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Products: Rugs

The trajectory of Olivia Smith’s career in the rug industry is an example of how simply following one’s intuition and curiosity can not only lead to a successful rug business like her Auckland-based Nodi, but also help create a better life for the weavers who make her business possible. Olivia’s passion for textiles, crafts and the artisans, she says, took her from her childhood home in New Zealand to Italy, Japan, India and Australia in service to the art she loves and the cause she cares about, justice for the weavers. Being part of GoodWeave®, an organization that echoes and supports her values, was a perfect fit, she says.  “Of course you treat humans in a humane way. How could you do otherwise?”

Olivia’s was a peripatetic route to founding Nodi, a company that creates hand woven rugs from hand spun, all natural fibres such as jute, cotton and wool. The journey was a collection of eureka moments. For example, while doing an internship in design in Milan she first saw block printed textiles from India. She remembers saying to herself with disbelief, “Wow! They do that?” Then there was a moment during her own stint making hand knotted necklaces when she discovered, she says, that handcrafted things had a joyous and compelling  “imperfect beauty”. And, she says, later, while working at a furniture company in Australia, a single moment when she felt she “discovered” rugs. The pieces fell into place like the lovely knots on her necklaces. “I decided I had to pack up, leave my job and move to India to learn about rugs.” There she visited factories, spent hours with weavers, learned about working conditions, yarns and, of course, India. She even met with jute farmers in their fields.” I wanted to know everything!”

Nodi rugs, one could say, was born over the looms of Panipat, India out of long discussions and collaboration with master weavers. Rugs such as  “Noughts Weave” (a felted wool piece in gray and charcoal) as well as “Seafoam”  (a textured looped jute rug) emerged organically from a process of trial and error and “above all from the inspiration of the yarn itself.” Olivia’s experiments with natural fibers are probably nowhere as dramatic as the Te-Koha rug, which was a project for the New Zealand room at the  Architeturra Biennale in Venice. Te-Koha was woven from New Zealand flax harvested from a heritage New Zealand flax farm. “I loved exploring every step of the process from seed to yarn,” she says.

For Olivia Smith, using natural fibers “given to us from the earth”, as she puts it, is both an aesthetic and even spiritual choice.  Rugs, she says, transform spaces and perhaps even how we relate. “The textures of these rugs create some kind of communal meeting space,” she says. “They spark an emotional engagement.” It is clear that that desire for emotional engagement includes engagement with the weavers too. “I need to be able to consciously put my hand on my heart and say with confidence that the rugs are made in factories where people are treated fairly,” she says.  GoodWeave helps her make sure that happen.

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