In May 2018 we traveled overseas to Portland, Oregon, one of my favorite cities in the US and home of my soulful trader and dear friend Christiane Millinger.
Our target was more than ambitious. All the interior photoshoots for the new magazine had to be shot within a period of 8 days. We organized 6 beautiful Portland homes where we placed the rugs and shot them in the interior with the incredibly talented local photographer Laurie Black.
Michael Christie, The Ruggist and Editor of Rug Insider flew in from the East Coast and we had a night to celebrate before the start of our adventure the next morning. We loaded the rugs at Christiane’s rug gallery on Lovejoy Street and made our way to the first location on our early morning cruise through the streets of Portland.
The second we saw Laurie and her husband Marc waiting at the set at 8 AM, we all knew it would be a magical week. Adding Laurie to the team gave us just what we needed to truly capture the essence of Portland in every picture. The days spent working on this project were full of enthusiasm, the team around Christiane was adorable and even though the work was very exhausting, we were joyful at every moment.
The main focus for this project was our latest Waterlily Collection, which I also call the Portland Poetry Collection. At first glance, they are a combination of mostly primary colors or clear black and white divisions in a blurred block – a fresh, bold and clear message in Persian weave. The audience might see a play of geometric fields in these designs, but for me, it is a question of what is geometric and what is landscape, as we place these rugs in the interior.
Please hug a tree and keep Portland weird!
… and the fringe flippers.
How many houses did you cover in the Intimacy Berlin shoots?
In the last 3 years, I set up my project IntimacyBerlin. I shoot my work in 29 real homes of friends or friends of friends of mine in Berlin. We do not pay for the location, which is a very important detail in the whole process, as we come into their homes with a lot of respect and the final pictures need to reflect the soul and the ethics of the families who live in these interiors. The intension is to show and prove the beauty of diversity. By now we’ve shot 260 different interiors. With this wide range, I like to prove the ability of the hand-knotted area rugs to reflect light, atmosphere and emotions. The perfect research lab to confront my work with daily life and to give answers if my storytelling patterns do work on the floor and if they do work with art. For both questions to the pictures proof now, yes they can.
In May 2018 we started to shoot in homes in Portland, Oregon, NorthWest Pacific USA. Within 6 days we produced 60 interior shoots in 6 American homes, all friends of my local trader and friend Christiane Millinger. The result is stunning and the whole process a magical experiment that made me addicted and wants to be continued. To shoot overseas, be confronted not only in interior but also in working ethics with another culture, to shoot with a new photographer and to be surrounded with a new team helping to translate my wishes as an art director and lifting whole living rooms and moving hundreds of small details around is a challenge which only works if you let it flow and trust your structured intuition. Haha, that sounds strange but is true. I learned a lot with this project: In case we like to operate as a company in different cultural markets, take your merchandize and proof how your product looks in their reality. The experience was beautiful and educational for everybody being involved. It was a real blast.
Did you use the same approach for the Portland project as Intimacy Berlin?
For the shooting in Portland, we used the same approach as we did in Berlin. In autumn 2017 I visited the 6 homes in Portland first time. It is very important on different levels. First, it is important for me to see the homes in advance to make snapshots, and with these in the weeks later a detailed storyboard of which rug we will shoot from which perspective in which room. If you miss this step, you might manage 3-4 nice shoots, but we are used to managing around 8-12 and this needs a lot of detailed planning in advance. Besides this, it is very important to meet the homeowners and understand how they see their homes. The results need to pick up their view and underline their hopes and wishes, otherwise, you fail your intension to show the diversity and you might disappoint a homeowner, as he can not participate in the results. A quite complex process, but it adds the soul to the project and makes the project improve again and again. Aesthetics can be a trap, I am aware of it and I try to develop constant structures to be open and use aesthetics as a language which changes constantly.
How did you choose the 6 houses for Portland?
It needs a lot of social engagement in case you like to shoot in private homes for free and this social engagement might be the magical ingredient and eponym of the project “Intimacy”. In Berlin I used to cook for the homeowners, in Portland, I felt welcome and made new friends and learned a lot about how people live in the US. Home is a very private space, you need to earn the access, especially when you come at 8 AM and stay until dawn and move things around, which can appear as chaos in some delicate moments. Of course, all this was only possible due to the emotional and physical support of Christiane Millinger and her team, I feel blessed and grateful for this experience. In the end, we called our self “sparkle pants and the fringe flippers”, a soulful time where we laughed so much and each evening realizing the hurtful muscle pain of lifting and schlepping interior and rugs around.
You focused on the Waterlily Collection and NewTribal but what determined the other rugs you used? How many rugs did you take?
For the shooting IntimacyPortland I placed the focus on our two latest collections Waterlily and NewTribal, both collections have been developed for the US market, so it was a clear and great match. Besides the aesthetics, both collections allow me in the development to use a lower knot count and with this to establish a new product segment on a lower price point which was requested from the US market. Our success on the NY rug show in late August 2018 was the new 9/9 Persian knot quality which we use in Waterlily and the 8/8 Turkish knot count, which we use in NewTribal. For the shooting IntimacyPortland I also had to ship rugs from Berlin, as there is always the intuition for the one perfect rug for the one particular room situation and after 15 years, we are mostly right with our preselection. So I think we had to ship one or two full wood palettes of rugs from Berlin and Chicago to make this shooting work as perfect as it did. The logistic behind photoshoot with 60 perfect scenes can be quite challenging, haha, but I love this kind of work.
In your eyes, what did the rugs bring to the chosen spaces? Did it change the mood of the room often?
The rugs are the soul fields of the room, they have an amplifier effect on the existing interior. They do have a strong architectural dimension, able to create a room within a room, define resting areas from walking areas, and as they are textile rooms. Rugs are hospitality in the interior, I love how they can embrace the people, as they are textile and liberal architecture. A rug in the interior is 100% a mood changer and most likely always for the better.
Which is your favorite setting?
When you ask me what is your favorite setting it is hard to answer. The beauty is the diversity they are representing, I love to read and see between the pictures, as it tells stories of the people who live in these homes. When there are kids in the house, I make sure to get some kids’ toys and place them on the kitchen table or the sofa. Interiors are only the framework, where hopefully a family manages to be happy with each other. This is where I like to be connected. This is my Intimacy.
Which Intimacy projects are next?
In September I flew to Chicago and we managed to finalize 6 stunning homes for our next project IntimacyChicago. Oscar and Sarkis Tatosian with their company Oscar Isberian Rugs support me a lot and I feel blessed to get access to their friends’ homes, these are truly soulful and very emotional moments for me. One of the homes is located in the famous Lakeshore Drive 860-880, these are two towers at lake Michigan built by Mies van der. The towers are an architectural icon of the international style from 1951. Beginning of June we will shoot the 6 homes in 6 days, again with the very talented photographer Laurie Black, who already shot the pictures in Portland.
Through Sarkis, I met David Adler who represents Rug Star now in Arizona. In March I will spend a week with David and we will visit desert homes. My goal is to find some good desert homes in Arizona and some mountain homes in Colorado, so we can make one full theme with country homes in the US. We will produce this second project already right after the NY Rug Show in September. Haha, looks like I will spend most of my time 2019 in the US, but truly I can not get enough from this challenging work. It is worth the pressure and physical pain :), it connects me aesthetical and emotional and I can work on my beloved theme which is diversity, what more can I ask for.