Alicia Keshishian’s Groundbreaking Interpretations of Ancient Rug-Making Traditions Celebrate Art and Color
To be “underfoot” often has negative connotations. Unless, that is, you’re talking about any space graced by the vibrant handmade-to-order carpets designed by the effervescent and endlessly fascinating West Coast native Alicia D. Keshishian. Those seeking expertly designed textiles for the home need look no further than Keshishian’s Carpets of Imagination. This is where her designs are born of her artistry and her immutable passion for color.
Keshishian’s rugs dash the assumption that walls are the only place for art to be displayed. Her work exhibits a mastery that is entirely her own, incorporating rich hues in daring designs that marry ebullience with a touch of high-end aesthetics. The end result is eye-catching but accessible—and perfect for making a statement in any setting.
As designers, we often find that the things we create are extensions of our own personalities and visions. But our clients and collaborators bring something else to the table: an invitation to step beyond our horizons and adapt in the face of new influences. This couldn’t be truer in Keshishian’s case. Her sparkling personality can brighten a room on its own, but when she pours that vivacity into her meticulously designed textiles, we all benefit from her efforts.
We were delighted to have the opportunity to speak with Keshishian about her passion for the polychrome life.
Destined to Design
Keshishian comes from a long line of accomplished artists and designers, and rug making is an intrinsic part of her family history. In 1907, her grandfather founded Mark Keshishian & Sons, in Washington, DC, which has supplied rugs to high-profile customers for over a century, including residents of the White House, both past and present.
She told us that color exploration was a major part of her upbringing. “I was raised in a family with artists all around,” Keshishian said. “Color was very important on a daily basis in my house. My mother fearlessly dyed anything and everything.”
Keshishian carries on that family legacy with exuberance, honoring the talent that has gone before her by bringing her own specific skills and tastes into the mix. She is happy to continue the task of weaving this enduring tapestry of life and art, but her foray into the family business came about unexpectedly.
She can remember the moment when she first decided to follow in the footsteps of her ancestors. After many years expressing her talents as an art director, designer, and illustrator for a number of different industries, Keshishian happened to walk by a rug store in New York one day and immediately thought of her family’s lucrative rug business. Having long felt the need for a change, it dawned on her to pursue this type of creative work herself. From the instant she stepped into that rug store—when she smelled the wool and touched the fibers—she felt at home. She knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that rug design was the dream she was meant to chase.
Setting the Tone
The challenge of a wildly new medium only served to intensify Keshishian’s interest, motivating her to master her new craft. The material shift from paper to wool ushered in an adjustment to her perception of light and its effect on the colors she used.
Keshishian believes that color—that untouchable element that she loves so—is intrinsically connected to emotions. She believes that you cannot separate color from feeling, or feeling from hue. Which is why it’s so important to her when working with clients to factor in their individual tastes and to understand what draws them to a specific colorway.
“I listen to my clients,” she said. “They are the ones that will live with the rugs day in and day out, so it’s critical that the client is happy. If they have colors that don’t resonate for me, it’s my challenge to find a way to make it work. I need to find a color palette that elevates that color so it sings. I need to determine a common language so the colors talk.”
The beauty of her custom-design efforts is that she can use any imaginable color to bring personality and inimitability to an especially loved or admired pattern. And she’s developing new patterns and colorways all the time. As many designers can attest, curiosity and open-mindedness are vital parts of the creative spirit, and color is just one way that Keshishian communicates that spirit with the world.
A Colorful Curriculum
There exists an inherent fearlessness in Keshishian’s designs, and it’s clear she finds joy in defying expectations when it comes to color. Color and texture are part of her daily routine, and she strives to use these tools in new and exciting ways every day. And as an artist, she knows that the use of color doesn’t just produce an embellishment, it’s an act of empowerment.
She has introduced Chromalicious color-consulting services to empower designers, artists, and anyone else seeking help with hues. For any color conundrums one might encounter, Keshishian has devised a solution: She offers consultations to assist with everything from wardrobe coordination to residential and commercial interiors to product development. Keshishian finds that building a color foundation takes the confusion out of the design process for her clients and can provide structure for new projects.
“My job is to meet a client, then look and listen,” she explained. “Quietly I process all the information I take in. Often it’s simply observing their personal style and what they have to offer consciously or unconsciously. What is the intention? What is needed? Is the room a sanctuary? Does the space need energy? If a client is unsure how to navigate, I’ll ask for a list of words. Serene. Loud. Bold. Modern. Whimsical. Then I go through the process of interpreting these words into a story, which then translates into a design and color direction.”
By sharing her insights with clients in workshops and classes, she hopes to educate and shape the ideas of budding style makers. Although one glance at Keshishian's typical ensemble reveals her belief that color cannot be confined to trends, it’s clear Keshishian makes it her business to know what’s in vogue and on the rise so that she can better serve her clients.
Carpets with a Conscience
The Nepalese artisans who create Keshishian’s carpets hand-weave each rug from the luxuriously soft wool of Himalayan high-altitude sheep using the centuries-old Tibetan-knot technique. These artisans are protected by GoodWeave, an organization that aims to end child labor in the carpet-making industry. Keshishian’s commitment to this program is in keeping with her maxim that “color is a celebration of life.”
She expressed gratitude for the amazing work done by her distant collaborators and said she has been dedicated from the start to ensuring that the weavers with whom she’s associated are able to live and work purposefully, which has been the case, thanks to GoodWeave’s ethical standards.
In this and countless other ways, Keshishian hones her craft with integrity. She still dabbles in other mediums and graphic-design work, but we are thrilled that she has found her place in the world of textiles and that she has taken up the mantle of her family heritage. We are thrilled because Alicia Keshishian’s distinctive designs teach us that the best place to start celebrating life through color might just be the ground you walk on.