
Sam: I hope so. I think it's very cool if they come check it out. I think they’ll start thinking, "Wow, this is really cool stuff" and basically with this podcast, I’ll send some patterns and designs that we're doing that to and let you have a feel visually of what I'm talking about.
Plans for the Next Rug Buying Trip
John: Great. Where do you plan to travel next to your rug buying adventures?
Sam: Well, I was planning on going back to India and Turkey again this fall, so it would probably be later in the year. The Atlanta show comes up in January, Vegas is usually at the end of January as well. So those are the next four trips I'm planning, again, but one of the things that I love to do is I will go anywhere at any time at a drop of a hat -- I'm very impulsive sometimes. If something comes up, I'll definitely go if I think there is some interest. I would love to definitely go to Morocco. I haven’t been in a while and would love to do that.
John: Sounds great. All right, well, that's really great information, Sam. Thanks again for speaking with me today.
Sam: Alright, John. You are very welcome.
John: And for more information about Sam, The Rug Gallery and oriental rugs and carpets, visit ruggallerycincy.com. That is rug gallery C-I-N-C-Y dot com. Or call 513-793-9505. Make sure you catch the latest episode by subscribing to this podcast on iTunes. If you can take the time to give us a review on iTunes as well would appreciate that. I am John Maher, see you next time on The Rug Gallery.