Consider this one simple fact. It tells you a lot about Petra Singh and her rug company, New York-based Equator Production. The very first weaving facility that she and her late husband Ranbir Singh chose to use for their unique artist-designed carpets was the charitable workshop of the Dalai Lama. “From the beginning we never wanted to use child labor and from the beginning we always wanted to give something back,” she says of the couple’s first venture into the rug business in 1985. More than three decades later, she says her partnership with GoodWeave ® helps reinforce her mission to make sure that the process of Equator’s production is as “beautiful” as the products.
Not only beauty but also authenticity, artisanship and community are important to Petra Singh (herself a painter and art collector). From the hand-sorted raw Himalayan wool to the non-toxic dyes used to make the rugs, Equator’s production process is traditional and authentic. Every carpet is handmade in Nepal by artisans practicing a centuries old craft. The rug designs, however, are thoroughly modern. They are created by a slate of contemporary figures from the international art world such as German conceptual artist Rosemarie Trockel, Austrian, Heimo Zobernig and Canadian Ken Lum. Equator’s signed limited edition hand-knotted wool artworks are shown in galleries and museums throughout the world and sought after by individual art collectors.
It is this marriage of contemporary art and a most traditional craft that contributes to the uniqueness of each rug created by Equator and it is that collaboration that most fascinates Petra. “I have always liked to combine the traditional with contemporary art,” she says. To that end Petra Singh not only enlists leading edge art practitioners to design rugs for Equator Productions, she also looks for opportunities to bring together artists in other disparate fields in the salons she regularly hosts in New York. What she finds so interesting at the art soirees she organizes is the element of surprise and spark of creativity that emerges from the meeting, for example, of a classical pianist and a performance artist.
Surprise and delight are also features of Equator’s rug designs for the museums, galleries and institutions that buy them and often for the artists themselves. For the artists, she says, the initial challenge is to translate their art and concept to the carpet. That leads to some “back and forth and fine tuning” between artist and artisan. But the rewards are innumerable, she says. “The artists are often surprised that the rug has surpassed what even they thought it would be.”
Musing on why carpets are such an interesting medium, she believes there is something profoundly intimate about hand-woven rugs. They have certain energy and allure that come from the emotional engagement of both the artists who design them and the weavers who execute the design. “Carpets are like good friends.” One of her favorite rugs (she has many) is a Rosemarie Trockel small carpet on which monkeys on a green background play with a ball. There were only six she says with nostalgia. “Every time I sold one, it actually hurt me to have it leave.” Her passion for the art and the craft is palpable.
Underlying all Petra Singh’s work and the underpinnings of Equator Production itself is not only an aesthetic imperative to create beautiful objects. The foundation of her work is built on a reverence for culture and a commitment to serve the community. That is something she learned as a child from her father growing up in Stuttgart. “When you do something do it right and do it for good,” she recalls him telling her often. One way of continuing to do good, she believes, is working with GoodWeave to insure that the weaving process is as beautiful as the product. “It makes me happy to help the weavers. They make something beautiful for me and what I can give them helps create more beauty in their lives.”
To learn more, visit www.equatorproduction.com.