I was walking in San Francisco's Mission district on Friday night and spotted a big glowing sign that said 'Felt Rugs'. A whole shop devoted to felt rugs in a prime location! I went back to visit yesterday and met the people who run it. Dodd and Melina Raissnia are a husband and wife team who have been running their business for 15 years. They make high-quality felt rugs and sell them all over the world. They even have people buying their hefty wool pieces in hot countries like Thailand. I guess air-conditioning means that furnishing a room to match your local climate isn't such a big deal anymore.
Dodd is originally from Iran, where he and Melina made their first pieces. They showed me some beautiful old rugs that they collected along the way - I have never seen such fine felt craftsmanship in person before.
It's surprising that not many Iranians I speak to know about Iran's great felt heritage. Dodd said that its almost impossible to find felt pieces today and that his is probably the finest (and possibly only) collection in the world from the 30s and 40s. He said that even the craftspeople whom he bought these rugs from have forgotten how to make them. Imagine that.
Is it not a sign that civilisation is moving backward when we lose our library of tools and techniques? Or is it just that this beautiful craft has become obsolete because it is no longer considered valuable to society. Reminds me of a quote I read from David Abraham of Abraham & Thakore - something along the lines of 'tradition is only relevant when it is useful'. But surely beauty is a utility too.