In the early 1990s, artists Janis Provisor and Brad Davis left Manhattan for an extended stay in China. Long fascinated by Chinese art and culture, the couple first settled in Hangzhou, and later moved to Hong Kong. Along the way, a chance meeting with a carpet technician led them to interpret Provisor’s watercolors into a rug.

This blog is modified from an article which originally appeared on Sothebys.com on May 8, 2018.

Fort Street Studio founders Janis Provisor and Brad Davis. Photograph by Seth Smoot.

Fully embracing the expressive powers of wild silk and working with highly skilled weavers, the couple eventually opened Fort Street Studio in Hong Kong. With additional locations in New York and London, Fort Street has become renowned for innovative, painterly carpets. Provisor and Davis may have left the New York art world, but they never stopped being artists.

Energized both by the excitement of a developing China and the artistic challenge to realize their ideas, the couple began the painstaking process of making semblant patterns of Provisor’s watercolors. Their biggest challenge was developing a weaveable pattern so artisans could actually make a carpet with these previously unknown painterly qualities. This process included work with software developers, digital printers, and extensive dyeing and weaving sampling. Their next hurdle was to find the highest quality silk yarns, ensure careful color matching and retrain weavers to read an entirely new type of pattern chart. Davis often says, “It was like teaching Classical musician to play Jazz.” Fast forward 2½ years, given the dedication to this innovative artistic enterprise, they decided to build the idea into a new brand of handwoven silk carpets.

Interiors featuring Fort Street Studio rugs

One of the couple’s limited-edition collections, Progetto Passione, is ample proof of their virtuosity. Going for “playfulness and surprise” as well as a sense of drama, Provisor and Davis have created eight designs, most to be produced in an edition of less than six. The complexity is staggering: the patterns have an almost three-dimensional depth, and a single carpet might incorporate as many as 30 colors and take four to five months of loom time to complete.

“Janis and Brad have single-handedly transformed high carpet design from the traditions of Eastern cultures to the cutting edge of innovation,” says Allan Schwartzman, co-founder of Art Agency Partners and chairman of Sotheby’s Global Fine Arts division. “Their newest and most exclusive Progetto Passione carpets raise that bar even higher.”

From left: Hand-Knotted Twig Light Rug 8′ x 10′, Hand-Knotted Lotus Smoke Rug 9’2″ x 12’5″ and Hand-Knotted Boudoir Silver Rug 8′ x 10′

Select Fort Street Studio rugs are currently available through Sotheby’s Home.

FEATURED IMAGE: Detailed images of Hand-Knotted Matahari Beige Rug 8′ x 10′ (left) and Handwoven Flats Pepper Rug 9’3″ x 12’3″ (right).

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