I am on a constant search for design vendors that provide artistry, outstanding quality, good value, and fair labor practices. Let me tell you, it ain’t easy. American labor is very expensive. The price might be fair, but it can still be hard to afford! And lots of stuff that comes out of Asia is most likely made in factories that would horrify our post-post-industrial-revolution-workers’-rights little souls.
A few months ago, I did a random Google search for “flame stitch rug” after seeing a drop-dead gorgeous example in a design magazine. Scrolling through images, I saw one that stopped my pointer finger in its tracks:
The link was to Julie Dasher Rugs.
Julie Dasher: Artistry & Quality without Exploitation
In her prior life, Julie Dasher was an MBA with her own business, hired by Fortune 500 companies like 3M and General Mills to help “trailing spouses” find work in her then-hometown of Minneapolis. Her advice to them: “Find a job that you love, and you’ll never work another day in your life.”
(For those of you who don’t know what a trailing spouse is: According to Wikipedia, a trailing spouse is “a person who follows his or her life partner to another city because of a work assignment. The term is often associated with people involved in an expatriate assignment but is also used by academia on domestic assignments.” Yep, that would be me over the last 10 years. I never knew!)
Anywho! Despite being engrossed in corporate America, Julie always kept the right half of her brain active with what she loved, mostly with her long-time hobby of … (drumroll…) … quilting! But one fine day, she decided to heed her own advice. She had a little idea in her head of turning some of her quilting and embroidery patterns into rugs. So, in her own words (approximately), “One day I sent a lot of money to a person I didn’t know in Nepal, along with the embroidery silks I’d gotten at Joann’s. About two months later, I got a call from the airport saying that there was a big rug waiting for me in freight.”
That first rug graces Julie’s dining room today.
With lots of encouragement from her family, Julie started Julie Dasher Rugs with the goal of providing the highest quality handmade wool and silk rugs that were completely customizable. Furthermore, despite launching in the singularly unfortunate year of 2008 and ongoing heavy competition from much bigger outfits, Julie’s business has grown and grown over the last 9 years. In fact, she readily admits that, had she done the proper market research prior to starting (“My business professors would roll over in their graves if they knew that I didn’t do any!”), the company would never have gotten off the ground at all.
How does she do it? Julie credits two points of differentiation: 1. The one-on-one service she provides designers. I was amazed that, when I called the company, Julie picked up the phone herself! I was a bit flustered, in fact, expecting to get customer service. But, nope, the number on the website goes right to her office. All your questions can be answered straight from the horse’s mouth. And 2. Highest quality at the best value. Julie Dasher Rugs doesn’t have showrooms or their associated overhead. The value stays high because of Julie’s direct link to her suppliers in Nepal, Turkey, and India.
The Nitty Gritty
Julie’s rugs are all hand-knotted and feature Tibetan manufactured in Nepal. The wool used from Himalayan sheep is considered to be the best in the world due to its texture, strength, luster and stain-resistant properties. The dyes are 100% eco-friendly Swiss Ceiba. For shimmering highlights, weavers use Chinese silk or Nylon. (Julie stays away from art silk in all its various forms due to inability to get wet, either with cleaning or accidental spills.)
Highly skilled weavers hand card the wool into strands and spin it to prepare it for custom coloring and hand weaving. At 100 psi, that’s about 1 million knots for a 9 x 12 rug.
As a part of the design process, clients receive custom renderings, a strike off (sample) for relatively little, and a picture of their rugs on the loom.
Julie Dasher Rugs is a GOODWEAVE-licensed (certified no-child-labor) importer and donates a percentage of its profits to help the GOODWEAVE Foundation in its efforts to prevent child labor in the rug-making industry. The donation also helps the children of Nepal and India through education and other social services. So you don’t have to feel like you’re walking on the backs of small children as you cross your living room floor.
As of now, there are more than 350 designs in Julie’s repertoire, all completely color and size customizable. She also takes designers’ own drawings, like this one from Angela Parker, owner of Interior Places and Spaces in Minneapolis, for the Library in the 2012 ASID Showcase Home.
Let’s see more pretty rugs in situ, shall we?
My favorite part of Julie’s website is that you can take any one of her hundreds of designs and custom color it on the spot. I had fun with this one.
Some other gorgeous patterns. Don’t let the colors scare you, because every single one can be changed!
The kicker? Julie Dasher Rugs are available to the trade only. 🙁 The good news? They are available through Home Glow Design! 🙂 Any takers?
A rug is a fabulous inspiration for a room. If you feel so inspired, give me a buzz. Otherwise, ’til next week!