Contemporary Art Becomes Rug Design

by Carolyn Edlund

Painter Laura Parker moved beyond the canvas to envision her abstract work as handcrafted rugs. In a recent conversation, we spoke about her journey and the cause she has embraced.


Painter and Rug Designer Laura Parker

Artist Laura Parker has her paintings created as area rugs.


AS: What is the vision you have for your abstract art as rug design?

LP:  I have seen my modern art paintings as rugs for a very long time. I visited the Bauhaus in Berlin in 2011 and was quite drawn to the woven wall hangings throughout the museum. Four years later, I returned and found myself even more fascinated and in love with them. 

I started my company Abstract Road in September of 2018. My vision for the pursuit of turning my original modern painting designs to rugs was primarily to honor this ancient art of weaving by hand, not by machine. I wanted people to know the true artistry required to create rugs by hand from beginning to end. The artist in me also wanted to see if my pieces would actually work as rugs, but that was secondary to my longing to preserve the true beauty of handmade work. I believe it is vital for us to use our hands. They are connected to our minds and our hearts!

In December of 2018, I traveled to Katmandu, Nepal to meet with software engineers at Alternative Technologies and then met with my rug maker, Mr. Puspa Ratna Maharjan, owner of Ujwal Carpets in Nepal. 

He graciously took me to each factory where I was able to see each step of the long process that goes into making a rug. Never have I seen such an involved process of production, and each step done by hand!


Many steps in making rugs in Nepal

Turning art into rug design takes many steps, reflected in these images of Parker’s trip to Nepal to visit wool and rug making factories.


AS: How did you get started in the rug design business?

LP: I would say by sheer drive and determination to take my painting designs to rugs. 

I knew very little about the rug industry or the process. Obviously, I was a rug design beginner, but it was fine by me to be a “newbie.” I’ve always enjoyed learning from great teachers and was surrounded by just that!

I believe in following my artistic vision and always have. It is not necessarily an ongoing money maker when creating and designing this way. My painting teacher of 20 years, Chery Baird out of Atlanta, always taught me to push further and find my own style as an abstract painter. I was taught to be able to defend my work and process, which is very hard to do as a contemporary painter. I pushed myself to create my own interpretations with paint and mixed media, and this led to turning my work into rugs. The outcome was even more beautiful than I had imagined. What a gift for an artist to see a vision become reality!


"Edge of the World" original painting as a handmade rug

Parker’s painting “Edge of the Word” recreated as a handwoven area rug.


AS: Who are your customers?

LP:  I have called on many interior designers since starting the company. Hand knotted rugs are pricey compared to online representations ready to ship at low cost. The question “What is your price point?” was discouraging but did not stop me from looking for modern designers to consider selling my work.

 I have some designers to thank, including:

Switch Modern out of Atlanta and New York, who allowed me to showcase and introduce the rugs in their Atlanta showroom. Donna McAlear of New Mood Designs out of Atlanta who was and remains super supportive of my venture. Brittany Odum of Chrysalis Designs out of Atlanta, who has always been supportive and open to my new work and ideas.

The Harrison Group out of Saint Simons Island and several other locations internationally. Sandra Dunham and Kathleen Brooks were very excited about the rugs, as they typically work with a client over a long period of time. Their enthusiasm and warm welcome is the way I like to do business. They say they are on the lookout for the right kind of client! 


Abstract painting as an area rug

“Greens of July” area rug based on a painting by Laura Parker


AS: What do you hope to achieve from your work, and how does this support a vital cause?

LP:  As you know, the world pandemic has changed business and slowed spending at this time.

Regardless, my vision remains the same for Abstract Road Rugs and Design, and that is to continue to be true to my art and craft and make sure my rug maker is paid well so he can continue to pay his weavers. That is his greatest wish, rather than profit or fame. When we come together from different cultures in the arts, we speak the language of the heart and the soul. We begin to listen and understand more from this exchange. 

I would love to see both young and old tune in to making things by hand again. This means cleaning the threads, dying the threads, and learning to weave and make fabric. There are so many young people who really want to be productive, but don’t know how or where to begin. Gardening, writing, woodworking, sculpting, welding, and so many more skills could be taught. Most master artists I know are older. Voila! There is the program. Lives are improved and hope is restored. All of us need that, now more than ever.


Designer at Rug Weaving Factory in Nepal

Artist Laura Parker with weavers in Nepal who are transforming her designs into handmade rugs.


I am a GoodWeave importer, which is based out of Washington, DC, Nepal, India, and other countries. When I contribute a percentage to GoodWeave, it supports the mission to abolish the use and abuse of child labor. They also have developed numerous schools around the globe that support health, education, and safety for these young people who have known the realities of child labor.

Looking at the bottom line, I would like to sell my rugs. They are stunning and will last many lifetimes if taken care of properly. Each rug has a story from its original design. The stories remain a mystery to all, except to me of course. Many hands have worked these pieces, from Saint Simons Island in Georgia to Katmandu, Nepal.  What a treat for an art lover and collector to have and to hold.

As they say in Nepal, Namaste!



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