Starting a business for any young person has risks. But when Marina Pupchenko launched her Kiev-based PupchaKilim, she was launching the only rug business in the country offering hand woven Indian and Nepalese carpets. And, she continues with a grin, to add to the challenge, decorating with rugs in Ukraine was considered absolutely passé. Marina, undaunted, set out to show the buying public that 21st-century carpets created with ancient techniques were indeed art for a modern home and, she adds with emphasis, buying such a rug could also help people in less privileged societies. “Having the GoodWeave® certification,” she explains, “is my way of showing customers that everything is ethical and done the right way.”
Her custom rugs, with their bold colors, unusual shapes and combination of techniques are whimsical and sometimes, she says, delightfully unpredictable. Unpredictable too was her trajectory to rug design. She reels off the list of her past experience which includes flight attendant, magazine editor, auction house assistant and a philology student—not the typical route to her business. But from childhood there was one constant: she loved to draw and paint. Laughing, she explains, that often to her teachers’ dismay, her schoolwork and schoolbooks were filled with her visual meanderings. She was always wondering what she could do with her passion for drawing. Eureka! Start turning them into rugs. “My friends thought I was crazy,” she says laughing.
Needless to say, Marina hasn’t looked back, and Ukraine’s rug-buying public has been treated to a panoply of colorful and quirky rugs such as Pineapple in Japan, a flat woven and hand-tufted wool piece in maroon, deep blue and green, inspired by iconic Japanese animator Hayao Miyazaki. Another rug, the hand-tufted African Sunset with its fronds and fringe practically leaping off the rug’s rectangular shape, challenges our very notion of what shape a rug should be. Perhaps her most complicated piece, she says, is influenced by a Matisse painting. This one superimposes two smaller rugs woven into the primary carpet.
Marina’s “out-of-the-box” creations have definitely found a market in what was a tradition-bound Ukraine. To say her rugs are unusual is a delightful understatement. And that is what she aims for. Every “next” rug, she says, will be more inventive than the previous. PupchaKilim studio offers “a bit of humor,” more than a bit of quirky design and a great deal of fun. The rugs surprise with pleasant visual tricks, a kind of hand-woven legerdemain that has sections of the carpet bursting out of their rectangular frames, different colors and styles of tassel flourish in the same rug, with inspirations coming from sources as diverse as contemporary Japanese manga to the 19th-century Fauvism of Matisse.
She admits that her unusual choices have been a challenge to her weavers, whom she admires not only for their traditional craftsmanship but also for their patience and humor they show with each of her designs. “Being with GoodWeave is my way of saying thank you to them. I am happy that I can contribute to the weavers’ lives. It is truly an honor for me.”
Learn more about PupchaKilim at pupcha.com.