When Catherine Connolly, Merida’s CEO and owner describes the company’s all-natural fiber rugs, she often uses the word “soulful.” Yes, they are beautiful, she says, and yes, sustainable, but she insists, “It is the human piece that is so important, the artisan and the craftsmanship. Our aspiration,” she continues, “is to create jobs that help people raise their families.” And to that end, Merida is not only helping rebuild the weaving industry in the old Massachusetts mill city of Fall River, but she has teamed up with GoodWeave to support weavers in Nepal and India.
Catherine says the Merida team has been interested in GoodWeave’s work for a very long time. Recently, when the company decided to explore adding hand knotted, hemp rugs to their collection of all natural carpets, the chance to work directly with a GoodWeave certified manufacturer in Nepal arose. “We joined right away because we wanted to make sure from day one that we were getting rugs free of child labor,” she says. But more than that she continues. “We want to support the GoodWeave programs that help the children of weavers get their educations!”
Merida’s commitment to sustainability is well known. Working with the GoodWeave certified manufacturers in Nepal is also giving Merida the opportunity to explore creating rugs from, Himalayan nettle, Catherine says. The company is already known to go to great lengths to find naturally grown and quality raw materials such as sisal, jute, abaca, and–of course–wool and linen for their rugs.
For example, the linen used in Merida rugs comes from Belgium (where it is also processed and dyed) and is sourced by one of the oldest linen houses in the world–“the sommeliers of linen,” Catherine says. The jute in rugs such as Merida’s best-selling “Bora Bora” is grown and woven into braids in Kolkata by women are employed in cottage industries that, Catherine says, support and educate the women’s families. The sisal, grown in Kenya and woven in Belgium, is featured in Merida’s new rug, “Antwerp,” a black, copper and blonde piece that is a riff on the old cobblestones on the streets of Antwerp. The sisal rugs, Catherine says, have a special and almost inexplicable vibrancy. Looking at two of Merida’s traditional patterns, “Broadway” and “Madagascar,” as the light in a room changes during the day, she says, makes it seem almost as if the rugs are alive.
Merida’s wool rugs–found in elegant hotels from New York to Berlin–are made with British and New Zealand wool, then woven and finished in Fall River, the once vibrant American textile city. This heritage is important to Merida, and the company tries to honor that history in a number of ways. Each rug in Merida’s 100% flat-weave wool collection “Tailormade” is inspired by the designs of sophisticated menswear and named in honor of an old Fall River mill family. For example, “Slater” is a modern take on plaid. “Flint” is a kind of herringbone with traditional whip stitching and “Harris” is a subtle herringbone. More significantly, however, Catherine Connolly says, Merida hopes to bring back the spirit of the old mill town by creating a real path to craftsmanship in the company itself. “We have craftspeople now,” she says, but through apprenticeships we can create more than just a workforce with good wages. We can give those workers a chance to learn old-world and modern crafts.” Catherine says her dream is to create value in the marketplace for handcrafted products and raise consciousness about the worth of those who make the products. “And GoodWeave shares those values,” she says. “That’s why we joined.”
To find out more about Merida go to www.meridastudio.com.