Friday, September 19, 2014

Baa Baa black sheep have you any wool? NOT ALL WOOL IS CREATED EQUAL.

WOOL QUALITY EXPLAINED. Qualities Used in Production of Oriental Rugs and Carpets

Generally, wool is "graded" by the length of each individual hair.  There are two main components to assessing quality of wool.  1.  The length of any individual hair, and 2. the location on the animal from where  the hair had been cut.  Often the finer, thinner hairs are found on the neck, belly and underarms of a sheep.  Not only is this hair much thinner, but also very soft and of long staple.  Other factors which contribute to the quality of wool include climate, habitat/altitude and even vegetation. 

Many sellers make the claim of certain types of fibers used in production which may be false.  Here are some short descriptions of what these terms mean, and very loose descriptions on how to identify such:
Wool:  A loose definition of wool is hair which has been harvested from an animal.  Wool is most commonly harvested from sheep, although may also be taken from goats or even camel.  The single best way to identify if your rug is wool is by removing a knot and give it a burn test.  When subjected to a flame, once burned, smells not unlike that of human hair.
Dead Wool: An unfortunately brittle, coarse, poor quality wool used in production of many high volume commercially available rugs.  This type of wool often will shed profusely, and render a rug lifeless in a short period of time.  Dead wool is often the refuse from combing out finer, longer stapled wool.
New Zealand Wool: Typically New Zealand wool is often known for it's longer staple, and naturally soft feel.  This is due in part to both the altitude and vegetation available to herds.  It's not uncommon for a rug to have a New Zealand and local wool blend to counteract the investment of import and material cost.  
Gazni Wool: Typically found in higher quality Peshawar weavings, this comes from high grazing sheep in the mountains of Afghanistan.  This wool is soft yet firm to the touch: Depending on the way in which the wool has been treated, Gazni wool often has very slippery (almost oily sides), with a crisp and strong feel after clipping of the pile.
Semi-Worsted Wool:  Semi-Worsted wool is a very solid quality wool which is retrieved from wool by the process of combing.  After wool has been combed, finer, longer strands of wool are separated from shorter less desirable wool.  The term Semi-Worsted wool refers to a wool which has been produced by one of two ways: Either the very high grade wool (after being separated from low to mid grade), or the highest grade wool which is separated from the lowest grade and then is blended with a medium grade wool.
Worsted Wool: Worsted wool refers to a process (and product) of combing excellent quality wool from high, medium and lower grade (determined by length, or staple.)  After wool has been combed, the finest, longer strands of wool are "Worsted." 
Qurk / Kork Wool:  Qurk wool is taken from the neck, belly and underarms of the sheep.  This is often considered the most choice of wool to come from the sheep, as it is very fine, thin, and long stapled.  Kork wool is most often reserved for only the finest of weavings.  Perhaps this type of wool is most commonly found in high kpsi isfahan, nain oriental rugs.  The appearance of fairly untreated Qurk wool has almost a dull finish, yet very compact, firm and dense feeling pile. 
Pashmina Wool:  Pashmina wool is exclusively taken from the coat of Himilayan goats.  This wool is very silky, long stapled, and very unusual to come across in exported weavings from rug producing countries.  Pashmina wool is very soft, highly sought after, and very expensive.  

Manchester Wool:  Manchester wool is almost entirely exclusive to one genre of rug known as the "manchester kashan," although has been known to have been used in other types of rugs from rug producing countries.  Manchester wool is derived from a specific type of sheep variety called the Merino sheep.  In the instance of Manchester kashan rugs and carpets, these are rugs which implimented the use of Merino wool originating from Australia.  The processing into yarn used in weaving such rugs was done in Manchester England, and ultimately exported to Iran for weaving.  The Manchester Kashan is a very unique variety of Kashan, with a naturally high luster, and long staple fiber.
Mohair: Mohair is harvested from the Angora Goat.  Mohair is often very fine, long stapled and have a silk like appearance and feel.  Mohair rugs are very unusual to come by, as mohair is a very expensive and hard to come by fiber to be used in production of Oriental Rugs.  One should carefully inspect a mohair rug for color run, as it's not entirely uncommon to find overdyeing of colors which could potentially run.
Camel Hair Wool:  Camel hair rugs are not exported to the US to the extend of which they had been in and around the turn of the 19th century.  Camel hair was typically implimented in many weavings such as Serab and other rugs. 
Chemically Washed Wool Rugs:  There are techniques which are used post production which chemically treat the wool pile of a rug to give it a softer feel and more lusterous pile sheen.  While these washes may be used successfully with little affect to the woolen fibers, it is not entirely uncommon to come across a rug which has been too harshly treated with this process.  Similarly, there are rugs which have a very low quality wool which have been subjected to these washings which make them appear to have a better quality wool than is actually used.  In both cases of too harsh a wash, or low quality wool to begin with, copious amounts of shedding will be apparent from the agitation test. 
How will I know if my wool is healthy? 
What to look for:  Judging the quality of wool takes many years of experience, however, there are ways for even a novice to pick up on sub standard quality rugs.  Although it's not uncommon for a new Oriental Rug to shed just a bit in the first several months, there are extended cases of shedding which are a serious problem.  A quick test for low quality wool is to first thoroughly vacuum the face of your rug, then agitate the pile back and forth with your hand a dozen times to see if wool surfaces.  If the wool which surfaces to the pile may be rolled into a ball which is equal to or greater than the height of the rug's pile, chances are you have a carpet where inferior quality wool had been used in production.  Additionally, wool which feels "brittle," "coarse," "dry to the touch," or "wirey" are also signs of a lower grade, or "less choice" selection of wool used in weaving.  In the long run, this generally means the longevity, durability and and appearance of your rug will be compromised.  That is to say, an Oriental Rug which has a lower quality wool will show signs of wear far quicker and appear "used" far sooner than that of an Oriental Rug which implements a higher grade wool. 
Low wool grade rugs are a problem in more than just looks alone.  Wool that surfaces, more often than not, are individual hairs from any given knot.  As each hair is released from a knot, the knot will subsequently become more loosely packed in the structure of the rug, making it far more susceptible to future shedding.   

