Author Archives: Nisha

The End of the Arastan Journey

Arastan Studio

That I enjoy what I do is well known. But what is less known is that my husband and I have financed the Arastan proof of concept knowing that we would need external investment to take our vision forward. Unfortunately, we have not been able to raise the investment we need. The business is too early and too small for professional investors, and we needed one person who has the financial wherewithal and an interest in artisanal livelihoods to come in as a financial partner and stay through to the stage we could go to professional investors or banks. We never found that person.

And so we close. Our last day for trading will be 31 January 2014 and everything we have in-store and online must go. Prices have been marked down to reflect this and there is many a bargain to be had.

The vision was to expand sourcing …

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The Unassuming Indian Dhurrie

Dhurrie Weaver using Vertical Loom

Most Indians have dhurries at home – they are the default choice of floor covering readily available across the country in every size and colour possible. For this reason, other than making the distinction between a Shyam Ahuja dhurrie (these were very stylish and very expensive when I was young) and all others, I never really paid much attention to them. That is, until I saw some flat weaves in Morocco and it struck me that we make more interesting and high quality ones back home.

India has a rich tradition of floor decorations. Done to invoke blessings for the home using simple rice paste, and at times flower petals and bright colours, these have become an art form in their own right. There are regional differences such as Alpana in West Bengal, Mandana in Rajasthan, Muggu (or Muggulu) in Andhra Pradesh.

Equally interesting is the variety of floor covering …

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Is a Hand-tufted Rug for Me?

Jaipur Rugs Tufting Centre in Mirzapur

Hand-tufted rugs are a new phenomenon, as compared to the hand-knotted carpets and dhurries we are more accustomed to seeing. A hand-tufted carpet is woven by inserting and pulling back strands of wool into a mesh canvas that is stretched on a frame – think wool tapestry in needlework class! The weaving is done using a manually operated tufting gun. When the ‘tufting’ is complete, the rug is washed and cut (if it is a cut-pile rug) and a woven canvas backing applied to the back with latex glue to hold the tufts in place (i.e. no knotting).

Tufted rugs are gaining in popularity. They require much less skill from the weaver (typically one week of training is sufficient) and so are easier, faster and, importantly therefore, cheaper to make. The cost can be 2-4 times lower than the equivalent hand-knotted rug and this has fuelled a frenzy of supply …

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Jaipur Rugs: A Remarkable Social Enterprise

NK Chaudhary

The Jaipur Rugs story began in 1978 in a village called Churu in rural Rajasthan. After graduating from college, Mr Nand Kishore Chaudhary decided not to work with his father in his shoe business and instead took a loan of Rs.5,000/- to set up two looms in his backyard. He worked shoulder to shoulder with nine artisans, selling to exporters in Jaipur. From this humble beginning, JAIPUR has grown to over 40,000 artisans across 600 villages selling its branded high quality rugs in over 35 countries.

When you meet Mr Chaudhary you are immediately struck by his humbleness. Even more so when you begin to understand his remarkable vision and ability to implement it. Carpet weaving is an old craft in India and carpets have been exported for centuries. For all of that time weaving has been male centric and somewhat exploitative in nature. For Jaipur to adopt a social enterprise model …

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Jaipur Rugs Sale at Arastan

Ivy Green & Brick Red Hand-knotted Carpet

We are pleased to announce that we are hosting an exhibition of new handmade rugs, in brilliant transitional and contemporary styles, from Jaipur Rugs Company. The collection will include hand knotted carpets, dhurries and hand tufted rugs designed by Jaipur’s in-house design team and through partnerships with renowned designers including Jenny Jones, Chayse Dacoda and Raymond Waites. Beautiful carpets – made from high quality New Zealand wool, silk, art silk, cotton, jute and hemp – available at never to be repeated prices!

Also on show will be select pieces from Jaipur’s Weavers Collection. The concept behind the collection is to have no pre-set design, no design map – just the imagination and colour choices of the best weavers from Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh. Each rug took more than 6 months to be created and is unique, not only because it bears the name of the weaver, but also because it …

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Growing Arastan

So, I have all but disappeared from this blog over the past few months. What have I been up to? I have been working on weaving our own collection of high quality cotton dhurries, starting to produce our own range of earthenware ceramic and focussing on growing Arastan. All incredibly exciting!

