An antique rug can add instant character to a room, each mark of distress offering stories of those who have trodden across it. But what if that rug were distressed in a modern urban environment to write a new chapter in its book? Renowned antique rug retailer Woven Accents has teamed up with Los Angeles–based artist Cole Sternberg and LAXART to produce a collection that answers that very question. Using antique rugs dating back to the late 1800s as canvases, Sternberg screenprinted and painted each piece in the collection to add artistic dimension, then exposed each rug to outdoor elements in iconic Los Angeles locales to augment the distressed look.
Describing her process, Woven Accents creative director Ginna Christensen explains, “For instance, an early-20th-century Indian rug is pounded by the waves on the rocks of Point Dume in Malibu, while others are tramped on the sidewalks of downtown, chlorinated at the bottom of a Hollywood Hills pool and wine-stained at a Griffith Park beggars’ banquet.” Each rug is a relic of ancient history that has effectively taken on a new-world narrative in the name of art.
Christensen was drawn to rugs as a medium for storytelling, developing the collection as a conceptual art project for customers who appreciate the intersection of one-of-a-kind artwork and design. “Most of the pieces in this collection are over 100 years old,” she says. “Now, with the help of Sternberg, the pieces have been infused with a bit of L.A. history, which will hopefully still be celebrated 100 years from now.”
To print the rugs, Sternberg used anywhere from 100 to 500 screens and finished each piece with hand-painted details on a variety of textures, pile heights, and colors. “I wanted to address the elegance of craft, the passing of time, and the earth’s role in this body of work,” says Sternberg. “Each piece is meant to elicit further inspection and questioning. Why are the markings as they are? Where has this rug been and what has it seen?”
The collection, titled “At first it scraped then cooled the skin,” features 10 rugs, each accompanied by a photographic print of the rug captured in its Los Angeles environment. The rugs and their accompanying photographic studies will be on display at LAXART from March 31 to April 3. Additionally, Woven Accents will host a conversation with artist Cole Sternberg at its Los Angeles showroom on April 7.
Scroll for a sneak peek at Christensen’s favorite rugs from the collection.
Christensen’s favorite rugs in the collection are the most well-worn pieces, rich with character created out of distress. This Turkish rug from 1900 spent a day on the bank of the Los Angeles River, surrounded by a contrasting mixture of greenery and decaying industrial buildings.
For “Floatation Device,” Sternberg selected an 1890s Agra rug from India to submerge at the bottom of a Hollywood Hills swimming pool, a process that ended up transforming both the rug and its surrounding environment. “This piece went through the most dramatic color change,” remarks Christensen. “And the rug was not the only thing that changed color.”
A Turkish antique Sivas took on new life from its 1910 creation after being draped over the Sixth Street Bridge in downtown Los Angeles. According to Christensen, “DTLA represents change, exciting creativity, and the grit that is needed to push forward and take risks.”
Using an antique European tapestry rug as his canvas, Sternberg transformed a traditional 1920s piece with a modern, urban edge by bringing it to a strip club on Sunset Boulevard.
This rug, woven in India in 1900, laid among the Malibu sand and surf for a day on its modern Californian journey. Christensen likens the dreamy quality of the ocean to the memories she has of traveling to India. “Its colors, the smiles on the faces of its people, the elephants in the streets,” she recalls. “It somehow does not seem real.”
Which of these unique rugs is your favorite?