Carpet weaving in the workshops of Jan Kath in Nepal

Knotted Art

Over the last two decades, Jan Kath has once again transformed the carpet into a positive must-have. That said, with his collection “Spectrum” he appears to be moving more into the realms of abstract art.
by Fabian Peters | 12/17/2019

They look like a view through a radio telescope into outer space or like the sky over the Arctic Ocean lit up by the Northern Lights – the carpets in Jan Kath’s “Spectrum” collection. His large expanses are replete with swirls of color and cloudlike structures, shapes reminiscent of the glowing cores of meteors or reflections in water, although they nonetheless remain completely abstract. They also look a little bit like anthroposophical paintings. Unlike the approach he took with his “Erased Heritage” or “Polonaise” collections, in the case of “Spectrum” Kath does not take traditional carpet patterns as his starting point, patterns he then abstracts or alienates. Instead, these pieces have completely severed any links to folk art and the centuries-old tradition of ornamentation in Oriental carpets. In this new collection, the carpet is no longer an artisanal artifact but has morphed into contemporary art.

Kath and his team have developed these patterns in a design process in which the most difficult aspect has often been finding the right time to stop. “It is important to find the point when you yourself are satisfied with your design,” is how Dimo Feldmann, who has been designing carpets with Kath for 20 years, describes the methodology. The starting point is always a monochrome expanse, which the designers then, step by step, make ever more nuanced, gradually transforming into an abstract structure by means of various degrees of brightness. The concern here is to maintain a sense of proportion and rhythm, to focus on the overall picture and the way it is structured, to establish harmony in the midst of contrasts. It is only when Kath and his staff have completed this “preparatory drawing” that they start looking into the choice of colors. And only once as the second stage in the process the colors have been selected do they begin to work the design into a knotted sample pattern for manufacturing purposes.

The carpet "Orta" from the collection "Spectrum"
"Nemi" from the "Spectrum" collection

It is now that the experienced staff at Kath’s carpet workshops in Nepal come into play. With their expert knowledge, they translate the designs into plans for the arrangement of the knots. Then several carpet knotters craft the relevant carpet from wool and silk threads on the basis of the plans, in a work process that takes them months. The carpet can boast up to 70 different colors. Incidentally, the wool is dyed exclusively using ecologically friendly pigments and have been sourced from a Swiss supplier. With the carpets in the “Spectrum” collection one of the things that makes the process so particularly complex is the large number of different shades in the color transitions. It takes a considerable degree of artisanal skill and great concentration when knotting to produce a carpet with a harmonious overall appearance. By contrast, the challenge with carpets based on traditional patterns lies more in the finishing, the careful trimming of the almost complete piece, something for which a great deal of experience is needed.

“Spectrum” was launched last year and Kath has now introduced new designs to his collection. The color blue plays the predominant role in a number of these new carpets. Indeed, it is not only the case that “Nemi” and “Orta” have been named after two Italian lakes. With their aqua hues they also immediately bring to mind images of clear water. With “Levico”, by contrast, the pattern appears to consist of stripes of delicate shades of color. Finally, “Tenno” manifests a swirl of colors made up of yellow, red, green and brown – a powerful vortex of colors whose vitality appears to positively electrify the viewer. The new carpets will be presented at Jan Kath’s booth at imm cologne 2020 which will be taking place in Cologne as of January 13.

Jan Kath at the imm cologne 2020 (January 13th to 19th 2020):
hall 3.2, booth F029

Dyed weaving yarns in the workshops of Jan Kath in Nepal