The Ruggist November 17 2015

The Ruggist

Warholian Kush: A Vinyl Renaissance

Please forgive the liberties taken in the operatic title of this article; given the nature of both the rug design and its originating impetus, it seemed only appropriate to adopt a whimsical, more musical styling if you will. 'A Vinyl Renaissance' sounds as though it could be the debut album from the uber cool band you've never heard of: 'Warholian Kush'. And so it should be. Hailing from the utopian hipster paradise of Portland, Oregon the 'Vinyl' series of rugs from Brian Robins of Kush Handmade Rugs has not yet - to my knowledge - made it to the big times, though perhaps that will now change. Ladies and Gentleman, without further adieu an ode to different times: 'Vinyl'


A collage of 'Vinyl' Rug colourations available from Kush.

Clockwise from Upper Right: Canary, Cotton Candy, Vibes, and Jives.

'As technology, culture, and life itself rocket ever forward, I find myself drawn to touchstones that remind me of the seventies (1970s) and eighties (1980s).' begins Brian as he is explaining the origins of 'Vinyl' via email. 'In my misspent youth I sang in various basement bands, and as an adult I have morphed into a notorious karaoke junkie. I love creating rug designs that are rooted in a personal connection. Plus, it's been great fun seeing the colour combinations that our clients dream up. We do enjoy a wild rug here in Portland!' he concludes as the images he sent begin to fill the screen. Simultaneously nostalgic and modern, the vibrant colourations of 'Vinyl' the rug, transform what was an ordinary everyday, yet now somewhat archaic, black plastic disk into a functional and decorative objet d'art best described as 'Warholian'.

It is an easy parallel to draw. Warhol was known for his artistic treatment of the familiar, the mundane, and the mass produced and so in creating a rug inspired by the ordinaire Brian has channelled, no transported that zeitgeist from another era into our present time. Just as Warhol was a 'pragmatic artist' who 'accepted the inherent commercial nature of the modern art world' according to the Nazmiyal Collection, so too is this design a piece of functional art indicative of the nature of our modern rug era.

'The ones and zeroes of digital formats have, of course, made music more convenient and accessible...' Brian says as he expounds, but the proverbial lightbulb is lit. The overt parallel that can be drawn between music being more accessible and rug and carpet design being more accessible is simply too enticing to pass up. In the not as distant as we might like to imagine past, the notion that a single solitary rug dealer could create one-of-a-kind program rugs for his or her specific market was quite 'disruptive' as the corporate speak of today would have us say. Never before have the barriers to entry been lower and technology, love it or hate it, has brought us here. That is what makes 'Vinyl' (both as an LP and as a rug) such an alluring design.

'Vinyl' perfectly embodies that longing, that halcyon gezellig (as the Dutch might say) feeling one has for times and places not fully our own, while at the same time remaining fully a construct of contemporary rug design and construction. 'I spent many an hour in my family's basement fiddling with my dad's record player and listening to records.' Brian further explains, 'As a kid there was something magical about playing records.' Just as most of the music industry has moved passed vinyl, so too has much of the (qualifying adjective of your choosing) rug industry moved past its old ways. Lamenting the mass passing, then niche resurgence of vinyl as a medium is overtly analogous to the feelings one might have of the decline of the hand in handmade, and of course what might be the 'magical' dream of its niche resurgence.


'Vinyl' shown in the 'Original' colourway. 

Perhaps it's best to quote Alanis Morissette when discussing the broader questions 'Vinyl' brings to mind. 'Isn't it ironic...' that a rug design inspired by a near obsolete technology would be resurrected by a technological progression that is arguably rendering portions of the rug world - if not obsolete - far less relevant.

The advent of 'digital formats' proved to be quite disruptive to the music industry, so is it now also the case that 'digital formats' will usher in a similar seminal period in the rug industry? Will exceptional designs such as this, that emerge from and are made expressly for more localized and specialized sources, supplant those peddled by the traditional wholesale distribution model? I know not for certain, but Kush isn't the only showroom designing great carpets.