Putting together our own collections involve long lead times so I have to be patient – not a virtue I commonly exhibit! May was our best non-exhibition month to date and it prompted me to think about why. I think part of it is our authenticity. I started Arastan to share and that will always remain at the core of all we do. I recently wrote to customer service of a popular online store asking why they have a voucher scheme that is illegal under contract law and completely unnecessary. Customers buy because they like your products, I said, …

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Arastan at Good Earth in Mumbai

Pakistani Tribal Kurta Cushion, Arastan at Good Earth

We had a wonderful ten days at Good Earth in Bombay. Saw lots of our old customers and many new ones. The space we had was lovely although with carpets you simply cannot have enough. The Good Earth team were warm and gracious and our accessories looked so beautiful mixed with Good Earth’s furnishings. Then there was the master class in visual merchandising: Mrs Lal is brilliant at it and has clearly inculcated it in the organisation.

As well as the carpets, our latest collections of ottomans, cushions and ceramic were enthusiastically appreciated but the highlight was probably our tribal cushions – especially the bright and colourful tribal kurta cushions which all sold out!

Some of my favourite carpets from the collection (as you can tell I have many!):

If you liked anything you saw but didn’t get a chance to come back, contact me on nisha@arastan.com. We ship globally (well nearly …

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A tribute to Abdurauf Avezov, the gentleman Bukharan master craftsman

Abdurauf Avezov 1955-2012

Abdurauf Avezov was born in the old town of Bukhara in 1955 and completed his secondary schooling in a local Russian school. He started working in copper-chasing when he was twenty under the tutelage of Hasan, a master in the craft. Over the years he developed his own unique style using mainly vegetal patterns. He travelled widely showcasing his work especially to the countries of the former Soviet Union but more recently stayed home and completed orders that went to Germany, France, Italy, England and to us in India. Over the years he trained four students who eventually migrated from Uzbekistan and gave up the craft.

Yesterday I heard that Abdurauf passed away. I liked him. He was my best supplier and symbolised all that is Arastan. He knew I trusted his sense of design and never disappointed, sending me stunning work every time always on time. He took it …

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Reflections on 2012 – The Negatives!

Thank You Couriers and Octroi Inspectors

So there were a lot of good things to look back on from 2012, but it wasn’t all rosy…

Suppliers

Whilst artisans have been great to work with I have also had my share of disappointments, such as the Moroccan supplier who took my upfront payment and failed to deliver a third of the goods. In India we have found a few gems (like the brass inlay work) but have had to work through many potential suppliers who may produce great stuff but have been unreliable to work with for various reasons, including doubling the cost to me when I tried to repeat order, or complaining that I am being unreasonable when I reject their badly damaged goods through insufficient packaging. We ensure that we select only high-quality products for Arastan, and therefore demand attention to detail and quality work from our suppliers, and many do not fit the grade!

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Reflections on 2012

Tibetan Katagami Carpet

As I sit on a beach in Sri Lanka enjoying a well overdue holiday – though Mike claims otherwise, my travels for Arastan are hard work and not holiday! – I thought it worth reflecting on the year gone by for Arastan. (I am a bit distracted by the beautiful woven reed mats available here, but must stop – this is supposed to be a family holiday and not another sourcing trip!)

2012 was a good year for Arastan. There have been some great moments and I’ve picked a few to reflect on.

Products

I am sure there is no end to the wealth of high-quality unique products that can be sourced for Arastan. A few of my particular favourites that I came across this year were the beautifully woven Tibetan rugs from Sikkim and the Iroqi embroidery from Shakrisabz. It was also an enjoyable foray into fabricating some of our own, combining …

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  • Welcome to Arastan

    Arastan was an online store that curated rare and handpicked treasures from exotic bazaars along the ancient silk route. Unfortunately we ceased trading in early 2014.

    You can read about the reasons for closure.

    You can still browse some of the products we used to have via the category links above, although none of these are available for purchase.

    Relive our travels and stories by browsing our articles and archives from the menus below.

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