One of the most frequent questions we answer in our gallery is why we limit ourselves to Turkish carpets. While there are many reasons for this decision (quality of goods being foremost on that list) there is one other important consideration: child labor. Unlike rugs produced in India, Pakistan, Nepal or Morocco, we can be sure that child labor is not a part of any rug we purchase (see: Meet Our Weavers)
and that the women and men who make our rugs are paid a fair and living wage.
Child/slave labor is one of the most abhorrent practices in the handmade rug industry today. This practice, all but nonexistent in Turkey (which requires all children to attend school until the 8th grade), is prevalent in rug production from many parts of the world. It would be enough that children as young as 6 are forced to work 15 hour days, but that only scratches the surface of the problem. Some children are actually stolen from their families and sold to carpet producers by human traffickers.[i] The end result? After years if performing intensive labor for long hours, many of these children suffer permanent deformities to hands and spine, as well as lung diseases and diminished eyesight, due to their years as slave laborers. While there are rugs produced in those countries which do not use slave labor, the practice is commonplace, and even growing, due to demand in the west for cheap hand-knotted rugs.
Two common questions concerning child labor in the carpet industry: Isn’t rug weaving by children customary in eastern cultures?
Weaving and rug-making, much like the embroidery or cross-stitch taught to western girls in years past, is an art passed down by mothers and fathers to each succeeding generation. However, when we speak of the use of child labor in the manufacture of carpets, we are not talking about a young woman learning to weave a rug, with her mother at her side teaching her an ancient family art. We mean the exploitation of children by certain carpet manufacturing companies and the human traffickers who sell defenseless children to them. Aren’t children’s nimble fingers the only way to create such tiny knots?
In a word: No. By that logic, the world’s best plastic surgeons would have to be children, right? Size is no match for dexterity and the artistic abilities of a gifted weaver. Rugs woven by children are without exception the low grade “discount” carpets, never fine-quality treasures.