The Ruggist is a brilliant view of the rug world by noted industry insider Michael A.C. Christie. Follow his unique point of view at

Gray: The Design Magazine for the Pacific NW July 29 2015

Interior Design by Taryn Emmerson.

The Kush rug is a one of a kind Khotan from our Classic Collection.

The modern chair on the magazine cover is by fellow Portlander Ben Klebba of Phloem Studio.


Portland Monthly Magazine June 23 2015

The International Stories Behind the Rugs at Portland's Kush

Rug transport, India style, photographed near Mirzapur.

When an earthquake hit Nepal in April, Kush Rugs felt tremors in Portland. Owners Brian Robins and Rebecca Lurie couldn’t reach Nepali suppliers for days. Finally, e-mails arrived: don’t stop ordering rugs. The Himalayan craftspeople vowed to continue production.

While many Portland businesses rely on global trade, the rug business is peculiarly sensitive to events in places like Nepal, India, Pakistan, and Iran. “Consistency is challenging,” Lurie says. “We do business in countries that are always in the news.”

Every year, Kush—usually represented by Lurie, a former anthropology major with a yen for travel—scouts out rural villages to find rare and high-quality work. “Every country is making great rugs, and every country is making cheap rugs,” Robins says. “We want people to walk in and see rugs they can’t see anywhere else.”

Even absent catastrophe or crisis, the logistical challenges are formidable. A single rug can take up to a year to finish then ship—via every combination of bike, truck, air, and bureaucracy. “Where’s that rug?” Robins recounts. “It’s in customs. Has anybody heard of it again? It’s both a blessing and a curse. We can’t just sit back and say, well, we’ve got our lines, and we’re good.”

Kush also must tune in to local nuances. “If you’re dealing with someone who’s Afghan or Indian versus somebody from Turkey—those are different forms of communication,” says Lurie. “Does ‘yes’ mean ‘yes,’ or does it mean, ‘I’m saying yes, but you know I mean no’?”

The store donated 3 percent of its May sales to Nepali relief efforts, and Lurie plans to return in the fall. “Ordering rugs,” she says, “contributes directly to providing jobs, rebuilding the country, and helping Nepal move forward.”

Forever Cottage: A Design Blog May 15 2015

One of my favorite sources for gorgeous rugs in Portland is
Kush Rugs {205 NW 10th Avenue}.
As you know, a 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck Nepal just
a couple weeks ago.  The loss of life has been staggering.
Kush Rugs made a donation to Oxfam immediately 
after the earthquake but is looking to do something
even more, even bigger.  During the month of May,
Kush will be donating a portion of sales to
the Phoenix Fund for Nepal Relief.
You may or may not know, that Nepal produces
some gorgeous handmade rugs.
So local peeps - if you are considering investing in a gorgeous rug
for a space in your home, please consider visiting Kush Rugs in
the Pearl District!  Your purchase will go a long way towards 
helping the people of Nepal.  
Thanks to Kush Rugs for their generous and thoughtful hearts!

UDO MAG: Georgette Mosley April 06 2015

Thank you to Georgette Mosley for featuring Kush's new Vinyl Rug Collection on her fabulous design site, UDO MAG. Click to read the entire feature.

Gray Magazine Blog: Product of the Day March 10 2015

Luxe Magazine January 24 2015

Kush provided the pop of pink! Click to view more of our wool & silk pink dragon rug.

Interior Design Fall Market November 18 2014

Gray Magazine Blog November 14 2014

Kush in Design Spotter July 01 2014

Spring Rugs
“Blossom” is a beautifully made traditional rug available exclusively from Kush Rugs in Portland, Oregon. It was hand-knotted in India with a wool background and raised silk design. Secondly, “Static” is a more masculine rug that was also hand-knotted in India and available exclusively at Kush.

Dimension: Blossom is photographed 9’1X12’1 and Static 8'X10', but can be ordered i54 sq ft and above.

Call us: 503.231.0700 or email

Eco and Social Responsibility