Artizen Rug Couture Ltd.
A long and complicated journey took Artizen Rug Couture’s president, Tenzin Woeser, from a Tibetan refugee settlement in Dharamsala, India to a hip rug design studio in Toronto, Canada. The one constant to which Woeser held fast was his belief that aspiration is best guided by kindness. “As Tibetan refugees, my family and I were always dependent on other people’s generosity. Returning that kindness is our obligation.” He wanted to make sure no weavers were exploited so, as he explained, “From the moment our first rug came off the loom, we made certain we had GoodWeave® certification!”
Starting a rug business was not Tenzin’s immediate goal. First came an engineering degree, which was followed by a stint working with the Tibetan government in exile in community development, specifically in developing cultural entrepreneurship. Tenzin says he learned a lot but decided to seek further education in the U.S. With an MBA from the University of Massachusetts in hand, he and a partner who had experience in rug manufacturing business in Nepal, decided to launch a business. Tenzin felt strongly that developing the rug industry–in particular, the custom rug industry–would be both a rewarding way to preserve the ancient art of Tibetan rug making and strengthen his community of exiles.
Today Artizen Rug Couture is based in Toronto where Woeser oversees the design and manufacturing of wool, silk, linen, and hemp hand-knotted carpets. These all-natural-fiber rugs, Woeser says, aren’t just custom-made, they are “extreme” custom-made. To create a one-of-a-kind, exclusive product, Artizen customers are offered the opportunity to transform any kind of art, photo, or personal design onto a rug. Customers can come to the studio, sit down at a computer, and, with help from the Artizen staff, design their rug in any shape, in any color palette.
Tenzin admits that realizing some of these designs has been challenging. While most Tibetan rugs have no more than ten colors, Artizen has created rugs with as many as 29 colors. “One client wanted to give his girlfriend a present: a photo collage of her made into a rug. That was unique!” Another rug, “Touch Me” was an experiment using high and low pile to get the tactile effect of a Persian Gabbeh. “It was one hundred percent natural wool but,” says Tenzin, “it had the subtle appearance of silk and a pointillist effect. I kind of fell in love with it. It was difficult to let go.”
Among the things Tenzin Woeser is certain never to let go are his business ethics and his deep love for his community of Tibetan exiles. Noting that his community places great value on education as a way out of poverty, he wants to make sure the children of the weaving industry get an education too. Toward that end, he is working with GoodWeave to end child labor in the rug industry.
For more information, visit www.artizenrug.com.