BY ANNIE WATERMAN
Painting with wool
Melina Raissnia, founder of The Peace Industry, works with felt as if painting on a blank canvas, creating soft and subtle motifs on top of thick layers of felted wool. She designs one- of-a-kind rugs that are “simple, minimal, soft, nurturing, and practical.” Her style evokes a sense of “modern bohemia,” using methods stemming from traditional Iranian felting techniques.
With a background in painting, Melina sees each rug as a piece of art, straying from mass production or having to keep up with seasonal collections. She loves working with felt and says, “It is very similar to painting, only with wool.” Her ideas stem from her collages and favorite artists, such as Paul Klee, Josef Albers, and Ray Eames. They also speak of the colorful tiles seen throughout Istanbul and Barcelona. She has a subtle way of blending geometry with color, working with a palette of twenty-one hues. Melinda adds, “They are all colors that are achievable using natural dyes minus the ones I don’t like because they remind me of either a lazy boy sofa or a school cafeteria.” She incorporates simplistic design elements dating back to Zoarastrian religion, such as horns, spirals, and waves, which refer to the cycle of seasons.
Melina’s journey with The Peace Industry began in 1999, when her husband brought her back a beautiful felt rug from Iran. She says, “It was a small oval with a linear floral motif, and I fell in love with it instantly. It seemed humble and utilitarian, but charming nonetheless. It sparked a fascination and determination to go to Iran in search of the people who made them.” This gift planted the seed to start a business, which ended up supporting some of the remaining felt makers in Iran. After countless trips and hours of rigorous travel, Melina and her husband opened up their own felt workshop in Iran.
All was running smoothly until 2010, when the United States imposed sanctions against Iran. At this time, Melina and her husband were forced to choose between closing down their business or starting over in Turkey. “We ran into one hurdle after another and almost gave up several times; not speaking Turkish, navigating a labyrinth of frustrating rules which seem to discourage investment.” Melina fought for her cause and prayed for peace, but her voice was lost to policies at hand. It was a nightmare, seeing how direct and immediate their impact had been for the economy in Iran. She adds, “The shift was horrible. Yes, it was devastating for our workers and for us. I didn’t know how connected we were until we had to close.” Despite the painful transition, Melina continues to persevere. She recently relocated her operations to Turkey where she works out of her high-ceilinged workshop, transitioning into a new country, creating fresh and new designs.
For more information about The Peace Industry, please visit: http://peaceindustry.com.