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Gary Coles-Christensen
Name Mr†Gary†Coles-Christensen†
Organization Name G. Coles-Christensen, Ltd

Name: Gary Coles-Christensen

Title: President, G. Coles-Christensen, Renowned Rug Merchant

Years in the industry: 16 years

Location: Santa Fe, New Mexico


Area of expertise: High-end rugs made by adult artisans.

You have been a leader in selling rugs made without the use of illegal child labor? Can you tell us about that?

Thatís been a part of our vision since we opened the store in 1998. We really had a great opportunity. We could open the store anyway we wanted it, and we made it a part of our mission statement and it drove our values. We could build a business that would be profitable, that was the easy part, but why not tie it to our personal values? Weíve been pleased to find that there are a great many people, looking for fine carpets, who feel that this issue is important.

Why are rugs made by adult hands important?

For us in the work we do, we feel like there has to be two main values in the way we present rugs: they have to be truly beautiful, compelling on an aesthetic level. And they have to be truly from a good place, woven by happy hands, and those hands have to encouraged to be creative through positive encouragement. A great rug weaving shop must not be a rigidly industrial environment.

What are significant achievements or milestones of the industry in your view?

Interestingly, one of the biggest influences has been the advent of the information age. Breakthroughs in communication services and transport have allowed us to more easily communicate between the various cultures we work with. Diverse minds are now working more closely together to accomplish something in design. We see an industry revolution taking root regularly. That one simple thing has revolutionized much. There are all kinds of amazing designs and accomplishments now we never could have conceived of before, and the craftsmanship is at such a pinnacle. There have never been better things created.

How does your involvement with RugMark impact your business?

Partnering with RugMark was a very smart decision for us. It was a way for us to capitalize on that abstract value that we began with, that people should be treated well and encouraged to be creative, that happy hands make better products. And itís been beneficial and profitable for us. It adds a kind of animating spirit into something that might otherwise be just another rug shop.

What are your general thoughts on the design and production of carpets and rugs?

People need to be as educated as they can. Most people come in and say, ďIíll know it when I see it,Ē or ďI donít know what Iím looking forĒ. People are more knowledgable and more sophisticated these days. If itís washed in something thatís not healthy, those consequences can be seen in two or three months. So we just encourage people to buy from people they trust. As much as possible people should seek out that relationship of trust.

Why should people be interested in buying handmade rugs made without child labor?

I would say that you vote with your dollar. We have the capability now to really affect change in the world if we just pay attention to what weíre buying. When youíre purchasing youíre spreading the wealth and allowing other people to work and to live. Buy something with integrity. A rug is one of the last handmade things someone can get for their home. When youíre getting a rug youíre supporting a village, and thatís your contribution to human culture.

Who are the biggest influencers of the child-labor free handmade carpet movement?

The two shining lights I get of inspiration from are Stephanie Odegard and Kerry Smith of Lapchi. Thereís something I call ďthe schmuck approach to business.Ē There are some people who will lose money to do the right thing. And these people seemingly do the right thing in all aspects of their business and yet are still profitable and visionary. They do it all with a great amount of benefit on both sides of the service, the people who are producing for them and purchasing from them. And theyíre revolutionizing the industry as they go.†

Of course, RugMark is the leader. It provides that trust that weíre talking about, partly because itís an independent certification. It speaks with an authority that we canít necessarily muster were it not independent. There are hundreds of children that have been rehabilitated, educated and clothed through Rugmark, yet the amount of money required to do that is surprisingly low. It makes a huge difference. Itís a very successful organization.

Where can people learn more about this issue?

Rugmark offers tremendous resources as well as links for further inquiry.

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