American designer Alicia D. Keshishian is known for designing bold, colorful, custom contemporary rugs that are all hand-made in Nepal with Tibetan wool. We thought Contemporist readers might be interested in learning more about her, so we sent her some questions, but before you read them, we suggest watching this short video about her on YouTube – here.
CONTEMPORIST: Tell us about yourself and what you do.
Alicia D. Keshishian: I’ve been an art director, designer, and illustrator for more than 25 years. I began my career in San Francisco and then moved to New York City, where I worked in a variety of different industries including fashion, publishing, music and crafts. Along the way, I won a few awards such as The Society of Publication Designers, Art Directors Club, Art Director’s Creativity, Communication Arts, etc.. Between jobs and coasts I was lucky enough to spend two years as an artist-in-residence exploring surface design at the Penland School in North Carolina.
My true loves have always been color and texture and this comes from my family. There’s a long line of accomplished artists on both sides of my family and my Armenian-born grandfather was a renowned Oriental rug authority. The company he founded decades ago is managed to this day by uncle and my cousin in the Washington, D.C. area. So, carpets have been part of my life as long as I can remember – the smell of the wool, the touch of the fibers, the variety of patterns. It all feels like home to me.
Rugs are an ideal medium for creating a living piece of art. I custom design each piece so that it reflects my client’s sense of style and beauty. The process is collaborative as I work directly with clients or their designer/architect to create a distinctive, personal carpet. We start by deciding on colors and patterns, then apply the design to the size and shape of the space. Each rug is then made to order.
The rugs are hand-made in Nepal with the finest Tibetan wool obtained from high-altitude sheep. This wool produces a very strong yet soft fiber that is rich in natural lanolins and delicious to walk on. Frequently silk is incorporated as an accent, adding a rich luster to the carpets.
The weavers in Nepal use centuries-old weaving techniques, first carding the raw fibers and then spinning and dyeing them. Using 3-ply wool and a traditional Tibetan knot, the weaver creates the rug, the design revealing itself knot by knot, row by row. The result is an original and resilient carpet of extraordinary quality.
More questions after the photos….
CONTEMPORIST: How do you describe your style?
Alicia D. Keshishian: Bold. Fearless. Colorful. Cheerful. Eclectic. I have a broad range of styles within my own style – so I can design contemporary, graphic, and some modern traditional patterns according to the needs of the client. I custom design each piece so that it reflects my client’s sense of style and beauty. I’ve been labeled fearless when it comes to color. Though my personal palette tends toward bold and colorful I am excited to work with designers or clients that have a quieter more subtle palette – it expands my horizon and gives me the opportunity to step outside of myself.
I have a very broad background within the arts. I have designed in so many industries. I have worked for myself – I have worked for companies. I have participated in so many arts and crafts that in concert with my heritage it allows me to offer a strong package to the client.
I think that what doesn’t come across in writing is my overall enthusiasm. I have big energy and drive. I really love what I do and love to share the joy. I love that my designs can be elevated into a functional form and I really really LOVE the craft of it all. I love that it’s an ancient form all created by human hands. I love the marriage of new design with these traditional techniques. I’m grateful to the weavers for bringing my designs to life. They are very much part of the creative process as they apply their skills and expertise to each and every rug.
CONTEMPORIST: What is the best thing about being a designer?
Alicia D. Keshishian: I just love to create – all the time. I prefer being a designer (vs fine artist) because I really enjoy the process of problem solving. Creative solutions to challenges is very exciting to me and collaborative work can be very rewarding. I do fine art in my own time and while it certainly influences my designs I’m a big believer in the integration of design and function. I firmly believe that we can enhance our daily life by surrounding ourselves with good design. This can start at home – beginning with the ground we walk on.
CONTEMPORIST: What is the worst thing about being an designer?
Alicia D. Keshishian: Clients that don’t appreciate what goes into a project and have little or no knowledge or respect of the process. Want quality at Costco prices. Clients without a vision so they change their minds alllllll the time. Lucky for me the vast majority of my clients have been great fun to work with.
CONTEMPORIST: What or who are your major influences?
Alicia D. Keshishian: Travel. Nature. Family. Friendship. I travel as often as I can. It keeps my brain open and my eyes fresh. Every location has different light. Different foliage and terrain. Different cultures with different colors. Different history. The textiles and crafts in each country always intrigue me.
My true loves have always been color and texture and this has come through my family. There’s a long line of accomplished artists on both sides of my family. Painters, photographers, and my Armenian-born grandfather was a renowned Oriental rug authority. The company he founded in 1907 is managed to this day by my cousin and uncle. So, carpets have been part of my life as long as I can remember – the smell of the wool – the feel and texture of pattern and fiber. It all feels like home to me.
Visit Alicia D. Keshishian’s website – here.