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WARP AND WEFT "I pArtIculArly lovE ThE sToRiEs bEhind TExTilEs — they're Not just beAutIful objects, they're hisToRy. We cAN lEARn so much About culTuREs just by sTudying ThEiR TExTilEs." — Carol Piper By ReBecca SheRman. PhOTOGRaPhy ana hOP. T he small textiles studio tucked away inside carol Piper Rugs is often where designers head first when they want to be inspired, says Sanaa Sahi, who assembles the collection of rare and unusual textiles with showroom owner carol Piper. Shelves overflow with vintage and antique fabric remnants and pillows, which are a joy to rifle through. "We encourage people to be tactile, to come in and play, pick up a fabric and have fun imagining how to use it in a project," Sahi says. With people rifling through more than 1,000 fabrics, things get jumbled fast, but the dig and hunt is part of the fun. Inventory includes heavy Japanese meisen silk from the mid-20th century, vintage american quilts, 17th-century european tapestries, vintage Pierre cardin screen-printed fabrics from Robert altman's estate, chinese wedding blankets, Kuba cloths from africa, and ancient Ikat fabrics from asia, africa, and South america. For Piper, who studied weaving at camden art Institute in London, textiles have long been a passion. "I particularly love the stories behind textiles — they're not just beautiful objects, they're history. We can learn so much about cultures just by studying their textiles." One of the oldest acquisitions at the studio includes a piece of 17th-century cloth from nigeria, featuring the type of embroidery influenced by Spanish missionaries living in the country hundreds of years ago. But not everything is precious or valuable. "We try to get special things that designers can use in their projects," Piper says, "But we also buy things that are charming and not necessarily valuable." Both Piper and Sahi do the buying, foraging for rarities at textile fairs and specialty flea markets throughout the U.S. and abroad. Sahi's background in Oriental and african studies from the University of London comes in handy, she says, when tracing the history of textiles to purchase. They also cultivate relationships with dealers, including one in new york known for buying textiles from museums selling off their collections. not too long ago, Piper and Sahi spotted a man selling textiles in a corner of a flea market in Los angeles. The collection was outstanding, and after some discussion he invited them to his house to see his private collection. "he travels the world, and he had textiles stacked up in his living room and piled up in the garage," Piper recalls. "We dug underneath the stacks and found so many treasures. We buy from people like that; we're always heading to the back of warehouses and digging, because that's where the good stuff is." Carol Piper Rugs' textile studio, 1809 W. Gray, 713.524.2442, Carol Piper, Sanaa Sahi 70

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