Tom DeMarco, founder of New York-based Kooches, was an early supporter of the GoodWeave® certification program. But what really made DeMarco want to join GoodWeave was learning that its program not only rescued and educated child weavers, it also educated the children of adult weavers: a holistic and sustainable approach.
Tom made a career U-turn in 1984, when he quit his unsatisfying job as a stockbroker and went to work in a family friend’s rug store in Greenwich, Connecticut. What he thought would be a brief way station ended up becoming a lifelong passion. “I wanted to get involved in something that had real tangible value. Working with rugs grounded me,” he says. Tom went on to work for a few major industry players before founding Kooches in 2003, with one overarching purpose: to make the best carpet possible. Every meticulous step of Kooches’ labor-intensive production, from the handmade yarn and expertly crafted vegetable dyes to gentle hand processing, is taken with that aim.
Kooches’ producer, Dorje Shrestha, whom Tom calls the Michelangelo of Nepalese carpet production, shares his meticulous approach to the craft. “Dorje has been in this business since he was 16; he can tell fantastic wool from 50 yards away,” says Tom. “His mom told him at an early age, ‘Make the best rug you can, otherwise you’re going to be stuck with it.’ I think that’s a sound philosophy,” he jokes.
Together, Tom and Dorje are taking the Nepalese carpet to new heights. Tom considers himself a “carpet engineer” and loves experimenting with the endless structural possibilities of rugs, which are really three-dimensional objects with depth, texture and complexity far beyond what is perceived by the untrained eye.
The artisans who execute Kooches designs receive much of the credit for the rugs’ extraordinary beauty. Tom notes how passionate they are about their work, often even wearing clothes to match the carpet they are making. “They work so hard and are so good at what they do,” he says. “Our vision is realized only because Dorje and the workers in Nepal embrace it and possess the knowledge and skill to execute it.”
While most of the rugs manufactured in Nepal these days are contemporary in design, Tom draws inspiration from the time-tested designs of ancient carpets and textiles. “A whimsical modern pattern just doesn’t have the staying power of one that has already been admired for hundreds of years,” he says, while acknowledging that Kooches rugs put a new twist on old themes, by simplifying styles and changing colors, for example.
Kooches carpets are sold around the world through an extensive network of dealers and can also be ordered to each client’s specifications. The rugs can be found in Swiss embassies in a dozen countries and the Museum Ludwig in Cologne, Germany, among other notable venues.
Having witnessed the evolution of the GoodWeave certification program for more than a decade, Tom says it’s clear that “GoodWeave is going to be a helpful force in this industry for a long time coming.” Looking at the craft behind Kooches rugs, it’s clear that the company, like the ancient designs it draws from, will also stand the test of time.
To learn more, go to www.kooches.com.