As well as being a talented maker of wonderful kids books such as A Bit Lost and Shh! We Have a Plan, Chris Haughton is a fervent supporter of all things fair trade. The combination of these passions led him to rug makers in Nepal and the launch of Made by Node. These beautiful handmade rugs became an instant hit when they were first exhibited at the Design Museum a couple of years ago. Here, Chris tells us the journey he took to get that project off the ground.
The rugs made by Kumbeshwar are very beautiful. How did you discover Kumbeshwar Technical School?
I had been working as a designer for fair trade for the last ten years, mainly for the company People Tree but also as a volunteer. The work that came back was so beautifully hand-made that it gave me the idea to some day go over and somehow work directly with the makers and see what else we could develop. In 2010, I finished a children’s book and had some time and a little money so I moved to India and Nepal and ended up staying there for eight months. People Tree introduced me to Kumbeshwar and when I saw the rugs being made I was totally hooked. They are so beautifully made. Not only that but Kumbeshwar has such an inspiring history, it was set up as a non-profit by a family from the lowest caste who owned a successful business and wanted to help the rest of their caste out of poverty. It seemed like an amazing thing to team up with.
When you started Made by Node, did you ever dream it would grow into such a successful project and be exhibited at the Design Museum?
Not at all, no! When I went over to Nepal to work on other fair trade projects I never imagined the success it would have. I started having the rugs made while I was out there, taking photos of their progress on the loom and showing my friends on Twitter and on my blog. When I posted images of the rugs online it went viral and there was a lot of interest in both the objects and the story behind them. One post got a quarter of a million views! I was interviewed by Eyemagazine, Fastcompany and others and people began emailing me with orders but I was unable to facilitate these myself. Illustrators and designers were asking me to create rugs with their images and I couldn't facilitate this either. I sought the help of Akshay, a Nepalese friend I had met in Kathmandu. Akshay, like myself is interested in social business and madebynode.com was set up as a non-profit.
What's next in your fair trade adventures?
We have just launched a show in Patio Herreriano Museum of Contempoary Art in Valladolid, Spain which features Oliver Jeffers, Nadia Shireen, Jon Klassen, Kitty Crowther and others. It runs until September.
I am designing one of the children's wards for the brand new Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel, London. It is a fantastic commission and we are putting specially framed rugs in every room, hopefully it will give the rooms a little more cosiness and warmth. Hopefully it will be a much more pleasant place to spend some time in if you are poorly.
We are also weaving custom rugs, if anyone has any ideas to have their artwork or designs made into a rug, please let us know! We have had rugs woven for wedding/ birthday gifts and everything from historic local maps to personal sketches all made into rugs. They cost from £250 per square metre incl all shipping.
Finally, if you could have one childhood memory on a rug, what would it be? If you asked me as a child I would probably have wanted a dinosaur rug! Not only that but I could have drawn a pretty accurate stegosaurus or diplodocus for it!! In fact, kids drawings work particularly well on rugs. The rugs themselves will last many lifetimes and what a beautiful object to remember childhood, curled up on a rug in a quiet corner reading a story together with parents or grandparents.
Thank you Chris! We feel an Anorak rug need coming on. For more information on Made by Node, visit here.