Heading up a high-end rug company was not something Tibetan-born Kesang Tashi set out to do when he left India for prestigious Dartmouth College. Nor was that his goal in graduate school at University of Wisconsin, where he concentrated on Buddhist history and thought. It was not until after a stint in international banking that his entrepreneurial spirit and desire for social change led him to seek a new challenge. Combining his business background and love of his ancestral homeland he launched InnerAsia, a company dedicated to revitalizing Tibet’s precious craft of rug weaving. Tashi’s collaboration with GoodWeave®, an organization whose work he says is consistent with the principles of his Buddhist heritage, helps him do that. “Commerce and compassion go hand in hand,” says Kesang.
Today InnerAsia is making an impact — not only socially but also artistically. InnerAsia’s carpets, whether the classic Gangchen Collection or the company’s more contemporary collections, are hand woven from the finest hand-carded and hand-spun wool from Tibetan highland sheep and dyed using ancient techniques.
In fact, many InnerAsia designs, whether in pure wool or in wool-silk blends, are inspired by traditional Tibetan patterns from the 1920’s and 1930’s. According to Kesang (who, not surprisingly, wrote the definitive book on this period), this era witnessed a renaissance of Tibetan rug weaving. In addition to restoring the traditional patterns, he also reinterprets some of the designs, always being careful to honor their lineage. As well, he hunts out other Tibetan images. A favorite rug of his, Healing Botanical from the Shangri-La Collection, is based on traditional paintings of natural medicinals from the Tibet Highlands. After undergoing an elaborate process of transforming the original images, Kesang says the finished pieces suggest thangkas or Tibetan religious paintings.
True to his commitment to share with his clients the richness of culture embedded in handmade rugs as well as the revitalization of lost Tibetan arts, Kesang also handles the work of designers Mary Zicafoose and Sara Goodman, both of whom have served on the GoodWeave USA board. Mary, whose interest is taking ethnically derived imagery into rugs, believes in what she calls “the transformative power of cloth,” while Sara is passionate about the potential of vegetable dyes. Both women are dedicated to a path that weaves craft with social concern. For his part, Kesang is thrilled about the collaboration. “Mary and Sara are devoted to GoodWeave and I want to support them. I’m very excited about the collections,” he says.
Learn more at www.innerasiarugs.com.