THE SMELL OF KUMARE - SEMANA DECORA 1998
Article on the beginnings of the Colombian textile pioneer Carlos Vera Dieppa.
Carlos Vera designs unique rugs in natural fibers. With a handcrafted and sophisticated touch, there’s a beautiful yet sad love story behind his work.
By Pilar Luna
Carlos Vera smells like Kumare. This odor is not only his daily inspirational dosage, but he carries it in his veins, and his heart. It’s a smell he knows like the palm of his hand, and it’s not just a product of his work. This smell brings him memories, because in its essence it carries a beautiful yet heartbreaking love story.
Kumare is a palm that you can only find in the oriental planes and Amazon in Colombia. Here, the indigenous extract and hand-spin the fiber in cones that Carlos Vera orders from them to make his rugs. When he smells one of those cones, he is taken back to a memory, in a plane on his way to Africa, where 4 years ago the love of his life passed away.
“I got together with a girl” whose name was Silvia Pérez. She was the pioneer in Colombia when working with natural fibers, and manufactured curtains with them. I met her in a party and was fascinated by her since the beginning. She was a beautiful woman. At the beginning I came on to her but she never payed any attention to me. One year later I saw her again in another party, we fell in love, and from there on, we were never separated again. We moved in together. Silvia had textiles in her blood and taught me everything about them. Two years later she had a heart attack in a plane when we were on our way to Africa. He was 35 and died next to me. We were helplessly in love. It took me a long time to recover from this, and I still am.”
By then, Carlos had already started to work with the same fibers Silvia used to make curtains with, to help her out with her work. “I came from another marriage, and wasn’t doing much at the time cause I worked with my ex wife in her farm as a potato farmer. After a while I told Silvia that since she did curtains with those materials, I wanted to make rugs with the same ones to help her out.
The real work started based only on that love that his girlfriend felt for natural fibers and that artistic vein he carried. With a grandfather that had been writer, and a musician father who played the violin, Carlos carried an unexplored artistic vein in his blood that was ready to sprout. By then, he had passed by business administration, hotel and tourism, aviation and even cinema. However, in honor of the woman he loved, he focused on this new creation solely for the love he felt for his girlfriend.
“They say sometimes its better to know than to be a doctor. I hadn’t studied textiles or anything, but when Silvia passed away, I had already done a couple of rugs by her side. It was very hard since she was a very talented woman, so she obviously helped me a lot, and I had her support with her amazing taste in aesthetics. However, I knew I couldn’t abandon this. I had to continue working for this because it was my way of keeping her alive. I knew I had to give all the love I felt for her to something she was passionate about, something she was the best in. I was profoundly in love with her, and when she passed away, I trespassed all the love I had for her to my work.
And Carlos Vera’s’ rugs are exactly that. They speak for themselves and are woven with that heartfelt dedication that for the past four years he has proclaimed for his absent lover. He weaves them with Kumare, fique, platane and totoro cane, brought from lagoons around the country; all natural fibers are hand-spun and dyed by indigenous communities from different regions of Colombia. “I wanted not only to work with these type of fibers, but for the weave to be based on the Japanese tatami, and for it to feel comfortable when it was stepped on. This is how I developed what nowadays are the Kumare rugs;” name he gave to his business thanks to that fiber that inspired him so much.
And as a good Barranquillero as he is, he found a way to print color into this type of fiber that is usually only seen in crude, earthy and natural tones. In this way, with vegetable dyes, (Non-toxic) he prints a Caribbean spectrum of vivid colors, unusual for the “modest” natural fiber. This coloring process is done right before it is hand-spun into a thread, before being sent to Bogotá. Carlos is in charge of letting them in on the colors that must be used and he supervises the entire process.
“I manufacture the rugs upon order. The client tells me the size he needs it in, I go and check out the house, suggest the tones considering the decoration, and then design the rug. I draw it and hand it to my weaver that manufactures it in a manual loom.” This means the client never really knows what the final outcome is going to be, because Carlos without a problem has his own “creative hall-pass”. For this, the film courses he took some time ago, have served him well, since the work with images, colors and ambiences are projected in his rugs.
All these ingredients make part of his personality, and that uncomplicated way of being, good energy, and amazing product, have taken him to have a “Word of mouth” publicity across the country. He counts with several looms since each rug lasts 2 months to elaborate. He does them in any size, as long as they don’t pass a 3 meter width. (The length doesn’t matter) He daily follows the process of each rug, the rubberizing process and the finish, because he considers each and every one of them as a son of his own. That’s why, with the humor that characterizes him so much, he assures he is the assistant of every one of his employees.
Ladies man and party animal in his youth, this Virgo with Scorpio ascendant says he has lived 44 well-lived years. Father of 3 children, he laughs and confesses he’s been a bit naughty, but because “women have always taken advantage of me”. He loves to fly, eat “Ropa Vieja” with rice and olive oil, listen to classical music and ride his bike.
He’s a man of contrasts. Sundays he doesn’t miss out on church since he’s convinced that God helps him conquer his objectives. He quotes the words of Paulo Coelho in The Alchemist “The universe conspires in our favor. I don’t talk much about that mystic part of me, because there’s people that don’t get it, but we’re spiritual, intellectual and physical beings, and we have to work for all 3 of those facets. In my rugs all of this is reflected and through them I canalize all that energy I have within me”.
Maybe because of that contrast that is the personality behind these rugs, is what makes them so special and unique. Kumare counts with exclusive and sophisticated designs, and that is Carlos Vera. “In this you know where you start, but you never know how it’s going to end. Somehow, the last rug is always calling the next… in colors, sizes or designs. And that’s the legacy that Silvia left me. She taught me to sophisticate a handcrafted piece.