Teddy Sumner of M&K is working towards Revitilizing Afghanistan Rug Weaving Practices
Known as an innovator of the rug industry, Michaelian & Kohlberg (M&K) founder Frank Michaelian traveled extensively through what is now Pakistan and throughout Afghanistan and Iran during the 1920s and 1930s. Today, his grandson Teddy Sumner, a master colorist who is considered a pioneer of natural dyeing, is both owner and principal designer at M&K. He is also a firm believer in the importance of bringing Afghanistan back to its former glory.
“This industry sustains a traditional way of life which is vanishing in other parts of the world,” Sumner explained. “These carpets are a bridge between a proud and rich heritage of artisans in Afghanistan and the Westerners who enjoy these beautiful carpets in their homes."
A trained fine art painter who has been creating rug designs for over 30 years, Sumner is following in his grandfather’s footsteps by helping to restore Afghanistan to its previous role as a leading exporter of handmade rugs.
Lending a hand
By teaming up with the US Department of Defense, Sumner is making a significant effort to revitalize Afghanistan’s art of rug weaving and to rebuild the citizens’ lives and uphold their cultural heritage. Because the Department of Defense is looking for ways to help strengthen and stabilize the Afghan economy and to offer alternatives to the damaging influences of the Taliban, poppy seed cultivation and heroin production, they have selected M&K as a partner.
“I am thrilled to have the opportunity to participate in the rebuilding of the beautiful country of Afghanistan,” said Sumner. “It is both a ‘bullets to plowshares’ story and a tangible way that the US private industry can help thousands of women in a country with few other employment opportunities.
Recognizing that carpet weaving supports thousands of weavers, especially women who have few other work options, Sumner understands that it is an important traditional handcraft in Afghanistan. Because the actual hand-weaving mostly takes place in small rural villages and often in homes, carpet weaving is an ideal industry for a country that is made up of remote villages separated by mountainous terrain.
View our selection of M&K rugs from Afghanistan.