Sources: Credit- RugRag

Thursday, April 18, 2013

The Real Design Challenge: Running Your Own Small Business

Some of the most important things you'll need to know about running your own company will have little or nothing to do with design.
If you have gone to school to learn any of the many design fields, there's an elusive and ambiguous element that's about 95 percent of the job: knowing how to run a small business.
When I began in the field, I met with not only seasoned designers but all types of small business owners in order to hopefully glean some of the how-tos of the business side. What I found is that everyone approaches it differently. This conversation is a much bigger one than I can address in full here, but it's a conversation that every designer must have in their career in order to be a successful in business.

There doesn't seem to be one set way of doing things, but here are some of the more important points I've encountered, and how I approach them in my own business. Tweak as you wish!

Managing a Client's Expectations
This is where it all starts and what dictates a large part of your relationship with the client. It begins when you meet the client and should continue throughout the project. This includes educating your client on how the design process works, how your design fees fit in and that some things (the good things) may take longer than they expect. In this day and age a lot of clients believe that a room can be done, "In 48 hours for $1,000.00." This might be true for some people, but it's your job to be realistic with them up front about what they can expect for their allotted budget.

The idea of a creating a contract can seem daunting to some of us, but this is imperative to the process. You must have something in writing that says you and the client 'agree' to the job in detail. For example, this can include how many times you're willing to make changes in the design before your contracted time is up. I require a 10 hour retainer with up to three, major design changes. If the client and I cannot reach a decision by that time, it allows both of us to decide if we are a good fit or if we need to discuss what the client's specific needs and desires are before going back into a new contract. This way, nobody's time is wasted, and you've been compensated for your time and efforts.
If you do enough research, you can write up your own contract, find contracts online, in interior design business books or you can enlist the help of a lawyer. They can be very legal in language, or written in a lay person’s terms. Either way, just make sure you've covered yourself for any scenario and have created an expectation for the client. Include an “out clause” for both yourself and the client in case things go haywire. 

Timelines and Communication
Your client will be a lot happier with your work if you keep them in the loop and give them regular status reports about the progress of the project. With all of the sub-contracting we do, our jobs can be moving targets at times. There's not a lot you can do when your millwork person doesn't look like he'll meet his deadline, for instance. But, if you let your client know that the time may be pushed a little, rather than not explaining to them what's going on, at least their expectations are being managed. They may not love it, but they know what's happening - and they know you're their advocate.

Time Is Money
There are a lot of ways designers figure out how to get paid. Some designers charge for their time and mark up the product. Others charge one flat fee and the client isn’t privy to how it’s broken down. And still others charge by the hour on top of an upcharge on wholesale items. Your time for creating a concept, shopping, researching, driving, managing contracted work, and purchasing management should be compensated.

In my business, at that first meeting, I let the client know what I charge per hour and then let them know what sort of time the job will require. I give them the option of either hourly time billing or a value based design fee. This should be considered, by the client, into their entire budget- on top of furniture, fabric, labor etc. I also explain the design process and what pitfalls to expect along the way. There’s no magic or easy shortcut to avoiding weather related or material issue delays. 

I find it’s always best to educate and prepare your clients to make everyone’s life run smoother during the design and renovation process. Make sure they understand the “reality” of the scope of work required on their project. Lastly, make sure you ask a series of questions to find out exactly what their expectations are for the outcome. This will to minimize those unforeseen, stomach churning moments half way through the project.

I would also highly recommend getting an app on your phone that allows you to clock in and clock out. I’m always amazed at how much time, the smallest things take. If anything, this will give you an idea of how much time you are spending on each job, something I think that we designers don’t credit ourselves for.

What things have you learned about managing your business?

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Ah yes. Curb Appeal.

So much is said, so much is written about curb appeal. It’s an important enough detail that we find surveys and articles continuously presenting a litany of viewpoints.

One thing is certain. The importance of first impressions never wanes.
According to the summer 2012 issue of Professional Builder, curb appeal still leads the way being most valued by the perspective buyer stating, “Buyers most value ‘Great Design’ and energy performance when evaluating exterior options.”
In general, Great Design/Curb Appeal lead the way with every 3 out of 4 surveyed saying this is their top consideration when evaluating exterior design schemes. Slightly more than half of those surveyed, mentioned energy performance as a key consideration for the purchase.  

A majority of builders surveyed said their level of investment in exterior design and materials has increased more today than in the past two years. Builders mention, most people spend more for upgrades in siding, elevation enhancements and high performance windows. 

One of my latest projects is to modernize and update the main lobby for a class A office tower in  downtown Hartford.  The building, whose anchor tenant is a large financial group, along with a variety of brokerage firms and other financial institutions,  will eventually be put on the market for sale. What is the first thing a perspective buyer will see while contemplating spending millions of dollars for a piece of commercial real estate?

Yes, EXACTLY right. The exterior entry leading directly into the main lobby through the glass and steel revolving door.   
Curb appeal. Exterior or Interior, it is the first impression that counts. 
From architects, to landscape architects, to interior designers, all 3 play a big part in specifying the perfect design schemes for the exterior of a home or business.