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Normally, we do not publish in almost its entirety any release from a rug vendor — and certainly not on our curated web site.  But this piece from Creative Matters was so compelling that we want our readers to enjoy it as much as we did. 

And so from Creative Matters ….

Designer Madeleine Baigent’s work world at home.

Like many of you, Creative Matters team was surprised and confused to suddenly find themselves working from home in the middle of March. Their gorgeous new showroom abandoned; no access to the colour lab with its thousands of wool samples; finished rugs languishing in FedEx limbo; their mills on the other side of the world closed to weavers who, together with their families, rely on this work

A Label STEP inspector distributes basic food packages in April in Afghanistan.

As they settled into home work stations, one of the first priorities was to tackle the issue of how best to support artisan colleagues at the mills we partner with in Nepal and Afghanistan. Initially they sent money directly to the mills where handknotted rugs are made. Later they were able to support their fair trade partner Label STEP with a program aimed at meeting the specific needs of  fair trade mills and their workers.

What working at home looks like for President Carol Sebert.
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Back in Canada Creative Matters was grateful to be able to access a few support programs for small business from the federal government, including one that topped up the wages of our staff when we temporarily needed to reduce their working hours. “However, to our surprise and delight, we were soon able to maintain our complete staff full time. We have had continuous high quality and creative work that has kept every team member engaged,” said Vice President Ana Cunningham.

Logistic Manager Julie Baldwin’s drawing of her home work setup.

When asked about the projects she was managing, Vice President Ali McMurter said that during this work-from-home period she was nevertheless able to continue forward through sampling and production of floorcoverings in India, Nepal, Thailand, China and Afghanistan for guest rooms and public areas for a New York hotel; sampling and production for several residential projects; and sampling in the U.S. for another New York hotel.

Sandra – Designer – shares the Creative Matters Art Day

An inveterate multi-tasker, Sandra – along with six others – also shared the Creative Matters Art Day concept with a video of a #stayhomeartday project for the housebound. Their wonderful how-to videos were enjoyed by young and old alike who found themselves with a yearning to “get creative.”

As an ever-growing design studio, they had projects in every stage of development when the pandemic hit. The challenge was to ensure we could continue to meet the expectations of their clients. For projects in the design stage they initiated a process where they shipped the clients a pom box and met via video conferencing with the same pom box at our end. This enabled them to discuss the colours and make adjustments.

A sample of Four Cedar Waxwings, Creative Matters’ handknotted version of the work by Christi Belcourt.

Fortunately for clients who had handtufted projects in the works or who needed a floorcovering urgently, the mill in Thailand had started COVID-19 screening protocols quite early and has remained open since the start of the pandemic. The handknotting artisans in Nepal and Afghanistan were mainly back at work by the end of April but few commercial flights are operating from their airports. Imagine their delight when in May samples arrived from Afghanistan for the collection rug collaboration with Métis artist Christi Belcourt.

Working from home by Designer Kayla Bortolotto.

In June a new Creative Matters website launched our first online store. Clients who need a rug immediately can now see for themselves which of our collection rugs are available to be shipped from Toronto for delivery just a few days later.

New business development must also go on, so we have a fresh webinar lunch n’ learn presentation showcasing the latest custom work and rug collections they’ve been working on and – for clients new to Creative Matters – a recap of services and how they work. Instead of serving lunch, a donation to Label STEP will be made or a charity of their choosing. Contact Ana if you’d like to book one for your team.

As far as returning to the studio goes, we’re following government health protocols.  They hope to soon have rotating teams so that each of person is in the office about two days a week, working from home for the remainder of the time. With expanded space, they can now spread staff over three floors to ensure physically distancing from each other.

It is amazing what can be accomplished from a home office. By Creative Matters Designer Anna Panosyan.

“Even after my 20+ years at Creative Matters, I am stunned how our staff, our clients and our suppliers came together in ‘unprecedented times’ to maintain the creation of the finest floor and wallcoverings,” said Ana. “To ensure continued success, we recognize the importance of remaining agile in our response as the pandemic situation changes.”

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