Meet the German-born rug designer whose work is inspired by imperfection and faded beauty
Despite being descended from two generations of carpet dealers,
Jan Kath never intended to follow in his parents’ footsteps. But at the age of 20, while backpacking through Asia, the German-born rug designer found himself in Nepal, where friends of his family offered him a job as a quality manager at their carpet production business. ‘ When I was a boy, my father and I visited manufacturers in Iran and Turkey, which trained my eye and gave me a fundamental understanding of colour combinations and proportions,’ says Kath. ‘ When I arrived in Kathmandu, my connection with the carpet world was re-established. I took control of the manufacturing process, then later began to produce original designs, developing my own style.’ Fast forward 24 years and Kath is one of the world’s most in-demand carpet manufacturers, with rugs exhibited globally and work scooping multiple industry prizes, including a Carpet Design Award and a prestigious Red Dot Award.
Global recognition first came with Kath’s 2005 ‘Erased Classic’ collection. Based on traditional oriental designs, the rugs were woven, then treated with a lengthy finishing process. ‘ We used fire and water to age the rugs until they became thin and looked a hundred years old,’ says Kath. ‘The whole process can take up to a month.’ Since then, imperfection and erosion have continued to play a central role in his work. His new ‘Heiter Bis Wolkig’ collection also plays on the idea of faded beauty, with pastel cloudscapes inspired by the church paintings of Baroque artists unfurling over faint scrolled patterns. Despite a love of the distressed, Kath is steadfastly uncompromising about quality – carpets are hand-woven in Nepal, Thailand, India and Morocco using the finest materials ( jan-kath.de).
‘ We used fire and water to age the rugs until they became thin and looked 100 years old’