What’s happening: “Unfortunately, Sen. Chris Dodd (from Connecticut) recently proposed an embargo on Persian goods, and President Obama signed it immediately,” says Art to Walk On owner Eileen Hampshire. “It’s such a restrictive and regressive law, because it’s an embargo on all goods of Persian origin. It will definitely hurt the rug business.”
Art to Walk On’s background: “Many of the rugs here are the only one of their kind in the world,” Hampshire says. “Most of my rugs are cottage industry products made by women or nomads who migrate. I try to deal with pure rugs, which includes hand-spun wool, mainly vegetable dyes, and are made by women who are not told what to weave by a man.”
The gallery’s hottest weaving group: Zollanvari rugs from Iran. “I only deal with people who buy from women who weave and are not telling them what to weave,” she says. “I believe if you’re pure and good, then beautiful things come out of it. For three generations, the Zollanvari people go into the villages and buy the best wool from the shepherds and have master dyers dye the wool with local indigenous vegetation. The women go to him and chose their colors and weigh out the wool and weave their rug, and, therefore, he gets first choice of all the rugs. The American market drives the world market for rugs. They know what the Americans want, even if they are sitting in a hot hut weaving, they know the market.”
The gallery’s most established artist: “I have a tapestry from 1650,” Hampshire says. “The cartoon (design) was drawn by Raphael, and then it was woven from that design.”
What the gallery looks for in an artist: “The quality and texture of the wool and the quality of the dyes,” she says. “The balance of the design is important, too. A rug has to have all three elements to be pleasing to the eye.”
Are there any misconceptions of the rugs you sell? “People think they are fragile,” Hampshire says. “Most of my rugs are virtually indestructible and can be treated with soap and water.”
The kind of rugs found in her home: “A great variety, some are priceless and others have little value,” Hampshire says. “I have a Zollanvari rug that I love — even though I had thousands of rugs in storage, I saw it and had to have it.”
Why she’s cut out for this business: “I love teaching people about rugs, even if they’re not likely to purchase one,” she says. “When I was a child, my grandfather was the dye master for a huge commercial dye company, so he must have had an eye for color, and my grandmother was a silk weaver in England. I have always been fascinated by textiles.”
What makes her job fulfilling: “Finding the perfect rug for a space,” says Hampshire. “And I love to teach people about rugs. I generally put up a teaching moment with the rugs, so when people come in, I can show them and teach them what has happened historically with these rugs and where they come from.”
Current show: “Celebration of Historic Sarasota” exhibit. Art to Walk On will feature rugs that have been woven at the same time that Sarasota was being platted (1885).
Owner: Eileen Hampshire
Location: 64 S. Palm Ave., Sarasota
Year established: 2006
Summer Hours: 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday or by appointment.