Retro Modern

Boulder, Colorado–based È Bella’s rugs and pillows look sleek and modern. Their bold, simple designs make them right at home thrown onto a Mies chair or propped up under your head as you listen to your iPod. Yet the weaving technique behind them is as ancient as the Incas. Five years ago company founder Nicole Linton traveled to Chile, Bolivia, and Peru during a break from her job as a high school Spanish teacher and ended up finding a new calling. “I walked into a gallery in Lima and saw the most amazing tapestry I’d ever seen,” Linton says. “I wound up traveling thirty-six hours to Ayacucho, the weavers’ town. The tapestry weave technique they’re using is thousands of years old, and they’re among the few people still doing it.”

The weavers of Ayacucho create pieces primarily for the tourist trade in Lima. But Linton realized that if she could get them to weave her designs—inspired by artists and architects including Nicholas Grimshaw and Frank Lloyd Wright—she could open a new market for them while bringing a new technique to the American market. She established working relationships with two of the families and now sends her orders to them by fax, visiting once or twice a year to collaborate. Accustomed to their traditional designs, the weavers were initially befuddled by Linton’s modern take. “It was so foreign to their eyes they started to laugh,” she says. “They were like, ‘Are you sure?’ But now they really like it. It’s a new challenge for them.”

For the families Linton works with there has been a considerable bond between traditional and modern sensibilities, and at least the hope that a more globalized economy has the potential to help preserve ancient ways instead of destroying them. “My dream is to give them more financial stability and eventually get some of them up here [to Boulder] to give demonstrations. The more I visited them, the more seriously they took me. And now we’ve really learned a lot from each other.”

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